The 2010 Indiana Hoosiers aren't as dead as I thought they were. Unfortunately, given IU's dire bowl outlook, there's only so much positive spin than can be placed on IU's better-than-expected performance. At this point in the season, the only progress that matters is measured in the W-L column, and losing by 5 doesn't help IU anymore than losing by 30 does.
Here are the stats. I was away from the TV on Saturday and haven't had the chance to watch the game. A look at the numbers suggests that IU continued its offensive struggles and that the defense, while losing the yardage battle to Iowa, successfully kept Iowa out of the end zone until it really mattered. Iowa outgained IU 445-313 and averaged 7.2 yards per play to IU's 4.5. Still, the IU defense kept Iowa out of the end zone for the first 57 minutes of the game. Bill Lynch is taking some criticism for punting on 4th and 3 from the Iowa 42. I haven't seen the game, but I think it's a defensible decision. In general, I tend to think that coaches are too conservative about such things. A three yard gain likely would have sealed the game for IU. Still, I think the downside to going for it in that situation would have been pretty substantial. Although Iowa ultimately scored the touchdown, the Hawkeyes only needed the field goal, and given them the ball on their own 42 would have required Iowa to go only about 30 yards for a very makeable field goal. As it was, Iowa was able to go 88 yards in fairly quick fashion against a defense that had not allowed such a drive all day. Again, I think it's a close call and a defensible decision either way, particularly the way IU's defense had played.
As for the final play, the dropped pass by Damarlo Belcher that would have been the game-winning touchdown, well, it's hard to say much. Damarlo Belcher is a good receiver who typically will catch balls like that. Having read what happened hours before I ever saw a replay, I had made my peace with it, but I pictured Belcher in traffic and in the corner of the end zone. Seeing the replay, and seeing that Belcher was wide open in the middle of the end zone made it much more difficult to swallow.
Again, for all of the progress IU showed on Saturday, the Hoosiers still have no margin for error. IU will have a tough time winning at Wisconsin, and IU has never defeated Penn State. Purdue unquestionably is a winnable game, even on the road, but if IU can't upset either Wisconsin or Penn State, then the Hoosiers will be playing for only the Bucket that day. The progress that IU showed on Saturday matters only if IU wins one of its next two games.