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Column: The terrible, horrible, just-plain-ugly IU defense


By Justin Albers





OK, so the personnel doesn’t match up well against Big Ten opponents.

I get that.

But what makes this defense so frustrating to watch is the fact that it seemingly gets worse every week.

Saturday’s 55-3 loss at No. 15 Michigan State was just the latest example.

Case in point: True freshman safety Mark Murphy, one of the Hoosiers’ top defensive players all season, bit on a fake reverse and gave up a 63-yard touchdown pass. (Hint: When you see a receiver running past you, it’s probably a passing play.) Earlier in the season, Murphy stayed home on several similar plays.

When the Spartans actually ran the reverse later in the game, they still scored a touchdown. The defensive backs took terrible angles. The linemen and linebackers missed tackles. And Michigan State did what it wanted when it wanted.

The Spartans had 470 yards and six offensive touchdowns, with nearly all of it coming in the first three quarters.

Looks like it was a bye week well spent.

“Our defense was pretty bad with missed tackles,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “Not very good play, but credit to Michigan State. They came ready to play, and they’re a good team.”

It’s mind-boggling to think a defense this bad could keep getting worse. The only times in which the unit looked decent in conference play were when the Hoosiers played teams with weaker offenses — Ohio State and Penn State.

As one of my colleagues said after the game, it’s like the IU defense is in the default “pro” setting on Madden: It makes a play every now and then, but it always gives up huge numbers.

Talent, or lack thereof, certainly has something to do with Hoosiers giving up 38 points per game.

But the issues run deeper than that. The majority of IU’s defensive mistakes are correctable. Missed tackles and dreadful angles are basic fundamental things.

The young guys have been playing for a while now. That’s no longer an excuse.

Which brings us to the coaching. Either the defensive coaches aren’t spending enough time on the fundamentals or the players aren’t listening to the coaches. How else can you explain the deteriorating defense we continue to see?

“We kind of took a step back (Saturday), but we just have to keep pushing,” defensive tackle Larry Black, Jr. said. “It was a bad day. It’s just part of the game, and this was one of the worst days.”

Wilson is going to be here for a long time, and he deserves the chance to build a program. But I can’t help but wonder if he’ll consider making changes on his defensive coaching staff before next season.

I love the passion of Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Ekeler, but I never understood the hiring of Doug Mallory — other than his last name. He coached a struggling defense at New Mexico last year and never really made sense for the co-defensive coordinator position.

Going forward, perhaps it would be better to have only one coordinator who could make all the calls. Maybe one voice would be better than two for this defense. That’s not to say all of the blame should go to the coaching staff. The players deserve some of it, too.

The simple fact is this Hoosiers’ defense is worse than the one the current coaching staff inherited almost 12 months ago.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is quite a scary thought.

­— jmalbers@indiana.edu

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