Defense comes up short in first test of 2014

Following an impressive opening game performance versus Indiana State, IU's defense took a step back Saturday afternoon, giving up 33 second half points and over 570 yards. Read more about the plethora of defensive let downs from the Hoosiers' 45-42 loss at Bowling Green.

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio --- The big plays just kept coming. Even with a much-ballyhooed new 3-4 defensive system under Brian Knorr, it was a painful déjà vu for Indiana’s defense Saturday afternoon.

Bowling Green was able to mount an 11 play, 88-yard drive in 1:55 which ended with a James Knapke touchdown pass to Roger Lewis in the corner of the end zone with nine seconds to play as the Falcons beat the Hoosiers 45-42 Saturday afternoon.

The final pass was just the final straw in a string of defensive lapses, but what led up to the fade route in the northeast corner of Doyt Perry Stadium was a build up from a long day.

Most glaringly, there were back-to-back pass interference calls on the final drive. First Kenny Mullen’s that brought the Falcons from the IU 31 to the Bowling Green 16 in the final 20 seconds. The next play, Michael Hunter interfered with Lewis in the end zone, which gave the Falcons to a first and goal at the 2-yard line.

“Well, we didn’t play a couple of the balls well,” said IU coach Kevin Wilson. “Had some calls I thought were proper calls, had no issues… At the end of the day, they made competitive plays, we got called for PIs and gave them an opportunity.”

In all, Indiana surrendered 143 yards on 11 penalties.

“With a few of them, they could’ve gone either way, but yeah, you’ve got to get better with that,” said IU bandit Nick Mangieri, who recorded Indiana’s lone interception on a day when a plethora of balls were tipped.

Those missed opportunities resulted in chances that just kept coming for the Falcons throughout the second half, as the lead changed hand nine times the final two quarters and 10 times overall.

There was the Ryan Burbrink 31-yard touchdown reception from Knapke where the IU defense allowed the 5-foot-8, 188-pound receiver to streak free down the left sideline on a wheel route with 5:24 remaining to give BGSU a 39-35 advantage.

There were seemingly countless plays in which Indiana brought pressure and Knapke was forced out of the pocket and into throwing it away, but IU recorded just one sack on the day.

The Fort Wayne native Knapke went 46-of-73 for 395 yards and three scores, and his number of completions and attempts were both good for school records in only the second career start.

Mangieri wasn’t quite sure where the defense went wrong, as Bowling Green racked up 571 total yards, including 375 in the second half to go with 33 points.

“They just came out and executed better in the second half and we couldn’t stop them for whatever reason," he said.

In that second half, a gassed Indiana defense allowed Dino Baber’s squad to go 4-of-7 on third down conversions after a 3-of-11 first half.

The players and coaches didn’t seem to have answers, but some must be found quickly if Indiana is to avoid a 1-2 start, with a trip to No. 20 Missouri looming next week.

Tackling was an issue as well, as over pursuits and arm tackles left green space for players such as Travis Greene, who rushed for 123 yards and a TD on the ground.

It may be the final touchdown that will be etched in Hoosier fans’ minds, but the final play was a build up of missed opportunities that were present all day for Knorr’s new defensive scheme to show it had improved from last year.

Wilson emphasized that it is not one game that defines a season for a single unit, but the numbers don’t lie. The Hoosiers failed their first real test for what was promoted as a new and improved defensive system.

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