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No holding back for Indiana defense

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

Receiver Cody Latimer has special day

Sunday, September 15, 2013 - 12:01 am

BLOOMINGTON -- Sometimes, if you want to be good, and you'd better believe Indiana's much maligned defense wants to be good, you have to prove the critics wrong. You have to show past miserable performance will not dictate future ones.

In other words, you need to rock somebody's offensive world.

And so the Hoosiers did.

You read that right. IU, the previous symbol for wretched defense, finally found itself. On Saturday it turned Bowling Green's 37.5-point scoring machine into junk. It forced turnovers and empty possessions. It hit hard and pressured often.

It did, in short, what all the preseason optimism had suggested it might. Thus you had a 42-10 victory in which the Falcons' offense generated just three points.

That's impressive given the Hoosiers (2-1) entered the game with the Big Ten's worst defense, allowing 38 points a game.

The fact Bowling Green (2-1) did not run Navy's unorthodox flexbone triple option rushing attack was a wonderful thing.

“We talked about how the defense was holding us back,” safety Greg Heban said. “We let up 444 rushing yards against Navy and that's something that never needs to happen on the defensive side. We went back to our normal scheme. We were able to cut loose, fly around and have fun.”

IU coach Kevin Wilson used his edgy humor to make a similar point.

“It's good because last week they were the worst defense that ever played in the history of the universe if you listen. But now they're going to be the greatest thing ever.”

He paused.

“Nah. They just are what they are. They're young. They're getting better. We've got some freshman linebackers. There's not a senior on the defensive line. You've got two corners and it's their third game. You're learning under fire.”

With an offense averaging 50.0 points a game, just mediocre defensive learning could produce a bowl opportunity.

And, speaking of offense, it was a special day for receiver Cody Latimer, an unintentional after thought in the first two games with just five catches for 73 yards. He entered the season on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List after totaling 51 catches for 805 yards and six touchdowns last year.

On Saturday he had six catches for a career-high 137 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown. The game had extra significance because Latimer's father played for Bowling Green. Colby Latimer died of colon cancer when his son was 12. Some Hoosier players wore the elder Latimer's uniform number (98) on their tape and gloves to show support.

“It was special,” Latimer said. “I talked to him before the game. I told him to be with me and stay with me, that I'm going to go out and play my best.”

Latimer did.

“I just let the game come to me. I did what I had to do. (Quarterback Nate Sudfeld) threw me the ball and I made plays.

“It was a great win for us. This was more about the team than anything.”

Wilson said the Hoosiers did try to look for Latimer more, although not outside the offense's share-the-wealth concept.

“We did talk about, I wouldn't say forcing, but making sure that there was going to be the opportunity (for Latimer). That's part of the problem – There are a lot of skilled guys. There's only one ball."

In fact, it's not a problem at all. And if the defense shows that Saturday's performance is the norm and not the aberration, you can only imagine how much fun the Hoosiers will be having in December.

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.