As I sit down to a nice plate of #VictoryBacon this morning, I can't help but sit here with a sense of near elation at the play of our defense yesterday. Of course it also irks you a bit when you wonder where this effort was last week. If the same defense that showed up in Missouri was in Ohio the week before, we'd be 3-0 and getting some real love from much of the college football world. Instead, we're the team that had a fluky win against an SEC opponent on the road. Annoying, but not completely uncalled for. But we're not here to pontificate what-ifs, we're here to talk about how it happened.
Most of yesterday's commentary should start and end with the discussion of the play of Indiana's defensive line. The Hoosiers finished the day with 11 tackles for a loss. I'm not sure the Hoosiers had 11 in all of conference play last year. But the play of Darius Latham, Ralph Green III (the new RGIII), Adarius Rayner, Bobby Richardson and company was near flawless yesterday. They got pressure on the QB consistently. Often times just rushing 3. That's something that would have never been considered realistic going into the week. Those guys were beast up front, eating up Missouri's line at will. A less mobile quarterback than Matty Mauk may have actually died yesterday if he were forced to stand in against that pressure. It was awesome from beginning to end.
Of course compliments don't just go with the defensive line, the entire unit played great football. Outside of a couple token big plays the Hoosiers were able to keep Missouri completely on their heels. In the end, the Hoosiers generated 8 different stops out of a total of 13 Missouri offensive drives. Guys were flying to the ball and getting team tackling all day long. The D-Line would put the Tigers on their heels and the LB and secondary did a great job of finishing plays off.
On the other side of the ball the Hoosiers were faced with a scare early. After scoring a touchdown on the third drive of the game, Tevin Coleman went to the sidelines looking dazed. We didn't see him the rest of the half and were uncertain if he would be back at all. Instead D'Angelo Roberts and true freshman Devine Redding more than picked up the slack for Indiana's run game. Redding and Roberts combined for 114 yards rushing on 25 carries in Coleman's absence. Eventually we got Coleman back in the second half and it actually worked for the best as he was obviously very fresh down the stretch when IU needed him most.
The Hoosiers offense seemed to be at their best yesterday when they were working to establish the run. Something I'm hoping we see a lot more of going forward. For what feels like the first time in Coach Wilson's career, the defense saw the same amount of snaps as the offense. For once, sustained offense drives utilizing the run game allowed the defense to stay off the field for plenty of time to rest up. This may sound crazy, but it may be best for the Hoosiers as a team if the offense doesn't try and score a touchdown on every play. Of 14 offensive drives, only two ran less than four plays and half came with 6 or more plays. That means avoiding three and outs and giving the defense a breather. Gotta be a fan of that.
Going into the half all tied up already felt to be a moral victory. The offense had left some points on the table but the defense was holding. Surprisingly the second half became a defensive battle. After the Hoosiers took a late third quarter lead with a touchdown on a two play drive, a 50 yard run by Tevin and then a 32 yard strike to J-Shun Harris, the Tigers answered back with 10 unanswered. This included a field goal with 2:20 to play to take the lead.
It was a bit of a strange drive. The game had an old Colts feeling to it. One of those, if the defense can hold them to a field goal, Peyton will torch them with 2:20 left on the clock. The certainty wasn't so much in the hands of just one IU player, but the fact that Kevin Wilson has built his offense for this. These guys run 2 minutes drills on every drive. They can certainly do it when it counts. In fact, we've seen them come up just short several times in the past (see Minnesota).
At first it didn't appear meant to be though as the Hoosiers failed to convert a 4th down in their first series. Fortunately a flag was thrown for pass interference and the replay showed that it was a pretty easy call. If not for the PI the Hoosiers would have converted pretty easily. On the very next play, Sudfeld dumped a quick pass into the flats to Tevin Coleman. With the help of a magnificent block from Nick Stoner, Coleman broke free for 50 yards after the catch. Two plays later, D'Angelo Roberts punched the ball into the end zone to take the lead for good.
There was some small drama in Missouri's ensuing drive, but they never truly threatened to score. Now, the Hoosiers are in possession of the Big Ten's best non-conference win. They now host Maryland for their first ever Big Ten game and look to build some major momentum. With a victory at home over Maryland, the Hoosiers will most likely head into a showdown with a struggling Iowa at 4-1. Compared to a week ago, a bowl game seems suddenly very very real. With games remaining with North Texas, @Iowa, @Michigan, Maryland, Penn State, @Rutgers and Purdue. Finding 4 wins in that group feels more likely to happen than not as of this moment. But we're going to have to take just one game at a time. As Kevin Wilson said after the game, "We ain’t got nothing figured out," We’re the same group of bums that played last week. That’s the same bunch of bums this week. We’ll see how we show up next week."