W. MICHIGAN: Two Days and Counting

Bloomington - Hoosier Nation continues its day-by-day preview of Saturday's match-up with Coach Bill Cubit's Western Michigan Broncos. Today we look at two big concerns for the Hoosiers in this contest...

Will Indiana make big improvements from game one to game two? – It's a common belief amongst college coaches that a team often makes its biggest improvements from game one to game two. By the second contest, first-year players have some game experience under their belts and there's a better understanding of where a team stands after it gets a chance to play against someone else after practicing against each other throughout fall camp.

After last week's 19-13 win over Eastern Kentucky, that's not only a degree of consolation, but also a necessity as IU gears up for Saturday's game against Western Michigan. While Indiana did avoid starting the season with a loss last week against a I-AA team, it played in a way on both sides of the ball that might not be good enough to beat anyone else on the schedule, starting with the Broncos.

What sort of improvements need to be made? First of all, the Hoosiers need to eliminate the handful of pre-snap penalties that cropped up against EKU. It also needs to be more disciplined defensively as far as keeping containment on the quarterback and in being in the right spots defensively when IU's in its zone coverage schemes. Breakdowns there resulted in a couple of big plays for the Colonels, ones that Indiana can ill-afford beginning this weekend.

After a long off-season and a month of preparation leading into the opener, the Hoosiers struggled to slip past a team that appears to be the weakest foe on their 2009 schedule. Now the question is whether or not this team can make significant progress in the nine days of practice since EKU to get on-lookers to believe there's a shot at success this season. We'll find at Saturday beginning at noon.

Can Indiana starting having more success in the second halves of games – After heading into halftime with a 19-10 lead over Eastern Kentucky, the Hoosiers were shut out in second half. Eastern Kentucky outgained Indiana 238-137 in the second half, and Indiana needed a forced fumble inside its own five-yard line and a pass broken up at the goal line to preserve the win.

Those struggles in the second half mirror the problems Indiana had during the final 30 minutes of games a year ago. Foes outscored Indiana 208-75 in the second halves of games in 2008, an average of 11.1 points per game. Compare that to the first halves of 2008's contests, where IU was outscored by less than four points per game. Indiana was outscored in the second half of its final 10 games in 2008, including five times when it was shutout during the final 30 minutes.

That sort of second half futility isn't going to get it done against a Western Michigan team that will put points on the board. There's a lot that goes into playing better in the second half. The kicking game can play a role by helping IU win the field position battle (Indiana's final three drives all started inside the IU 25-yard line), and a more consistent running game would chew up some clock and present some play-action opportunities. But however IU goes about doing it, it can ill-afford to struggle in the 3rd and 4th quarters if it expects to upend the Broncos.

Coming Up
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction

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