Sure, the Hoosiers suffered their fourth straight loss. However, three of these losses have been between two and four points. Even the 15-point loss at Northwestern could've been a different game if the Hoosiers had capitalized on an early first-and-goal opportunity, and they still made it a single-possession game in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers have consistently been in the games they've lost, and just seem to be almost figuring out how to actually become a winning team. That said, the furious rally in the fourth quarter against Ohio State shouldn't confuse anyone about which team was better this afternoon. On a number of occasions, the Hoosiers could've given themselves a better chance to spring an incredible upset, but that's exactly what it would've been. An incredible upset.
After going down 10-0 in the first quarter, the Hoosiers actually rallied on two Stephen Houston runs to lead 14-10 in the second quarter. But, as we would see throughout the game, the Buckeyes would respond every time that the Hoosiers would put the game in doubt. Most infuriating was immediately after the Hoosiers came out of halftime and kicked a field goal to cut the deficit to 7, and 18 seconds later Braxton Miller was marching into the endzone. He split the defense, one of the Hoosiers (I can't quite ID which one) ran into the ref, and Miller raced 67 yards for the score. Shane Wynn came back with a great run off of a short-ish pass that he took 70 yards, but in a game of offensive prowess, the Buckeyes just had more and eventually built a 52-34 lead with a Devin Smith 46-yard pass. Devin Smith had 106 yards and 2 TDs on a mere two catches, and it appears that (sans drops) he could've had twice that, too. Yikes.
It was a game of big plays, and what has most Hoosier fans encouraged is that even thought IU would fall behind by a touchdown or two throughout the game, they always came back. And when Sudfeld came in with 3:58 left, and took Indiana from their own 26 to endzone in 2:18, Hoosier fans had to be especially encouraged. The fact that the Hoosiers then recovered the onside kick at the OSU 48, and scored again in a mere 1:40 has to have Hoosiers hopeful and opponents fearful going into the final moments of any game from here on out. The Hoosier offense is better than I thought it could be, especially given that our starring QB went down halfway through game 2 this season.
As for the defense, IU came up with a couple of nice stops, but still was pegged with 52 points hung on them that could've been over 60 if not for special teams' blocked kick (and recovery) and Braxton Miller throwing a pick in the endzone. Heck, Devin Smith catches a couple more passes, and we might've been looking at 70 points. One of the major obstacles for the Hoosier defense was the very quick nature of Hoosier possessions. On the one hand, it's hard to complain when your offense is causing problems for the opponents and ultimately puts up 49 points. On the other hand, there was one offensive possession for the Hoosiers that went longer 2:31 and most were under a minute, whether they scored or not. That's tough for a defense to keep getting back on the field, especially when you're playing a QB like Braxton Miller that could be in the endzone if you blink (or accidentally run into the referee).
- Cameron Coffman did fine against the Buckeyes, completing 22 of 44 passes with a TD and no picks. And it's rather unfair to blame him for most of the Duwyce Wilson drops, but "Coffman incomplete to Wilson" was an update that I got mighty tired of reading over and over again - especially on key third downs.
- Stephen Houston had a pretty darn good day, getting 91 yards on 11 rushing attempts, and catching two passes for 37 more yards. Houston notching the first of his three touchdowns (!) by ripping off a 59-yarder. That 25 -yard catch for the Hoosiers' final touchdown demonstrated just how there's no quit in these guys.
- Shane Wynn coming off a little curl and catching a pass from Coffman that he turned it into a 70-yard TD? Man, I could watch that highlight all day. Amazing. He also rushed for 19 yards to put himself at 100 yards total offense for the day, but he only touched the ball two other times.
- Nate Sudfeld completed 6 of 10 passes for 77 yards and 2 touchdowns. This kid has an incredible passing rating (167.9!) that tops both Tre Roberson and Cam Coffman. On the season, Sudfeld has completed 31 of 50 passes for 5 touchdowns and no interceptions, which compares nicely to Roberson's 33-of-50 completions, with 1 INT and 2 TDs. However, let's also note that in less than two games played, Roberson still ranks as the Hoosiers's fourth-best in overall rushing yards (133), and second best in rushing TDs with three.
- Isaiah Roundtree blocked the first punt against a Big Ten foe that I can remember in recent history, leading to excellent field position and an actual Hoosier lead in the second quarter.
- Props to Greg Heban for notching a nice interception of Braxton Miller in IU's endzone. In the sixth game of the season, Indiana's secondary has already matched last year's total interceptions number. This helps me remember that even though the secondary is quite weak, it does seem to be improving. Otherwise....
- The defense did not have a great day, giving up 578 total yards of offense. But all things considered, and especially that OSU hung 63 on Nebraska, this day could've gone a lot worse.
Overall, I'm encouraged, and I've seen a lot of commentary from both IU fans and around the league that these Hoosiers are on the way up. Everyone seems to like that they don't quit and are putting scares into decent teams. Let's hope these Hoosiers have it in them to keep plugging away and get one or two more wins soon to buoy their spirits.