It wasn’t just one thing that caused Indiana football’s loss to Maryland.
Not the fumble by Andison Coby in the fourth quarter. Not either of the interceptions thrown by quarterback Connor Bazelak on the first plays of each half. Not an unsportsmanlike penalty on Devon Matthews on third down during a drive that ultimately ended with the Terrapins in the Hoosiers’ endzone.
It was all of that and more.
Something has just been wrong with Indiana football since the start of the 2021 season, a nightmare that ended with a 2-10 record and zero wins in the Big Ten. Were it not for an improbable comeback against Illinois in week one, this year may look the same.
Indiana was hit with loads of injuries and an inept offense in 2021. While the injuries were attributed to poor luck, offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan was shown the door following the season for the latter issue.
But outside of a single offseason transfer addition, Indiana’s offensive line was left untouched. The Hoosiers paid the price early this year and continue to do so with Bazelak forced into intentional groundings and the running game all but non-existent.
Offensive line coach Darren Hiller lost his job this past Sunday as a result, but it was too little too late. Not much can be fixed midseason, the damage is here to stay.
It’s like Scott Frost in miniature. Everyone saw the problem and knew what had to be done, but both Nebraska and Indiana delayed the inevitable and are paying for doing so.
But blaming the offensive line’s coaching and development for this team’s missed opportunities isn’t fair. The offensive line isn’t letting opposing quarterbacks have a field day with the deep ball, they’re not letting up scrambles on third downs and they’re not letting n opposing passer slip right through their fingers.
Indiana is meant to be a defense-first team under head coach Tom Allen, who reassumed the role of playcaller this offseason.
The results? The Hoosiers are allowing a conference-leading 280.4 yards per game. If that’s not bad enough, Maryland is allowing the second most yards per game and Indiana still let a win elude them yet again. No Big Ten defense has allowed more touchdowns than the Hoosiers’ either.
So, without previous Indiana staples of a running game and a tough defense, what does this team have left to lean on? Culture?
Allen’s LEO culture and one words have been a sound strategy on the recruiting trail and in energizing a fanbase, but that’s when it came with wins and bowl eligibility.
This isn’t the Big Ten that Allen stepped into anymore. Both Maryland and Rutgers, Big Ten East programs roughly at Indiana’s level, have hired program-building coaches that, frankly, have built something that’s beating Allen’s Indiana.
Maryland’s coach, Mike Locksley, is now 2-2 against Allen in year four. Rutgers’ coach, Greg Schiano, who’s previously proven himself with the Scarlet Knights, did the previously unthinkable and handed Allen a blowout loss at home last year.
I’m not saying Maryland beat Indiana because Indiana made mistakes. Maryland beat Indiana because the Terrapins have been built in superior fashion.
The Big Ten around Indiana, the teams it beat to get to bowl eligibility, has mostly gotten better. Indiana hasn’t risen to meet it. Even the programs that have gotten worse, such as Nebraska under Frost, are capable of beating Indiana.
What is Indiana football anymore?