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Indiana 30, Ball State 20: Three things

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In a complete 180 from last week, the Hoosiers were in control for three quarters but lost all momentum in the 4th quarter before holding on to beat Ball State 30-20.

NCAA Football: Ball State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

You knew better. You knew Indiana wouldn’t play an entire game without making you wonder, doubt.

In 2016’s home opener, the Hoosiers started fast and had success through the entirety of the first three quarters. But it’s hard to feel great about the early-evening developments at Memorial Stadium.

So, what three things stood out today?

Indiana’s defense was a positive for the second week in a row.

Tom Allen’s defense may have given up more yards than you’d like to see against a far-lesser opponent (353 total yards), but just 12 months ago, a Hoosier defense would have given up about 500 yards and 40 points in a game like this one. But today, Allen’s attacking defense embodied the saying “bend-don’t-break.”

In the first half, the Hoosiers allowed Ball State into Indiana territory twice, and the Cardinals’ two drives ended in a fumble and a turnover on downs. The Hoosiers forced another fumble on Ball State’s first drive and added an interception in the 2nd quarter. If the Hoosiers offense had capitalized on the defense’s playmaking, the 4th quarter never would have felt as uncomfortable as it did.

We’ll learn more in two weeks when Indiana takes on its first power five opponent, but it became clear today that last week was not a fluke. What remains to be seen is if FIU and Ball State are just a couple powderpuff offenses or if Indiana’s defense is for real.

The punt team is a disaster.

Cool as it may be to have a great athlete at punter, Joseph Gedeon and his unit have not been good enough. Last week against FIU, Gedeon had five punts that averaged just 36.8 yards, with one that went 53. (That means the other four averaged just over 32 yards.)

Today, Gedeon had a good one early one that was pinned inside the Ball State 5-yard line, just like he a had a good one early on last week. But what has become clear is that Gedeon is far too slow getting the ball off his foot. The Cardinals came very close to blocking a punt to jumpstart themselves in the 3rd quarter today, just missing. But they did get to one and scooped and scored to cut the Hoosier lead to 30-13.

Special teams can change a game in an instant, and today was no exception. Ball State dominated the football game from that moment forward, though Devine Redding was able to churn out just enough yardage to seal the deal late. But moving forward, against quality teams, the Hoosiers won’t be so lucky if the punt team continues to have mishaps.

Everything we saw in the 4th quarter was unwelcome and far too familiar.

It’s happened far too often during Kevin Wilson’s tenure. The Hoosiers jump out and get a lead and take their foot off the gas, and either from a play calling standpoint or mentally or both, coast to the finish. Luckily, they are getting to the point where they are talented and experienced enough that it won’t kill them against teams like Ball State. But the final 15 minutes were quite disappointing to see nonetheless, as it wasn’t difficult to imagine a letdown like that against an Ohio State or a Michigan and it costing the program a huge win.

It’d be tough to be unhappy with this football team at this point. 2-0. The defense has been stellar. Richard Lagow looks awfully good and comfortable in replacing Nate Sudfeld. But everything about that 4th quarter should leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Bonus Thing: Injury Concerns

It’s a good thing that the Hoosiers have a week off before Wake Forest comes to town. Two of the most important Hoosiers, and perhaps the two most talented, left the game in the first half today and did not return. Simmie Cobbs appeared to suffer an ankle injury on the first offensive play from scrimmage and Dan Feeney left the game and retreated to the locker room late in the 2nd quarter.

At the time the game ended, the school had not released any information on either. But regardless of what’s wrong, it’ll be important to have an extra week either for them to heal and recover or for their replacements to prepare for a power five opponent.