The buildup to Indiana's Big Ten football opener against Maryland on Saturday was as big as it had been in years. The school sold more than 40,000 presale tickets, coach Kevin Wilson was a popular guest on talk shows all week, and the weather was perfect. Indiana was coming off its biggest win during Wilson's tenure at Missouri last week.
But as big as the buildup was, the let down on Saturday was even bigger.
The Hoosiers laid a giant egg at Memorial Stadium, falling to Big Ten newcomer Maryland 37-15. IU, which had earned some significant interest for the first time in several seasons, showed it is not yet capable of handling the success it had a week earlier.
"We weren't beating our chests," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said of last week's win. "I thought we had a solid week, could always be better, but I didn't think it was bad. We talked about how really good players and good teams repeat the process. We just disappointed at the line of scrimmage. I don't think it was because of last week."
After a great performance against the Tigers last week, the Indiana defense returned to its old ways. Maryland had huge holes to run through all afternoon, and the Hoosiers missed tackles that turned marginal gains into big plays.
But the IU offense was even more disappointing.
The Hoosiers boast one of the Big Ten's best offenses, but they could never solve the Maryland defense. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld was off all day, and star running back Tevin Coleman rarely found room to run. Indiana trailed just 20-9 at halftime despite the problems, but when the IU offense failed to score on the first three drives of the third quarter, the flood gates opened.
Indiana had two touchdowns called back by penalties. The only scoring star of the day was kicker Griffin Oakes, who made field goals of 38, 48 and 58 yards in the first half. The 58-yarder was a school record.
Sudfeld finished 14-of-37 for 126 yards and an interception, a completion percentage of just 38 percent. Sudfeld also had 20 yards rushing on eight carries.
Coleman rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. He has rushed for 100 or more yards in six straight games and has recorded a touchdown in 13 straight, both good for the longest in the country. Coleman's 13-game touchdown streak is a school record, passing Anthony Thompson.
Maryland outgained Indiana 484-332 and had 361 passing yards to Indiana's 126. Keep in mind, this Maryland defense entered Saturday's game as one of the worst, statistically, in the Big Ten.
"We really tried hard to handle success well. I guess, obviously, we still have work to do as a team," Sudfeld said. "We just need to handle success, expect to win in a sense, but not just expect anybody to lay down or that it's just gonna happen. There are times where we aren't ourselves, and today was one of those times."
So, where does Indiana go from here? Well, you can bet that next week's home game against North Texas won't be anywhere near as well-attended as Saturday's game was. That game will be a good opportunity for the Hoosiers to regroup and rebound before they continue the Big Ten slate, which will undoubtedly be a good thing.
But I think you have to be worried, especially about Indiana's passing game. Sudfeld has yet to really put together a complete, consistent performance this season. Could it be because he is the full-time starter for the first time in his career? He was never asked to put together a complete performance in his first two seasons.
The other possibility is that this group of wide receivers just isn't experienced enough. With Shane Wynn on the outside and J-Shun Harris often in the slot, the Hoosiers are putting two very small receivers out there. They don't really have the Cody Latimer, Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss-type receiver on the roster. At least not one that has developed to that point.
The IU defense is, and always will be a concern. For that unit, it will be about eliminating some of the big plays and holding to field goals instead of touchdowns on occasion.
But much more is expected of the offense. On Saturday, they did not deliver.Sudfeld on loss: 'We weren't ourselves'
IU Insider Blog: A big opportunity missed
Oakes hits IU record 58-yard field goal
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