There’s no point in beating around the bush. This one was fun for awhile, but ultimately, it was a microcosm of Indiana football fandom. So, what three things stood out?
Some things never change.
While some things have changed dramatically over the past couple seasons — namely, the defense — and while Indiana did some things tonight that they rarely have in the past — such as capitalizing on an Ohio State drop, getting off the field with a 4th down stop, and taking the lead on the next possession — others are the same in perpetuity. Those things that never change that stood out tonight were an inability to maintain any momentum in a big game, special teams being a nightmare, and the students leaving early.
Simmie Cobbs couldn’t be stopped. Yet, Mike Debord went away from him for 20 minutes between a great opening drive and a dominant scoring drive that resulted in a Cobbs touchdown. Indiana couldn’t run the ball to save its life — more on that in a moment — but on a critical 3rd and 10 with Ohio State leading 27-21, the Hoosiers ran a dive — not a draw, a dive. And twice in the first half, the Hoosiers punted while within field goal range. Maybe none of these thing would have mattered, but they weren’t even second-guess type of things. Aside from maybe one of the punts, they were decisions that seemed silly in real time.
The offensive line has serious problems.
Woof. The offensive line, which showed signs of putrid incompetence while Dan Feeney was injured last season, was beyond awful tonight. The line held up okay in the passing game (save the sack fumble that effectively ended the game), but was surely aided by the fact that Debord never attempted to allow Lagow and the receivers to stretch the field. But Indiana’s biggest problem on Thursday night was the fact that the offensive line was wholly ineffective in the rushing game. At halftime, Urban Meyer and staff decided to move safeties out from over the top of the box, took a linebacker off the field, and dedicated all their defensive efforts to limiting Indiana’s receiving corps. Why? Because it was already evident at that point that the Hoosiers couldn’t run the ball against a powderpuff team, let alone the No. 2 team in the country. Really, of all the things that were bad tonight, this is the one that should scare you the most. The punter is a freshman. Tom Allen was coaching his second game. But all of the offensive problems stemmed from this unit’s dismal performance — they handcuffed Debord, they didn’t allow Lagow anything more than 3 steps and a 10-yard curl, and they allowed Ohio State to abandon any notion of divided attention and focus solely on slowing down Cobbs and co. And that will be the blueprint for the next 11 games.
Bonus: “Overrated” is the dumbest chant in sports.
Right after Indiana took a 21-20 lead in the 3rd quarter, the student section (and perhaps not the whole section, but enough students for it to be heard through the broadcast and over Kirk Herbstreit) chanted “overrated.” On the next play, Ohio State scored from 75 yards out and put the pedal to the metal. Some CQ folks insisted I drag the student section for this. So, I will:
“Overrated” is the dumbest chant in sports. And it should be grounds to question whether anyone who chanted it while their team was leading the No. 2 team in the country by six points with 20 minutes left in the game is fit to be at a reputable academic institution such as Indiana University. But more than anything else, the problem with the chant is that it implies that the team you are rooting for shouldn’t be able to beat a team who is actually as good as the opponent is thought to be. It screamed, “you guys can’t really be the second best team because Indiana couldn’t beat the second best team.” Well, um, actually...
Bonus #2: Don’t freak out about Richard Lagow.
Lagow had three turnovers tonight, and the most pessimistic of Indiana fans (or the most asshole-ish Indiana fans) will insist that Lagow is the problem and that the season is lost because he’s under center -- and if you’re one of those, don’t you dare suggest Peyton Ramsey is the answer; in approximately 7 snaps we saw that he’s slower than Zander Diamont and can’t throw the ball 10 yards. But here’s the deal: the first pick hurt Indiana’s chances, and it might have been on Lagow some, but mostly, it was one hell of a defensive play for the Buckeye DB to tip the ball. The fumble? See the offensively line problems above. And the second pick? It was 42-21, the offense was working even faster than it had earlier in the ballgame to try and score quickly and get back into the contest and Donovan Hale took a lazy route to the ball on a back shoulder throw. My point is that when this was a ballgame, Lagow was pretty darn good and he wasn’t responsible for letting it slip away.