Wilson: Game 1 defense "not acceptable"

After allowing SIU to gain 659 yards of total offense - three shy of tying the Memorial Stadium opponent record set by Michigan State last season - Indiana's defensive performance was called "very, very poor" and "not acceptable" by Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson.

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson would not place the blame on Saturday’s empty defensive performance on his players. Rather, it’s on the coaching staff.

After the Hoosiers’ defense allowed 659 yards of total offense in their 48-47 win Saturday over Southern Illinois, Wilson called for coaches to make changes to their approach.

”Defensively, again, very, very poor. Not acceptable,” Wilson said. “Structure and preparation by our staff is not close to what it needs to be and we're trying to address that immediately.”

Indiana’s defense felt the absence of defensive tackle Darius Latham and linebacker Tegray Scales, who were among nine players suspended from Saturday’s game.

Southern Illinois controlled the game for nearly the entire first half behind a rushing attack that included 113 yards in that half from quarterback Mark Iannotti. Overall, Iannotti by himself had 527 total offensive yards – an SIU program record and the most by any player in any college football division in week one, according to the Salukis’ Twitter account.

Wilson said only defensive end Nick Mangieri and bandit Zack Shaw received winning grades after defensive film review. Aside from linebacker Marcus Oliver’s two forced fumbles, only those three players stood out from the front seven which registered only one sack and no quarterback hurries Saturday.

”Our players' effort, our buy-in, is awesome on that side, legit,” Wilson said. “But there are some things that I think need to happen that I want to see from the way we're doing business.”

Adjusting the way the team does business starts with communication. Oliver admitted Monday that was a reason for the team’s struggles in the first half.

”We know that we’re better than that,” Oliver said.

And while Oliver encouraged the younger players to speak up, Wilson wants the opposite from the coaching staff in practice. Wilson said he wants his coaches not talking so that it causes the players to talk during that time.

Though Wilson is more of an offensive-minded coach and doesn’t want to micromanage his staff, he does have expectations for how he wants the defense to look.

Changing the look of the defense to something more pleasing will mean changing how the team practices, which according to Wilson is too choreographed. He wants his players to become comfortable practicing and playing uncomfortable.

”We like to choreograph everything. I don't think the game is choreographed,” Wilson said. “Defense is trained reaction. You have these battle plans. First play, wad it up and throw it away because the plan never works. You have to adjust. That’s what we did at halftime a little bit, adjust.”

The halftime adjustments worked, as Indiana shut out the Salukis in the third quarter and held them to just 48 total yards of offense in that same quarter.

But the lack of pressure overall throughout the entire game from the front seven hurt Indiana’s secondary, which surrendered 16 plays of 10 or more yards.

Oliver said once the younger players slowed down and took a look at the board at halftime, communication improved. Still, Wilson and the rest of the coaching staff know the defense must make even more improvement before this Saturday’s home game against Florida International.

”Again, we're pleased we're 1-0, (but) we got a lot of work to do,” Wilson said. “Everybody says you improve from week one to week two. We just need to keep improving. I know we will, believe we will.”

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