When Indiana led Indiana State 45-7 with 11 minutes left in the second quarter at IU’s Memorial Stadium on Thursday in both teams’ football opener, it was understandable for anyone who swears by ISU blue to let that sinking feeling creep in.
It never really got better. ISU had a brief revival, fueled by some lackadaisical IU mistakes to fight back to within 17 just after halftime, but the Hoosiers were not seriously threatened and could have scored more if it hadn’t taken its foot off the gas in the fourth quarter.
As it was, IU’s 73-35 victory was sickening enough for the Sycamores, especially a year after a near-miss 24-17 loss at IU.
When a program gives up its highest point total since Woodrow Wilson was President, you don’t simply file it away as a bad day. It was sobering for ISU. It was a wake-up call. It was a reminder that this team still has plenty of inexperience and a lot of moving parts trying to learn new systems on both sides of the ball.
But as hard as it was to watch, Thursday’s game is no cause for panic. Concern? Sure, but not panic.
Credit needs to first be given to IU. The Hoosiers are better. The Hoosiers are bigger. The Hoosiers are faster. The Hoosiers had something to prove after the Sycamores nearly embarrassed them a year ago.
IU also took maximum advantage of a perfect storm of ISU errors. A bad snap on a punt, a Shakir Bell fumble and a Mike Perish interception were all converted into points early which took the game out of ISU’s hands in lightning-quick fashion. It’s a combination of events isn’t likely to trip up the Sycamores on a week-to-week basis.
There were good things. ISU’s offense gained 306 total yards. Sure, much of it was when the game was out of hand, but ISU’s offense looked decent at times against IU’s No. 1 defense, especially during its game-tying scoring drive in the first quarter.
ISU’s defense is very much a work-in-progress. Mike Sanford and defensive coordinator Brian Cabral were dealt a bad hand matchup-wise in the opener. IU’s potent offense was not the ideal opponent to unveil ISU’s more aggressive defensive schemes and it showed. Blitzes were taken advantage of and several ISU corners weren’t up to snuff in man-to-man coverage.
But IU’s 319 passing yards were of less concern to me, however, than the Hoosiers’ 313 rushing yards. That’s a sign of ISU’s linebacker inexperience.
But we knew that. One hopes inexperienced players come up to speed quickly, but it usually takes time and some stubbed toes along the way. That goes for inexperience on both sides of the ball.
A litmus test for ISU can’t fairly be applied until it plays against its level. Get ready to wait.
ISU plays next Saturday at Purdue. It’s followed by the home opener against Division II Quincy on Sept. 14 and then ISU has a bye week.
Neither of those games will give much indication how ISU will stand in the Missouri Valley Football Conference — unless it rises up to compete or beat Purdue, or conversely, if ISU allows Quincy to compete, or God forbid, win, on Sept. 14. If that were to happen, you could press the panic button to your heart’s content.
But not yet. ISU won’t play FCS competition until Sept. 28 when the Sycamores travel to Tennessee Tech. The MVFC season starts a week later when Youngstown State visits. With Bell likely out with his shoulder injury until mid-month, it drives home the point even further than we won’t truly know the Sycamores’ level in these early contests.
So don’t panic. ISU has time to make Thursday’s blowout an outlier instead of a baseline for its season. A good start would be to show progress against a Boilermakers team trying to find its feet too next week.
n Football games are too long — Baseball is our national pastime, and when it comes to our most prominent sports, it’s also our national whipping boy.
Among the grievances lobbed at baseball are the length of its games. Three hours? Four hours? Too long say the naysayers!
They aren’t wrong. Some baseball games are too long, especially ones that feature a certain team from New York and another from Boston.
But here’s what gets me. How come no one complains about King Football and the length of its games?
I’ve covered two games so far — West Vigo’s opener at Evansville Harrison and ISU’s loss at IU. The West Vigo game approached three hours in length. The ISU-IU game? It was longer than Lawrence Of Arabia as it clocked in at nearly four hours.
Besides the haltime bands, I was waiting for the intermission overture to kick in.
I was off Friday night, but I know several games that were even longer than those in the opening week, including Terre Haute South’s 28-24 victory over Terre Haute North which ended at 10 p.m.
Part of the game length was due to measures taken to avoid heat-related problems. I understand that, but high school games are approaching the three-hour mark even without emergency measures. College games have long breached the four-hour mark.
There’s a national discussion about the damaging effect of concussions in football, as well there should be, but the physical punishment that football players take over a three or four-hour period is never discussed. With the rise of spread offenses, etc., more plays equals more punishment.
Not only that, but for every compelling four-hour game, there’s at least two that are snoozers, with stubborn coaches throwing to the bitter end. It’s not entertaining for viewers or ticket-buyers to slog through it.
It’s time to change the clock rules to reduce the wear and tear on players and get the game moving. Keep the clock rolling when someone runs out of bounds, or, keep it rolling on an incomplete pass outside of the last five minutes of the halves. Or both.
Football is great. But three or four hours of football? It’s too much of a good thing.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or email@example.com. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.