In the beginning stages of the season Indiana was struggling to put away its opponents. Close victories against Southern Illinois and Wake Forest were troublesome, but all is forgiven when a team is undefeated.
In last Saturday’s game against Michigan State the Hoosiers' offense was able to counter their opponent’s for the first three quarters, but for the third straight week the team was unable to score in the fourth quarter. What was once a two-point deficit heading to the fourth quarter quickly turned into a 52-26 loss, Indiana’s fourth straight (4-4).
“We’re leaving points on the filed, we have to get them on the board,” said Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson, “and the defense has to get some stops.”
In the fourth quarter of last Saturday’s game the Hoosiers defense allowed a total of 24 points, while the offense gained a total of 24 yards. In the team's last three games it has been outscored 56-0 in the fourth quarter.
“We need to eliminate mental errors, attack and play our game,” Indiana wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. said.
What once appeared as a slight weakness to this team during its four-game winning streak has been completely exposed throughout its four-game losing streak. In the four wins the Hoosiers were outscored by 10 points in the fourth quarter, a number that is not something to be proud of but is much more manageable than what has occurred recently. In the four straight losses Indiana has been outscored by 60 points in the fourth.
Going into a bye week, this is something that will have to be of major concern for the Hoosiers. A bowl game was something that appeared to be very realistic at one point, but has now become a major question mark. If Indiana is going to be playing in a bowl game they will have to win two of their last four games.
The team’s first chance at its fifth victory will come against the currently undefeated Iowa Hawkeyes who have had great success in the fourth quarter. Iowa has outscored their opponents by 31 points in the fourth quarter on the season, particularly due to a defense that has only allowed 28 fourth quarter points.
The Hoosiers have shown the ability to play with ranked opponents this season; they nearly took down the top ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and battled for three quarters against the No. 7-ranked Spartans.
The team definitely has the talent to play with quality opponents, but the ability to win those games is in question. A productive bye week that leads to a win against the Hawkeyes could give this team the boost they need to finish the season strong and get over the hump of this current losing streak. If that’s going to be the case the team will have to improve its fourth quarter performance and begin closing teams out.
“Bye week to get ready for the next couple of opponents,” said Indiana wide receiver Mitchell Paige, “because we have to start winning games.”