Humiliation and domination. IU traveled to Denton, Texas on Friday, but didn't really show up until the fourth quarter, when UNT already led 24-0. IU made a surprising run, pulling to within 3 with a chance to recover an onside kick, but overall, the game was completely and utterly dominated by North Texas, a Sun Belt Conference program that was 0-3 and before Saturday had won on 13 games, total, since the beginning of the 2005 season. Humilation hasn't been rare for the IU program in recent years, but at least when IU gave up 83 points to Wisconsin last year, it came at the hands of a much more talented team. There is really no excuse for the degree of domination at the hands of a program that is in transition itself.
Frankly, that UNT moved the ball well isn't a huge surprise. The defense has long been IU's weak link, and it seemed likely that Lance Dunbar, who torched Kansas State and other major programs in the past, would find himself against IU's defense. He did that, running for 127 yards and 5.3 yards per carry. What I didn't expect was that IU's offense wouldn't put single point on the board. The scary part is that it could have been much worse. This wasn't a game that was decided by crazy turnovers. In fact, UNT's second and third drives of the game, which went for a combined total of 85 yards, both ended in fumbles that IU recovered. Still, the Hoosier offense struggled through most of the game. Eight of IU's first ten drives ended in IU territory, and a missed 48 yard field goal was the only time the Hoosiers came close to scoring. Oh, and did I mention that Damarlo Belcher didn't make the trip for undisclosed reasons? Gulp.
Of course, after dominating the first 48 minutes of the game, North Texas remembered that it is a team that is expected to finish at the bottom of the Sun Belt Conference, and did nearly everything in its power to give the game to IU. When the Mean Green needed only to run out the clock, they threw the ball, and true freshman safety Mark Murphy returned an interception for a touchdown to finally put IU on the board with 11 minutes left in the game. After that, Mitch Ewald beautifully executed a squib kick that he fell on as soon as it passed the ten yard mark. Unfortunately, what may go down as the best play of the season led to a three and out, but after forcing UNT to punt, Dusty Kiel, who replaced a struggling Edward Wright-Baker, threw two long touchdown passes, one to Cody Latimer for 44 yards and another to Kofi Hughes for 67 yards. Both were on busted coverages, one when a UNT player tried to put a shoe back on in the middle of a play instead of making the best of it. Suddenly, with 1:05 left, IU had a chance for yet another onside kick. IU didn't recover, and that was that.
As I said before the season, a bad first season doesn't say much about whether a head coach will succeed. Joe Tiller-style instant turnarounds are fairly rare. Beyond that, it's not all that easy to predict the future. Bill Mallory went 0-11 in his first season and was bowling in year three and beat Ohio State and Michigan in year four. Cam Cameron went 2-9, but never did better than 5-6. All that said, this non-conference season has been much uglier than I imagined. In three games against FBS competition, we have looked good for parts of the first half against Ball State, for a quarter and a half against Virginia, and for ten minutes against North Texas. It's obvious that Kevin Wilson has made a decision to go young. While I haven't done the full rundown myself, according to ESPN IU already has played 15 true freshmen this season, including several on the line. Is Wilson trying to motivate the older guys? Is he so disillusioned with them that he really believes the program is better off with the youngsters learning on the fly? Either way, the benefits of such a move, to the extent that they come, aren't going to come this year.
Oh, and we've got ourselves a quarterback controversy. Wright-Baker really struggled yesterday, although his numbers (23-40, 209 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) don't look as bad as he looked. Dusty Kiel came in and threw two long TD passes Kiel was 7-12 with 145 yards and the two touchdowns. Kiel won't soon be confused with his younger brother. The two touchdowns he threw weren't a result of bad coverage, but a result of no coverage. Still, the results are the results, and I won't be surprised if Kiel gets a shot. My understanding is that the staff went with Wright-Baker largely because they though he understood what they were asking of him moreso than Kiel did. Has that changed in a month? I suspect we will find out.
Odds and ends:
- Kevin Wilson has taken some heat for deciding, when IU scored its first touchdown to make the score 24-6, to kick the extra point instead of going for two. The theory is that IU needed three touchdowns and three two point conversions to tie the game. Wilson's direction meant that IU needed three TDs, 3 PATs, and a field goal to tie. I'm the furthest thing from a mathematician, but I think Wilson made the right move. Sure, actually making the two pointers would be great, but the odds are exceedingly low (I would guess, without an iota of evidence, less than 10 percent) of making three in a row. Also, it is necessary to consider the consequences of a miss. At 24-7, IU needed two TDs, two PATs, and a field goal to tie. Had IU attempted and failed on the two pointer (and only something like 40 percent are converted, so that's likely) then at 24-6 IU still would have needed three scores, with at least two of them being touchdowns, and with a successful two point conversion on one of the touchdowns. Let's say that at 24-6, IU continued to chase the points, because we would need a two pointer eventually. At 24-12, and a missed two pointer, then IU would have needed two more touchdowns (i.e., a total of four in the fourth quarter) rather than the TD and the field goal that IU actually needed at 24-14. Even if IU converted the two pointer on the second TD, then it would simply have returned IU to where it was under Wilson's direction (24-14). If IU decided to take the PAT on that touchdown, then it would have been 24-13, and IU would have needed a TD, a two point conversion, and a field goal to tie. In other words, if my hacktackular analysis is right, then IU would have been worse off, or at best no better off, under any scenario other than the extremely unlikely 3-3. Get out your red pens and tell me where I'm wrong.
- IU continues to spread the ball around. In Damarlo Belcher's absence, IU completed passes to 11 different receivers.
- We still haven't found the answer at RB. Stephen Houston and D'Angelo Roberts both were decent.
Well, now it's time for the Big Ten season, which begins at home against Penn State. It looks like a tall order, and there's no data that would suggest IU has a chance. This will be an interesting week on and off the field.