This year marked the ten-year anniversary of one of the most gruesome offensive performances in recent college football history. After an emotional week in which Kirk Ferentz's father passed away, Iowa defeated Penn State by the ignominious score of 6-4. Our friends at Black Heart Gold Pants did a great remembrance of this game recently. I don't know why this game has always been so fascinating to me. Maybe it's because 6-4 was also the score of the first-ever college football game ever played, or maybe because the idea of scoring four points - only accomplishable through two safeties - seems so unbelievable.
I never thought I'd see an offensive performance as unremarkable as that game was. Unfortunately, I think I saw one in person on Saturday, and it also involved Penn State. Since I won't be at the Bucket game due to family commitments over Thanksgiving break, I knew this would be the last chance to get to Memorial Stadium this season. So I was in the stands for this one, on a cold, overcast afternoon in which the temperature did not exceed 50 degrees. Along with 42,000 (alleged) others, I watched this comedy of errors play out live for about three and a half hours.
For the Hoosiers, Zander Diamont showed improvement, but also still seemed limited in his capabilities. Kevin Wilson showed no hesitation to punt from fourth and short at midfield, seemingly showing a lack of confidence of what the offense was able to do. Even Tevin Coleman had an off-day, and his streak of 10 straight 100-yard performances was snapped against the nation's top-rated run defense. For the Nittany Lions, Christian Hackenberg continued his frustrating season, throwing two interceptions and only making twelve completions. The running game wasn't much better on the whole; however, Bill Belton's 92-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the difference-maker in this game. In true Indiana fashion, it came immediately right after the Hoosiers scored a rare defensive touchdown.
The lone bright spot of the game was Brian Knorr's defense. Other than the 92-yard Belton TD run, the defense only gave up 70 rushing yards. They also were able to get pressure on Hackenberg for most of the game. Another promising defensive stand came in the second quarter, when the Nittany Lions had the ball on the Indiana two-yard line after a couple bad defensive penalties, and came away with nothing. Ultimately, the solid performance from the much-maligned defense was not enough though, which is unfortunate, considering they deserve a little recognition for the improvements and strides they made this week.
During the third quarter of the game, I overheard someone say, "I'd rather watch one of [Diamont's] dad's soap operas!" It wasn't hard to argue with him.
The Pivotal Play
With IU down 10-7 late in the fourth quarter, Diamont went back to pass, and was picked off by Nyeem Wartman, who returned the ball to the Indiana 24. From there, the Nittany Lions ran down the clock, hit a field goal, and gave the Hoosiers less than a minute to get the ball downfield. Which wasn't happening.
The Game Ball Goes To...
Mark Murphy, who picked off a Christian Hackenberg pass and took it to the house during the second quarter. This pick-six was the first Hoosier defensive touchdown since 2011. Unfortunately, these were the only points that Indiana scored all day.
Stat of the Week
Twenty. Robbins was doing an awesome job with the live tweets during the game yesterday, and he started a great hashtag: #PuntTracker. By the end of the first half, the teams already had 11 punts, and by the end of game, it was up to 20, with the Hoosiers punting 11 times (for 404 yards) and the Nittany Lions punting nine times (for 336 yards). Together, the teams combined for 740 yards of punting. That's 189
fewer more yards than the total offense put up by both teams combined. In terms of "gut-punching losses by less than a touchdown," I'll take the Bowling Green game over this one 10 times out of 10.
Offense: F. What more can I say? Here's the drive chart from yesterday's game:
FINAL Indiana drive chart vs. PSU: punt punt punt punt punt punt interception punt punt punt missed field goal punt punt interception downs— Chris Adamski (@C_AdamskiTrib) November 9, 2014
Defense: A-. Okay, so Penn State doesn't have the best offense, so this grade may be a little inflated. But then again, neither does Michigan, and so a week after making Devin Gardner look much better than normal, we did a good job of controlling Christian Hackenberg. Other than Bill Belton's 92-yard touchdown run, the Nittany Lions were held in check on both sides of the ball most of the day. This was the best performance I've seen from an IU defense in the past few seasons, and it's unfortunate that our offense couldn't do enough to help out with it.
Special Teams: C+. That field goal block was pretty cool. It's hard to get on Griffin Oakes' case too much for missing a long field goal in the fourth quarter, but sadly it was the closest our offense got to the end zone all day. The Hoosiers punted 11 times and averaged 32.7 net yards per punt. However, Penn State still controlled the field position most of the day.
Overall: D+. I hate to say something like "well if only we had Nate Sudfeld...," but a better quarterback would have at least not made Penn State force us to pass, and would have opened up more holes in the running game. Nonetheless, this game was neither pretty nor entertaining, and at least under Kevin Wilson we could usually get the latter. Even a supporter of Wilson like myself has to be worried about the future after yesterday.
Song That Best Describes This Game
This game had me feeling like Groundhog Day with the repetitive punting and offensive dysfunction on both sides of the ball.
The Hoosiers travel to
New York City New Jersey to face Rutgers. Yep, that's right, Rutgers of all teams, which hasn't won a game in a month, is likely going to make us ineligible for a bowl. At least a semi-reputable team in Wisconsin ruined Purdue's bowl chances.
- Helmet update: the Hoosiers sported the chrome helmets. These helmets don't quite have the same effect on a cloudy day.
- Devin Davis update: Davis has been transferred to a rehab facility near his home in Indianapolis. According to his dad, Davis is "a couple weeks ahead of schedule." As always, we wish the best for Davis and a speedy recovery.
- David Woods in the Star: "A perfect storm has resulted in an imperfect team."
- Kevin Wilson postgame presser