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COLUMN

No more excuses -- IU's bad defense must stop

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Hoosiers give up record numbers to Michigan

Sunday, October 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Indiana defense remains a myth, and it has to stop.

Whatever it takes, whatever hard decisions have to be made, the defense can't play like this.

Ever.

Amazing, isn't it, that 47 points weren't enough to beat Michigan? Heck, 62 wouldn't have done it. Saturday night's 63-47 final score was misleading because, if necessary, the Wolverines could have scored 70 or more.

Consider that the Hoosiers (3-4) had NEVER scored so many points or totaled so many yards (572) against Michigan (6-1) and still lost. Six of their scoring drives took less than 90 seconds and fewer than five plays.

That wasn't a fluke. For the season IU has 14 scoring drives in less than 60 seconds and 26 in less than 90 seconds.

The quarterback rotation of Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson is picking up steam, with Roberson regaining the edge he had at the start of the season. He set career highs for total yards (338) and touchdowns (four, three via the pass, one on a run).

That's a credit to coach Kevin Wilson's up-tempo, spread-the-field attack, and if it isn't always kind to the ever-reeling defense, well, at some point the Hoosiers have to get some stops. Michigan had 35 first downs, for goodness sakes. Their 751 yards set a school record. Quarterback Devin Gardner's 584 total yards were a school record. Receiver Jeremy Gallon set a Big Ten record with 369 receiving yards, a number so large Wilson called it “ridiculous.”

You'd have figured SOMEBODY would have stayed on Gallon. He was as wide open in the fourth quarter as he was in the first.

That can't happen.

Wilson said IU went with man coverage because it needed more defenders closer to the line of scrimmage to try to slow down Michigan's running game. That didn't work because the Wolverines still ran for 248 yards while Indiana defensive backs were seemingly helpless.

At some point you'd like to think IU could figure out the tackling concept. The Wolverines looked like Barry Sanders clones with the way they juked their way through Hoosier tacklers.

Michigan had 187 yards of total offense in the first quarter, and 348 by halftime along with 20 first downs.

For brief periods, say two plays, the Hoosiers got it figured.

Then they reverted to form. They have now surpassed Purdue as the Big Ten's worst defense.

That's a shame because, in so many ways, the Wolverines were as vulnerable as they've ever been. Their defense broke down so often it stirred memories of fired coach Rich Rodriguez's ill-fated tenure. They had struggled against Akron and Connecticut, then blew a late lead at Penn State.

The Hoosiers were poised to win for the first time at Michigan since 1967, and end an overall 18-game losing streak in the series.

It didn't happen, and they had a long plane and bus ride back to Bloomington (they could only fly to Indianapolis because a sink hole has shut down Bloomington's airport) to think about what might have been.

“We have to keep our heads up high,” senior safety Greg Heban said.” It's embarrassing for the defense to give up that many yards and points. As a leader of the defense, I have to step up, take charge and get this defense where it needs to be.”

The good news is IU has a bye week to work on what seems to be unfixable. Its next game is at home against Minnesota, which beat Northwestern on Saturday.

“We have prime time for a bye week to get ourselves right,” Heban said. “Just like we did after the last bye.”

After IU's previous bye, it beat Penn State for the first time in school history, but let's not kid ourselves. Nothing good can happen until the defense gets fixed.

That's no myth.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.