Breaking Down an Inexcusable Loss
By: Andrew Vailliencourt
574, 116, 12, four, one, zero.
Each of these numbers will help explain why and how Indiana lost to Bowling Green— a loss that could derail IU’s season completely.
As those of you who have read my previous columns will know, I am one of the strongest proponents of IU football. I have believed in the program, and have suggested that they will continue to get better. Losing, however, to a Mid-American Conference team in a game where your offense scored 42 points in inexcusable.
Let’s start with numbers 12 and 116. The Hoosiers had 12 penalties for 116 yards- two of which came in the final minute of the game on back-to-back pass interference calls. You cannot win a football game when you give your opponent 116 free yards. IU had to play good defense for two minutes and four seconds. Bowling Green started their final drive at their own 12 yard line with only one timeout, yet was able to march down the field for the game-winning touchdown, thanks in part to the those two final pass interference calls. As a defender, you must turn your head around on long passes down the field. Referees will call it every time if you don’t. The defense looked nothing like the group that took the field against Indiana State two weeks ago, with the exception being they did force two turnovers. This leads to my next number.
The Hoosier defense gave up 574 yards to the Falcon offense. Just four yards less than what the IU offense totaled. Combine that with the 116 yards in penalties, and nothing good can happen. This defense was supposed to be better. The coaches and players had talked about how much better they are now that they run a 3-4 scheme, yet on Saturday they looked like the same old IU defense from last year. My next number, one, also relates to the defense as IU forced only a single punt for the Bowling Green offense. Let’s say that again. Bowling Green was forced to punt one time. Not good. It’s a sight fans saw far too often last season. The defense was atrocious, but they are not the sole cause of this loss.
The next number, and perhaps the most crucial, is zero. This is the number of field goals freshman kicker Aaron Del Grosso has made this season. He missed his lone attempt from 39 yards out. Normally, I’d say, “Oh well, he missed his one chance, not that big of deal, he will make his next one.” But would he? IU Coach Kevin Wilson didn’t think so, and the next time IU was in field goal range, he opted to go for it on fourth down and long (a down which the team failed to convert).
And frankly, I don’t blame Coach Wilson. Del Grosso’s attempt was from the middle of the field, and was an average length that you’d expect a kicker to be able to knock through.
Why couldn’t IU recruit a quality kicker? The coaching staff knew Mitch Ewald was graduating and that a new kicker would be needed, yet the IU starting kicker is a walk on? The kicker is one of the most important positions on the team. How can a division one Big Ten school not have a good kicker? It should be one of the first positions you recruit. Nobody wants to be that school that has to go for it on every fourth down inside the opponent’s territory, yet here we are with IU being that team. It’s ridiculous.
Not only does not having a reliable kicker force the offense to do things it doesn’t want to do, if Del Grosso makes that field goal the game is tied at 45.
Let’s do some more math. If the offense doesn’t have to go for it on fourth and long and instead kicks a field goal that would have been about 42-43 yards, IU has three more points that gives the Hoosiers a win, and the team walks away with its undefeated record intact.
My last number is four. This is how many field goals the Falcons kicked. A MAC school has a kicker that can make field goals, and the Big Ten school doesn’t?
Tough loss for IU, and they will need to win a big game to make up for the loss if they plan to make a bowl game this year. It doesn’t get much lower than this.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewVcourt