Yeah, the bloom is off that wild Irish rose, Bill O’Brien, especially after not having learned his lesson in the Kent State game. Once again in this game, he steered away from the run, putting the game on the shoulders of a freshman quarterback who is not ready to carry the load to obviate an inept and porous defense. In the end, the Hoosiers executed a well conceived game plan almost to perfection, winning going away 44-24.
There will be great celebrations in Bloomington tonight, as indeed there should be, as this is the first time ever the Hoosiers have beaten the mighty (albeit fading) Nittany Lions. Ever.
The only consistency we saw was Hackenberg’s being consistently off the mark through much of the game, although a couple of completions to Allen Robinson and Richie Anderson were pleasing to watch. Hacky wound up 30-55, indicating the extent to which pass happy O’Brien used the aerial assault. The kid’s got skills, but he’s being counted on to bail out an entire team and its coaches, which would be a helluva chore for Brett Favre, let alone a true freshman. As the season wears on, he seemingly gets more and more rattled in the pocket. It would help a lot if he had an offensive line in front of him.
There is indeed a leadership gap on this team, one I have been squawking about all year. Eventually, Hackenberg will be the man, but right now there is no “the man.” Leadership is needed on the field on both sides of the ball to get the team through rough spots — like two false starts in a row as the offense backed up toward its own goal line — but when the presumed leader is as spooked as everyone else, it has an amplified negative effect. When “the man” is scared, everybody is scared.
The few bright spots for this turkey were watching Allen Robinson and Zach Zwinak. Robinson had 12 receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns. He’s like magic on the field. ZZ had only 17 carries for a total of 72 yards. While the Indiana defense worked hard on shutting down the run, Zwinak still managed to look good. Belton didn’t.
The big problem on offense was that O’Brien apparently lacked the patience to stick to the game plan this turkey prescribed to him — namely, run the ball down their throats and set up some decent passing opportunities while controlling the ball and the clock. He seemed to do the opposite, abandoning fundamentals to play with his toy quarterback, putting him on the spot continually. Indiana’s defense put pressure on him throughout the game, further rattling him, culminating in a fumble in the end zone for a safety.
On the positive side, the offense was 11-22 on third down, not great, but a lot better than the 20% heretofore. On the negative side, they were 1-5 on fourth down, including one coaching call that would get lesser men fired.
Who knows what O’Brien had in his mind going for that fourth down. I characterized the call as more balls than brains. We in The Cave had already concluded that O’Brien was merely trying to draw an offside penalty when the offense lined up on fourth and two at their own 33. Wait! No shit! Hackenberg just took the snap! WTF??? Forty-two seconds later, Indiana scored, thanks to a failed conversion gifting them a very short field.
Our vaunted defense got torched for 486 yards. They looked out of sync all day, and couldn’t tackle worth a shit. I counted only one sack of Sudafed (ok, ok, Sudfeld), who was 23-38 for 321 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT. Rushing defense was porous, too. Coleman had 20 rushes for 92 yards and a touchdown. The only good thing I have to say about defense is about Indiana’s. It’s better than we thought, and that guy Bennett #24 is potential NFL material.
And special teams? Well, Butterworth punted a little better, but he can’t hold worth a shit.
I don’t want to write about this anymore. I would rather read your thoughts.
Ineptitude’ll kill ya.