Bloomington - It's about time.
It's about time Indiana made its two best playmakers at wide receiver – Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss – focal points of the passing game. The duo combined for 14 catches for 189 yards and a pair of scores and made it brutally obvious they need to be on the field no matter what other wideouts are available.
It's about time defensive end Greg Middleton re-appeared to make an impact for the IU defense. Middleton was credited with only two tackles and the forced fumble that ended Northwestern's final drive, but he was constantly in the Wildcat backfield pressuring C.J. Bacher and looked like the Greg Middleton of old.
It's about time that the defense created some turnovers. After being a minus-nine in the last five games, IU was a plus-five against Northwestern, including a pair of interceptions by Austin Thomas. When the opportunities were there for takeaways, IU finally took advantage.
But more than anything, it's about time Indiana played with the sort of purpose that it did a year ago when it was on a mission to get to a bowl game to honor the memory of Terry Hoeppner.
"We came out and played with passion," said sophomore quarterback Ben Chappell, who created a quarterback controversy with his 21-of-34, 219-yard winning effort. "That's what we have to do the rest of the season."
As much as the coaches and players might not want to admit it, that passion had been lacking as of late. The players' attitudes had remained positive in the midst of a five-game losing streak and never did it appear that the staff had "lost" this team as others wanted to suggest, but passionate wasn't an adjective that many were using to describe Indiana's football team.
That passion wasn't doused by another rash of injuries that figures to shake up the Hoosiers' two-deep once again. Offensive linemen Mike Reiter, James Brewer and Rodger Saffold all left the game with injuries, and their availability is in doubt for Central Michigan. Austin Thomas appeared to injure the same leg that he had apparently broken earlier this season after coming down with his second interception.
It's unclear if any or all of those players will be ready to go in time for next Saturday's match-up with Central Michigan, but after Saturday's performance there's reason to believe IU might just have the resiliency to overcome those ailments, get a second straight win, and keep their flickering postseason hopes alive heading into the final three games.
Credit goes to the coaching staff, which has taken a public beating in recent weeks thanks to IU's lackluster play. The Hoosier offense unveiled a couple of gadget plays that produced two of IU's three touchdowns, and the defense was physical at the point of attack and limited a very good Wildcat offense to only 316 yards of total offense.
Plenty of credit has to go to Chappell as well, who gathered the entire offense together before the start of the game and professed his trust in each of them to help him get the job done against the 22nd Wildcats. While IU's 21-point, 319-yard offensive effort won't appear in any record books, it was a whole lot better than what IU fans have witnessed in the last three games when the Hoosiers scored only one touchdown in each game.
"Our kids played hard, practiced hard, they haven't given up on themselves," Lynch said. "They did the things they needed to do."
That was good to see, and a very positive sign for an Indiana football team that took a huge step forward Saturday after five straight steps backward. Lynch's team played a whole lot like the one that most expected to see when the season got underway two months with hopes of a second straight bowl trip.
It's about time.
DECKER: It's About Time
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