Bloomington – They say the film doesn't lie, and Bill Lynch admits he saw a lack of effort in the second half of IU's 45-9 loss to Iowa.
It wasn't a lack of physical effort, though, but instead a letdown mentally. Lynch said he didn't see players taking dives on plays or simply going through the motions during the game's final 30 minutes, but it was the other part of the equation where he saw his team coming up short.
"There's a physical effort, a physical toughness, and I don't think we backed off there," Lynch said Tuesday.
"Where we lost it was the mental effort. Why weren't we in the right gap? We did we miss a check in coverage? Those are the kinds of things, that part we let ourselves down. That's certainly something we've addressed."
After scoring a touchdown late in the first half to cut the margin to 17-9, the IU offense went three-and-out on the opening possession of the second half. Iowa then went 60 yards in five plays to go up 24-9, and the rout was on. Lynch said it was after Iowa's first second half touchdown that he could notice the mental lapses.
"As far as physically giving up or not continuing to physically play the game and hit people, we continued to do that," Lynch said. "It was the part – which is every bit as important."
Nick Sliger might wind up playing this season after all.
The 6-3, 275-pound defense tackle from Hamilton Heights (Ind.) H.S. has been moved up the depth chart according to Lynch, and the staff is going to spend the week preparing the true freshman to possibly play this weekend against the Illini.
"Like we moved (Justin) Pagan up last week to prepare him, we're moving Sliger up because we are beat up in the defensive line," Lynch said. "I think Saturday showed you have to have healthy guys in there against a good running team."
Starting defensive tackle Deonte Mack has been nursing an injury as of late, and isn't expected to practice Tuesday. While Sliger isn't likely to crack the starting lineup, IU does like to rotate defensive tackles throughout the course of the game and could wind up playing Saturday depending on the health of IU's other interior defensive linemen.
"Whether he plays or not, I don't know," Lynch said.
Thus far, IU has played only three true freshmen – wide receivers Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss plus offensive tackle Justin Pagan. Pagan saw his first action of the season Saturday against Iowa.
After back-to-back weeks of single-digit scoring efforts, there's plenty ofr the IU offense to work on this week to get ready for Illinois.
But there's also a lot for the defense to work on, too.
While the defense did turn in a very good effort in the 16-7 loss to Minnesota two weeks ago, IU has surrendered at least 40 points in three of its four games. That includes this past weekend, when Iowa piled up 295 of its 422 yards of total offense in the second half and whipped IU 45-9.
Lynch sees things for each of the positions to shore up. Along the defensive line, he wants to see the linemen putting a "hat in the gap" to do a better job of shutting down the running game. With the linebackers, he's looking for a better job of tackling when IU's players find themselves unblocked and have a shot to stop the ball carrier.
In the secondary, he wants to see the players do a better job of capitalizing on some turnover opportunities. In each of the past two games, cornerback Richard Council has put himself in position to come up with a big interception, but he's dropped the ball on each occasion.
"When you get a chance to make a turnover, you have to do it," Lynch said. "If it means catching the interception, you've got to catch the interception."
Lynch says he appreciates the support that the team has gotten from fans this season, and he's hoping that the recent slide doesn't produce a drop off in attendance during IU's final three games.
After drawing a season-high crowd of 41,349 to the Ball State game, the attendance numbers have slipped noticeably in each of the past two games. There were 31,832 fans in attendance for the 42-29 loss to Michigan State, and then 33,428 for this past weekend's 45-9 setback against Iowa.
With the team's postseason hopes in dire straits, there would appear to be a chance that the slide will continue. Lynch hopes that isn't the case.
"They want to see winning football and I understand that," Lynch said. "But I do think it's important that people come out. Our kids feed off that. The energy in a football stadium can be electric. If that energy is focused on your team, it goes a long way toward the energy with which you can play."
Indiana has eight home games on its 2008 schedule, and it had hoped to be able to "Defend the Rock" and get to a second straight bowl game. But after going 5-2 at Memorial Stadium a year ago, Indiana is just 2-3 at home thus far this season.
"We're not giving up on this thing, and I certainly hope (fans) don't give up on it," Lynch said.
FB Notebook: Lynch Sees Mental Letdown
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