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COLUMN

IU sliding out of contention

Bowl bid seems less likely after blown game

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 - 7:16 pm

Be honest. Do you think Indiana will make a bowl game? Do you figure the Hoosiers will even win another game this year?

Tradition says no. Once a Cream 'n' Crimson football slide starts, no power on earth stops it.

Hey, don't blame us. We didn't blow a sure victory at Northwestern. We didn't make this ending schedule of at Iowa (8-0), host Wisconsin (5-2), at Penn State (7-1) and host Purdue (3-5).

At 4-4 with losses in four of the last five games, with the only win in that stretch Illinois, Indiana seems ill-equipped to handle winning at least two of those games to become bowl eligible and three to clinch a bid.

The Hoosiers had to beat Northwestern on Saturday. They had to hold a 25-point lead.

They didn't. Why? What does this mean? Glad you asked.

• Why don't you credit Northwestern?

Much of this is because the Wildcats (5-3) are a good team that never gives up. Remember, they rallied from a huge deficit at Purdue. They made big play after big play after falling behind 28-3. They have one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks in Mike Kafka and a hard-to-stop offense. In a lot of ways, they earned this win more than IU gave it away.

• Are you serious?

OK, IU did blow it. The offense didn't score a point in the final 42 minutes. The defense was a sieve. You can't give up a blocked punt. And passing up a sure field goal to go for it on fourth-and-goal, and then not making it and then giving up a 98-yard TD drive makes you wonder what coach Bill Lynch and his staff were thinking.

• What were they thinking?

That the play with Mitchell Evans throwing a pass from the wildcat formation would work and that their defense couldn't stop Northwestern, so they'd better get a touchdown rather than a field goal. Is there any doubt that if the Wildcats needed a touchdown in that last drive rather than a field goal, they'd have gotten the TD?

• What's up with the defense?

IU hasn't had a consistently strong defense since the early 1990s. Injuries have messed up the secondary for the second straight season and until coaches recruit and develop enough quality depth there, this will continue to be a huge problem. Also, Northwestern's spread attack was the last thing that secondary needed. Still, the Hoosiers intercepted Kafka three times in the second half. The big problem: They got zero points from them.

• Are you saying it's the offense's fault?

Let's just say that Northwestern adjusted its defense after IU scored 21 points in 18 minutes. The Hoosiers had 153 total yards in the first quarter. They had 152 yards the rest of the way. The Wildcats, by the way, are a mediocre defense.

• Are you saying it's the coaches' fault?

In the end, it's always the coaches' fault. That goes with the territory. As far as job security for Lynch and his staff, that's a decision for athletic director Fred Glass.

• Are you saying you're a wimp and won't take a stand?

You ask too many questions.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel.