It was the quintessential Indiana football game. Glimmers of greatness mixed with incredibly frustrating moments, ultimately ending in disappointment.
The first play from scrimmage was a beauty. Richard Lagow found Nick Westbrook just shy of midfield. Westbrook promptly torched the Wake Forest defense, finding the endzone and giving Indiana the lead just 13 seconds into the game.
The lead didn’t even hold through the first quarter. Wake Forest tied the score less than 12 minutes later, and the Hoosiers never led again.
“Too many errors,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said after the game.
The Hoosiers had opportunities aplenty, but ended the non-conference slate with a brutal loss to an inferior opponent, falling 33-28 to Wake Forest just a year after defeating the Demon Deacons in Winston-Salem.
Indiana had 611 yards of offense. 496 of those were through the air, courtesy of Lagow. That’s a school record, for what it’s worth.
Ricky Jones found his groove, finishing the day with 208 yards receiving on eight receptions. Nick Westbrook added another 129 along with two scores.
Indiana could never find any momentum in the running game. With starting offensive linemen Dan Feeney (concussion) and Dimitric Camiel (back) unable to play, the ground attack suffered, accounting for just 115 yards on 32 attempts.
The Hoosiers left far too many points on the table. Wilson’s team couldn’t hold onto the football, turning it over five times. Wake Forest turned those miscues into 17 points. 24 if you include the turnover on downs in the second quarter.
All five turnovers were Lagow interceptions, although he in no way deserves blame for them all.
“[Lagow] had one bad throw,” Wilson said. “The rest of it was on us.”
The interceptions were far from the only issue for Indiana. Griffin Oakes had a 36-yard field goal attempt blocked late in the second quarter.
Indiana also committed nine penalties, giving the Demon Deacons 84 free yards. Wake Forest’s final scoring drive of the afternoon went 75 yards. Indiana’s defense committed four separate penalties on the drive totalling 45 yards.
Now Indiana finds themselves in a precarious position. With the Big Ten moving to a nine game conference schedule this season, the Hoosiers need to win at least four games against conference foes to become bowl eligible. The last time Indiana won four conference games was 2001, Antwaan Randle El’s final season as a Hoosier.
The road to four Big Ten victories starts next Saturday night against Michigan State at Memorial Stadium, followed by a trip to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes and a home date with Nebraska the week after.
The most likely chances at victories for Indiana come later. Indiana may need to go 3-0 in consecutive late season matchups at Northwestern, home versus Maryland and at Rutgers, to have a shot at the bowl going into the Old Oaken Bucket game.
The Hoosiers may have had a bit of breathing room before Saturday. Not anymore.