The book on Indiana at the midseason point looks pretty simple on the surface:
Vastly improved defense but an offense that struggles at times, especially when compared to recent seasons.
So what’s the deal with the offense?
It’s a pretty obvious question considering the Hoosiers have set 54 school records under sixth-year coach Kevin Wilson and how productive they’ve been the past few years.
IU managed just 22 points and only three of 14 possessions went more than 45 yards in Saturday’s 27-22 homecoming loss at Memorial Stadium to No. 10 Nebraska on Saturday afternoon.
At the midpoint of the season, the Hoosiers (3-3 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) are averaging 25.8 points per game this season. The past four seasons they’ve averaged 36.5, 25.1, 38.4 and 30.8 points per game.
“Close ain’t it,” Wilson said after the Hoosiers came close to their first win over a top-10 team since beating No. 9 Ohio State on the road 31-10 on Oct. 10, 1987.
“And as a coach, I’ve got to make sure sure I’m on our point of things that we need to get fixed because we’ve got to quit leaving points on the field. We’ve got to get them on the scoreboard.
“Like we said before the week, I didn’t think we were going to win this game with 17 or 20 points. We needed 34, 35, 37, 38, and we couldn’t get it. Credit to Nebraska, but we’ve got to keep working and keep plugging.”
Indiana lost the ball on downs when it went for it on fourth down at the Nebraska 36 and later at the Nebraska 30 and settled for field goals on drives that reached the Cornhuskers’ 19 and 28.
Indiana averaged 4.8 yards per play, had 333 total for the game, but 22 points on 69 offensive plays isn’t the ratio Wilson wants.
The Hoosiers fell behind 17-0, rallied to within 17-15 and trailed just 24-22 when Nebraska kicked a field goal with 45 seconds to play.
“I don’t know of one specific thing that needs to happen,” said quarterback Richard Lagow, who was 19-for-32 passing for 196 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and was spelled at times by backup Zander Diamont.
“We just need to start playing. We need to stop missing opportunities and it starts with me, but we need to start playing, having fun, scoring points.”
The Hoosiers managed just 88 yards on 30 rushes as Nebraska (6-0, 3-0) followed the same blueprint of recent IU opponents and stacked the box to stop the run.
“The last three or four weeks, you can turn on the tape and see we’ve gotten pretty similar defense from everybody we’ve played,” Lagow said. “Of course everybody has their own things they do. There are things you can pick from each game and say, ‘They’re defintely doing this for a reason.
“But the defense, it can’t be a reason for us not executing. We need to execute against anything they do.”
The Hoosiers’ first half of the season included three ranked teams, the back half only one, so strength of opponent is part of the equation. And, obviously, IU has shown overall improvement this year — having a shot to win in the final minutes against a top-10 team isn’t an annual occurence historically for the Hoosiers.
Indiana’s defense, an issue for years, has been vastly improved this season. IU’s defense allowed only 20 points — one Cornhusker score came on a pick-6 — to a Nebraska team averaging 37 points per game.
(SEE ALSO: Recap: No. 10 Nebraska 27, Indiana 22)
Did IU get too conservative at times offensively on Saturday?
IU went with successive running plays at one key point early in the fourth quarter. After Tony Fields intercepted Nebraska’s Tommy Armstrong at the IU 37 with Nebraska leading 17-15, the Hoosiers ran on second-and-9 and third-and-8 and punted on fourth-and-5.
Wilson said he doesn’t feel IU was too conservative or more conservatie just because its defense is better.
“I think it's a product of, you’ve got two young tackles and a quarterback, so it's getting confidence and trust of what's going on,” Wilson said. “You're working really hard to make sure your tackles have good match-ups and you're working hard to give your quarterback confidence, as much as, again, it was 17-0, and the comment on defense was like, ‘Hey, settle down, we'll be OK. We'll get some stops here.’ And they started doing it.
“We didn't get conservative. We played a couple teams — that team a week ago was a little bit different now. We saw Duke and Louisville. We paid attention to that game last night, styles of giving yourself a chance. Each week is different, but like offensively we were talking right before the first half, ‘OK, do you want to make them punt with 20 seconds to go?’ They could screw something up. But we could, too, and because you're playing good D, I did run two plays real quick before the third quarter and we popped one for a touchdown. …
“But I wouldn't say we're conservative because the defense, it helps, because the defense is better, but it's really just getting young linemen and your quarterback and everybody up to speed, and because the defense is playing well, you have the opportunity to do so.”
Postgame video interviews
Starting quarterback Richard Lagow:
Running back Devine Redding: