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Indiana Hoosiers 2008 season in review: Ball State and Central Michigan.

The Ball State and Central Michigan games were not played consecutively: IU played Ball State in September, when the Hoosiers were 2-0 after two easy wins over overmatched programs.  The CMU game, on November 1, was IU's sixth loss of the season and all but guaranteed that the Hoosiers would not return to postseason play.   Still, the games remain linked because before 2008, IU had not lost to a MAC school since 1977.  In 2008, the Hoosiers dropped two to the MAC, both at gome.

The Ball State game was reasonably hyped as far as September games between IU and a MAC school go.  Jason Whitlock had tossed his journalistic objectivity out the window and was shamelessly shilling for his alma mater.  Here is my very angry wrapup of a game that IU lost 42-20.  Unfortunately, this game foreshadowed the rest of the season, particularly with the surprising struggles of the offense.  In 2007, IU averaged over 10 yards per offensive play against Ball State.  In 2008, the IU offense largely consisted of ad-libbed Kellen Lewis scrambles.  Here's the box score.


Really, the game had everything that would plague the Hoosiers for the rest of the season:

  • Poor run defense: Miquale Lewis manhandled IU, running for 166 yards on 29 carries (5.7 YPC) and scored four touchdowns.  
  • Poor pass defense: the prolific Nate Davis didn't put up the amazing numbers that he did against other teams, but because of Lewis, he did not have to do so.  Still, he was 16-25 for 239 yards and a TD and no interceptions, despite losing his best receiver, Dante Love, to a horrific spine injury that ended Love's career.  
  • Ineffectual pass offense: Kellen Lewis made his career debut at Ball State in 2006.  He entered the game as the third string QB, but ultimately led IU back from a 23-7 halftime deficit to win.  In 2007, IU averaged nearly 10 yards per offensive play against Ball State's hapless defense.  In 2008, Lewis was stuck resorting to scrambles, completing 11 of 25 passes and throwing two intereceptions.
  • Injuries: Chris Phillips, one of IU's starting quarters, suffered a season-ending knee injury on a non-contact play.  Nick Polk and Austin Thomas also were injured in the game. 
It's still not clear to me how good Ball State was in 2008.  The Cardinals cruised through the MAC, but IU was the toughest non-conference opponent the Cardinals played, and they gacked up the MAC title game against Buffalo and lost their bowl game.  Still, it's undisputable that they were much, much better than IU, and most IU fans realized that a repeat of 2007 was unlikely. 

Malaise had set in by the time IU played Central Michigan on November 1, but IU had briefly revived hope of improvement by upsetting Northwestern on October 25.  Still, the CMU game was a new low, and here is why:

The loss in itself, while disappointing, isn't the embarrassing part. Upsets happen, and Central Michigan is one of the best teams in the MAC this year. Better Big Ten teams have lost to worse [MAC] teams. The embarrassing part is that CMU won without even giving its best shot. The Chippewas' star quarterback, Dan LeFevour, was apparently available, if hobbled by ankle injuries. CMU elected to hold him back and started backup Brian Brunner, who promptly passed for a school record 485 yards. Four hundred eighty five yards to a backup MAC quarterback. Pathetic. Here are the stats. The overall numbers are fairly even: CMU out-gained IU 522-485. Still, IU's offense bogged down when it counted. IU gained only 27 yards in the fourth quarter.

As I noted, it was a fairly even game statistically, and IU missed on some chances to make it a two possession game in the fourth quarter.  It didn't happen, and IU lost. 


I will have one more "season in review" post that will cover the games against MSU and Minnesota, neither of which is on IU's 2009 schedule.  I'll handle all other 2008 wrap-ups in the season previews, which will continue in earnest soon.