A .500 record in nonconference play will do Indiana football no favors when it comes to becoming bowl-eligible.
Before the season, IU was expected to be the surprise team of the Big Ten, at least according to Big Ten media.
While the Hoosiers have made strides, there is still plenty of room for improvement.
With a bye week before IU opens the Big Ten schedule against Penn State on Oct. 5, Kevin Wilson knows his team must spend the time figuring how to get better.
“We have an open week, which will give us a chance to get some guys healthy, and we will see if we can do some self-evaluation on what we need to do to put our players in better positions,” Wilson said after Saturday’s 45-28 loss to Missouri.
One thing the Hoosiers must do is start better. IU fell behind 17-0 to Navy in an eventual 41-35 loss; trailed Bowling Green 10-7 in the second quarter before pulling away to a 42-10 win; and staked Missouri to a 14-0 lead before rallying to tie the game.
The Tigers then scored the next 24 points to put the game away.
“We started off slow and didn’t come out ready to play,” IU receiver Cody Latimer said Saturday.
“We’re not doing our job as a defense,” cornerback Tim Bennett said. “We basically didn’t come out ready to play.”
“When it came to us, I think we were just out of sync and out of rhythm,” Wilson said. “Nate [Sudfeld] has played awfully well, but tonight he didn’t get a lot of help, and that didn’t make him look as good.”
Wilson made a similar statement about Tre Roberson after the Navy game, so it’s not simply a matter of changing up quarterbacks. Roberson started the first two games, Sudfeld the latest two.
What would help the quarterbacks would be a better running game, not just in production but in sheer attempts. The Hoosiers ran the ball five times and threw it 15 in the first quarter against Missouri; the number of pass plays to running plays in the first half was 33 to 10.
“To me, I felt like we needed to stay with the run,” Wilson said, noting that the Hoosiers had a better distribution of play calling in the win against Bowling Green, with 28 first-half runs to 21 passes.
“We will look at how we prepared and what our game plan was, but the bottom line is they just kicked our tails up front,” he said.
IU’s defense also needs to fare better. While the Hoosiers forced three turnovers on Missouri’s first five possessions on Saturday, two of them were Greg Heban interceptions inside IU’s 5-yard line.
“I think they came out like we thought they would. Defense just didn’t step up like we needed to,” said Heban, who became the first Hoosier with two interceptions in a game since he did it against Virginia in 2011.
“I think we could have been a little more aggressive.”
“We didn’t get a lot of quarterback pressure and they definitely did,” said Wilson, whose quarterbacks weren’t sacked but were harassed into three interceptions, all by Sudfeld, and a combined 29-of-53 passing (54.7 percent).
“We will take a look at ourselves and see what we need to clean up, and then we’ll start prepping for our next three games,” he said.