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Suckfest 2008: Ball State 42, Indiana 20.

42-20, and it wasn't that close. That's what surprised me the most about yesterday's game. As I said earlier in the week, I knew that IU could lose. I knew that Ball State could score a lot of points. I knew that neither IU's offense nor defense had been tested against a quality opponent. As I also made clear, Ball State's long losing streak against the Big Ten and other BCS conferences seemed due to end, as did IU's long and anomalous winning streak against the MAC. I can live with the loss, but the manner of the loss is tough to swallow. Flukes happen, but this wasn't a fluke. Ball State is a significantly better team than IU. Significantly, and in every aspect of the game. They took whatever they wanted, and IU never dictated the game offensively or defensively, other than for one drive in the second half which ended with missed field goal. Is Greg Middleton still alive? Reminiscent of Antwaan Randle El against top tier Big Ten opponents, IU's offense was limited to scrambles, designed or improvised after a glance downfield, by Kellen Lewis.
Speaking of Lewis, his decision to throw into traffic late in the second half, giving Ball State a hand-delivered defensive touchdown, was inexcusable for a quarterback who has started around 25 games. Geno Johnson's ten-second-after-the-play-sissy-slap of a Ball State player probably saved a Cardinal drive that put early points on the board. On the other side of the field, one one play, Ball State lost its best player and surrendered a defensive touchdown, but after the long break BSU didn't blink. It's unbelievable that IU couldn't do any better than that after a bye week.
One one level, I and most IU fans knew that this Hoosier team was unproven, with James Hardy gone on the offensive side and without Tracy Porter and Leslie Majors on the defensive side (obviously those guys really were missed against Ball State). On the other hand, I think most suspected that IU would be about on par with last year's team, at least in terms of record. Now, we have to face the possibility that after the fun of last year and all the promise it presented, we could be taking a huge step back, or at least hitting a big pothole. We can't beat a single Big Ten opponent with an effort like the Hoosiers produced last night. Still, the coaches are professionals, they must have seen what we all see, and hopefully they can find a way to compete with a MSU team that made us look silly last year.
Rant over. Here's the box score. Highlights and lowlights:
  • Miquale Lewis was outstanding, particularly in the second half. IU had its moments against the rushing attack early, but BSU always responded with a long completion.
  • Nate Davis is going to be a starting QB in the NFL. While not mobile, his ability to evade the rush is impressive. His numbers (16-25, 239) weren't eye-popping, but they don't capture how well he played.
  • It was a damn shame that Dante Love suffered what appears to be a serious, career-threatening injury. I don't mean to make light of it when I say that if told before the game that such a thing would happen, I wouldn't have thought it possible that Ball State would win by 22.
  • Any Ball State fan who claims that Adkins's hit was dirty or intentional deserves every "teacher's college" barb that comes his way.
  • IU's three running backs all averaged between 4.2 and 4.7 yards per carry, but Kellen Lewis carried the ball more often (25 times) than the running backs combined (22).
  • Lewis's passing: 11-25, 159, 2 INT.
  • Greg Middleton: 2 tackles, no sacks; Jammie Kirlew: 4 tackles, no sacks.

There's no point in belaboring it. We got whipped by a program that had never beat us before. Nothing that can be done. Big Ten teams have overcome losses like this before, but again, this wasn't a game where everything went wrong and all the bounces went against us. This one could have been worse. Still, we're 0-0 in the conference and will have our opportunities to figure it out. Last season, after a disappointing loss to Illinois, we rebounded with a road upset of Iowa. Let's hope the coaches can find a way out.