By: Andrew Vailliencourt
IU football had a chance to do something Saturday that it hadn’t done in a very long time. Memorial Stadium had a huge crowd of over 44,000 people, and the student section was completely full. Let’s say that again. The IU student section was FULL from top to bottom at the start of the Hoosiers’ matchup with Maryland.
For once, fans showed up to support and thank the team that went on the road and beat a ranked SEC opponent. In return, the Hoosiers thanked their fans by not showing up in a lackluster 37-15 loss to Maryland.
The game was a disaster from the start. Penalties killed the Hoosiers, as they had two touchdowns called back due to penalties with a total of nine for the game. One penalty on a Shane Wynn punt return that would have changed the game entirely, and the other came on a breakout touchdown run by Tevin Coleman. It felt like the game couldn’t go more than a few plays without a flag flying across the field.
With a win, IU football would have proven it could be taken seriously as a contender. Instead, the Hoosiers showed they are more like the team we saw lose to Blowing Green.
Maryland played the entire second half with its backup quarterback in the game, and the IU defense still gave up 17 points.
The Terrapins entered play Saturday ranked LAST in the Big Ten in total defense. Yet the IU offense, which is supposed to be high powered and explosive, put up a whopping 15 points on 332 total yards. (Maryland had given up an average of 460 yards per game)
Maryland continually stacked the box, making it tough for Tevin Coleman to get going. It wasn’t really until the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach—aka, garbage time—that Coleman had any decent carries. He finished with 22 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown. Because it couldn’t get the run game going, IU was forced to throw the ball. The Terrapins dared IU to beat them with the pass.
Enter Nate Sudfeld, who is supposed to be the guy that can finally get IU over the hump. He’s the quarterback that can throw, as opposed to former mobile IU quarterback Tre Roberson, who transferred to Illinois State. But what does Sudfeld do against the Terrapins? He throws incomplete passes, and lots of them.
Sudfeld went 14-for-37 for 126 yards and one interception. Zero touchdowns. Against the worst defense in the entire conference.
Nate Sudfeld has to be better. If he wants to be a great quarterback, or simply wants to lead his team to a bowl game, he has to make better decisions and throws. Too many passes were too high over a receiver’s head, in the ground, or off pace of his receiver. You can’t have a quarterback who is inaccurate.
To be fair, Sudfeld doesn’t have much help. The IU receiving core is not good, to put it lightly. This team misses former receivers Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes, and tight end Ted Bolser from last year. IU’s wide receivers must improve. However, just because Sudfeld’s wide receivers aren’t NFL caliber doesn’t give him an excuse for his poor passing performance.
With the up and down defense IU has, the Hoosiers need a quarterback that can win them games. Sudfeld is not that guy. Sudfeld is a game manager that benefitted greatly from having three star players to throw the ball to last season.
The lack of preparation for this game falls on the coaching staff. Coach Kevin Wilson has to be better. You can’t expect to enter a conference game unprepared and expect to win.
With just over two minutes left in the second quarter and IU trailing 20-6, the Hoosiers got the ball to start at its own 22 yard line. With an offense that is supposedly explosive, it should be built for a two minute drive. IU would receive the opening kick to start the second half, and with a touchdown before the half, the Hoosiers had the potential to tie the game with that first drive. However, Wilson decided to run the ball, and milked the clock down to under thirty seconds before burning his last timeout—content with not scoring any points and entering the half trailing by 14. Maryland then received a penalty, giving IU good field position, prompting Wilson to throw the ball. IU didn’t have nearly enough time to get a touchdown, and were forced to kick a 58 yard field goal, which miraculously went in.
That was a horrible two minutes of coaching, and should IU not make a bowl game, I will cite instances like this when I argue that Wilson should be fired.
The only positive to come out of Saturday’s game was freshman kicker Griffin Oakes, who took over for Aaron Del Grosso. He went 3-for-4 including the school record 58 yarder.
The Hoosiers face a must-win game against North Texas next week, and I wish I could say with certainty that they will win. But with this IU football team, very little is certain. The only thing Hoosiers can count on is FFFLLLAAAGGGSSS.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewVcourt and listen to him on “The War Room” Fridays from 6-7pm