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Indiana 19, Eastern Kentucky 13: Hoosiers struggle in second half but win opener.

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Wins have been in short supply for Indiana over the last 15 years, so any win is welcome, but the opening night performance against Eastern Kentucky will not inspire any Hoosier fans to book hotel rooms in Pasadena, or in Detroit, for that matter.  At times in the first half, IU seemed poised to put the game away,  but the offense bogged down and produced no points in the second half.  EKU had the chance to win with a hail Mary into the end zone on the final play, but it hit the turf and IU avoided its second I-AA loss in four years.  Here is the box score

 

 

The most obvious disappointment was the running game.  The adoption of the pistol formation was supposed to allow IU to create a downhill running game, but that aspect of the offense really struggled.  IU gained only 73 yards on the ground and averaged only 2.4 yards per rush.  Whether it was the line, the backs, or both, IU failed to generate any momentum against an undersized EKU defense.  The passing game provided more optimism.  Although he made a couple of poor decisions that led to interceptions, overall Chappell was very good, completing 27 of 36 passes for 326 yards and a touchdown.  The defense was fairly successful in the first half, other than a big play, a 61 yard TD pass by EKU.  Ultimately, however, EKU averaged more yards per play, 6.6, than did the Hoosiers (6.0).  Other performances of note:

  • Tandon Doss caught 8 passes for 125 yards, but only one in the second half.
  • Damarlo Belcher caught 6 passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
  • The rushing performances were very disappointing: Demetrius McCray was respectable with 49 yards on 13 carries, but Darius Willis, Bryan Payton, and Trea Burgess combined for only 22 yards on 15 carries.  Willis fumbled on his first carry and had only two more opportunities. 
  • Nick Freeland made a 38 yard field goal, which isn't bad for a guy who wasn't supposed to play this season.
  • The Hoosier defense did a reasonably good job of getting to EKU's quarterbacks: the Hoosiers recorded four sacks, but none by Greg Middleton or Jammie Kirlew.  In limited action Ray Fisher made five tackles and forced the game saving fumble in the fourth quarter.
I'm going to try not to overreact to this game.  It was an opener against a program with a history of success.  The last time IU struggled against a I-AA program was in 2006, when the Hoosiers lost to Southern Illinois, but that team recovered with wins over #13 Iowa and a 46-21 beatdown of Michigan State.  The scoreboard resets before each game.  Still, the Hoosiers had a more dramatic talent advantage last night than they will have over any other team on the schedule.  Despite that advantage, at many times EKU simply pushed IU around.  After an offseason dedicated to creating a strong running game, the Hoosiers could not effectively move the ball against the least imposing team on the schedule.  Again, one game at a time and all that.  But last night's effort will not win a single game on the remaining schedule.