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Northwestern 24, Indiana 14: Richard Lagow’s struggles cost Hoosiers in Evanston

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Indiana’s offense turned in their worst performance of the season. Is it time to consider a change at quarterback?

NCAA Football: Indiana at Northwestern Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was frustrating.

After a slow start that saw Indiana’s much-improved defense surrender two touchdowns in the first eight minutes, Kevin Wilson’s offense couldn’t ever catch back up with Northwestern -- dropping a 24-14 decision in Evanston on Saturday.

But, as they’ve done all season, Tom Allen’s defense rose to the occasion after starting slow. Northwestern couldn’t move the football at all after early success, pitching a second half shutout and only allowing 37 total yards after halftime.

Richard Lagow was 35-of-59 for 319 yards & 2 interceptions. What’d we learn?

Richard Lagow is, at best, regressing.

The completions / attempts numbers are gaudy, but the tape won’t be kind to Lagow’s performance today. Northwestern’s already less-than-good secondary was ripe for the taking after injuries, and Lagow couldn’t take advantage. Nick Westbrook, Luke Timian, and Ricky Jones were able to shake coverage all day long on deep routes, but the JUCO transfer quarterback continually underthrew his recievers -- leaving ample opportunity for Northwestern’s already-beaten defensive backs to get back into the play. Such underthrows led to both interceptions, on passes that could’ve been touchdowns if recievers had been hit in stride.

But Lagow didn’t just struggle with the deep ball. He struggled on the short and intermediate routes, with Nick Westbrook bailing him out on more than one occasion by making nice plays to adjust to a poorly thrown ball. He struggled on check downs, more than once failing to connect with a running back out in the flat. He even struggled managing the offense, costing Indiana timeouts when the ball wasn’t able to be snapped in time. And most critically, he missed at the end when Indiana needed him most — throwing an uncatchable ball to a Ricky Jones who was opening up in the endzone on a 4th and Goal when Indiana needed six to stay alive late.

Richard Lagow was bad in Evanston on Saturday. He knows it. Kevin Wilson knows it. The question is, where to go from here? It’s hard to argue that Lagow gives Indiana the best opportunity to win when he’s at his best — he’s a talented big kid with a big arm with the raw ability to make throws few can. But he was less than good against a now-exposed Michigan State team, an afterthought against Ohio State, and subpar against Nebraska. Now, after his worst performance of the season — it might be worth it for Kevin Wilson to kick the tires on other options, whether that be Zander Diamont, or maybe a Danny Cameron or Austin King.

Indiana’s offense needs something to change. And while Lagow might still be the best choice, re-opening the reps in practice this week might be the necessary trick to give a struggling unit some sort of a boost.

The offensive line still has problems.

Dan Feeney was back on Saturday, but playing a partial number of snaps. And with so many new bodies alongside him, Indiana’s offensive line has turned from a strength to a weakness. Kevin Wilson has oft said a team is defined by what they can block, and right now, Indiana can’t block much. Even with Feeney’s return, Indiana’s running game still couldn’t crack the century mark — and critical penalties and sacks from true freshman Coy Cronk cost Indiana nearly 45 yards late in the game over the course four plays in the fourth quarter.

Indiana’s defense is big time — but it might have got the Stanford body clock treatment

This sounds horribly stupid and isn’t an excuse or anything of the like. But a slow start from Indiana could’ve been expected today, perhaps. Indiana has only played two other noon games within the last year. Indiana’s defense looked all out of sorts for the first few minutes, allowing two quick touchdowns before shutting down the Northwestern offense completely in the second half.

Indiana moves back to the 3:30 ET slot to take on Maryland next week.