Indiana continues to repeat same mistakes, still not close enough

The fourth quarter woes continue for the Indiana football team as it continues to be close, but not close enough.

Football is a 60-minute game, played with four 15-minute quarters. 

You would think it would be so simple, so easy to understand for this Indiana football team, which in weeks past has talked about being close, but not close enough. 

But this Indiana football team, now staring at their fifth-straight loss and winless in the Big Ten in 2015, can't seem to understand that, only managing to put together a complete effort for roughly 45 of those 60 minutes. Once again, they were just that - close but not close enough - in their 35-27 home loss to No. 10 Iowa Saturday at Memorial Stadium. 

"Is it psychological, is it physiological, is it a play or two more? A play or a call or two?" Wilson said. "To me, we've got too much evidence of too good week after week against a lot of good teams that there's good players, there's good football. At the same time, though, we're going to have ask and as coaches do better, players do better, plan it better." 

Despite having Jordan Howard back at arguably the healthiest he's been since prior to injuring his ankle against Ohio State in early October, Indiana's offense continued to struggle in the fourth quarter. 

Howard had 174 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns overall - 36 in the fourth quarter - but not even he could get Indiana's offense going when it mattered most. IU managed 10 points in the fourth quarter, but Iowa had 14. Over the course of Big Ten play, Indiana has been outscored 84-20 in the final quarter including Saturday's game.

Defense has also been to blame, as IU hasn't had a takeaway since the Rutgers game. Additionally, entering Saturday's game, the Hoosiers have allowed their opponents to convert 44 percent of their third downs. 

Iowa didn't help that average, converting 7-of-14 third downs in the game. 

Of those seven conversions, three occurred on distances of nine yards or more. It was largely due to the lack of pressure from Indiana's from seven, which had zero sacks against the Hawkeyes. 

Fifth-year bandit Zack Shaw attributed the Hawkeyes' third down success, especially in those 3rd and long situations, to that absence of a pass rush. 

"It starts up front," Shaw said. "We've got to get after the quarterback. We had our guys in man coverage behind us, so if that quarterback has time to get somebody open he's going to make a good throw. It's up to us up front to really get after the quarterback and put pressure on him to where he has make a throw quicker than he normally would. It's up to us up front to help the guys behind us." 

Shaw is one of 13 seniors on Indiana's roster who has poured buckets of sweat equity into building the program, but has yet to enjoy a winning season. At this point, they must feel like they're part of a Peanuts reenactment, where the team is Charlie Brown and the Big Ten is Lucy swiping away the football, laughing as Brown slips and falls. 

However, unlike Brown and that football, the ultimate goal for this Indiana football team is still within reach. Bowl eligiblity means winning two of its next three games. 

Michigan on senior day will no doubt be a challenge for the Hoosiers, but road games against Maryland and Purdue to close out the regular season remain winnable. 

However, this is a team that is 6-31 against the Big Ten so far under Wilson. On the road against the conference, it is 1-18. Such an abysmal record may suggest why another senior, quarterback Nate Sudfeld, offered a somewhat bleak outlook through his comments after the game about whether he felt pressure after the team's fifth-straight loss. 

"Not at all," Sudfeld said. "It's Indiana, nobody expects much of us. We're holding each other accountable as brothers and we're still trying to do a lot of great things to finish out the season."

To accomplish great things and attain their ultimate goal, the Hoosiers must fix their third down issues and an offense which has managed just 122 total yards of offense in the fourth quarter of its last two games.

In those two games, Indiana trailed by as few as a single point at some point in the game. 

"We've been competitive all season against the best teams in the nation, but I'm tired of being competitive," Sudfeld said. "We are good enough. I know I'm a good enough player to win these games, and I know I have good enough players around me to outplay the guys we are playing. It is up to us players to really execute and take it personal. We need to finish the season strong."

But being that close and competitive continues to be the story for the Hoosiers, who will continue to earn moral victories if they don't fix their mistakes. 


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