Indiana is to the point with its football program that it can hang with most ranked teams. A good defense will get you that. But it’s not to the point where it can withstand a few bad bounces or decisions.
That was made pretty clear in today’s 27-22 loss to No. 10 Nebraska.
“Pretty even game but some mistakes beat us,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. “Three weeks in a row we're playing three good teams. In one week we eliminate mistakes and we get a victory, and the other two weeks we have something to haunt us.”
The biggest mistake was a first half decision by quarterback Richard Lagow that led to a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown by Nebraska cornerback Chris Jones.
“Just miscommunication. My fault,” Lagow said.
“We gave them a pick-six with a little bit of a miscue by a receiver that brings a guy into the fray for a pick,” Wilson said.
The mistake gave Nebraska a 17-0 lead with 4:33 to play in the opening quarter.
The pick-six was the only Husker takeaway until the final seconds That’s why the Hoosier players added another reason for what made the difference.
“There were a couple competitive plays that were the difference in the game,” said Hoosier safety Tony Fields.
The junior was involved in one of those when he banged into a teammate, allowing Husker wide receiver Stanley Morgan to catch a Tommy Armstrong bomb and race untouched into the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown reception.
“It was just bad angles taken, guys falling down, just a bad play,” Fields said. “It was very frustrating because we were both running to the ball and hard as we could and got tripped up.”
“We’ve got three guys all over a route, and we trip ourselves,” Wilson said.
Tony Fields talks about what happened on the Husker touchdown:
The touchdown with 9:57 left ended a scoring drought of over 34 minutes for the Huskers, and after Indiana had pulled within 17-15.
A similar situation led to Nebraska’s first touchdown. Midway through the first quarter Hoosier safety Marcelino Ball was draped over Husker receiver Brandon Reilly, knocking an Armstrong pass away. Or at least that is how it seemed. Instead with both players on the turf the ball bounced off Ball again and into Reilly’s hands as he was flat on his back for a 45-yard completion. Four plays later Terrell Newby rushed for a four-yard touchdown.
“Marcelino is all over the ball, and somehow their guy catches it one time for a big play,” Wilson said.
Offensively the same situation reared itself in fourth down plays. Indiana failed to convert both of its gambles. One of those came when backup quarterback Zander Diamont was in. Diamont saw his first action of the year and gave a sputtering offense a boost for a bit with 31 yards rushing.
“I think the competitive plays are the only plays where we are coming up short,” Diamont said. “We’re leaving a couple plays on that field, myself included. I came up short on that fourth down. Should have made that play, no reason I shouldn’t have.”
Nebraska’s lone fourth down play was converted and proved to be perhaps the biggest dagger of the game late in the final quarter. The fourth and one was converted by just a few inches via a sneak by Armstrong at the Hoosier 47 yard line. The play kept alive a Husker drive that went 15 plays for 60 yards. More important it took 7:41 off the clock before Indiana stiffened, leading to a 39-yard field goal by Drew Brown with only 45 seconds remaining.
Down five points, Richard Lagow had to gamble for long gains and threw an interception at midfield on just the second play following the field goal.
Nearly a huge turnover
Indiana nearly got the ball back during that last Husker drive via a Terrence Newby fumble but despite the fact that a couple officials pointed Indiana’s way after a Hoosier grabbed the ball, the call on the field was that Newby was down.
The play was reviewed and upheld. Head linesman Michael Dolce was identified after the game as the official who called the runner down.
Stats don’t matter
Up until the final drive, Indiana led in total yards. While Nebraska finished with a 360 to 333 edge in yards, the total was well below the 474 yards per game average the Huskers had coming into the game.
“I've never been about the stats. It's about the W's, which we need more,” Wilson said.
Next chance for a W is next Saturday at Northwestern. The Wildcats have come on after a slow start as shown by a 54-40 win over Michigan State.
“We'll work hard, put it together for Northwestern, and after that we're going to look forward to coming back and continuing the momentum at home because the last couple home games have been great environments, and we'll keep working and ultimately we'll get more wins,” Wilson said.