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Tuesday, Feb. 27
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Hoosiers miss Middleton

It was all beginning to unfold – the Iowa game, the season, everything.

One blow and the Hoosiers’ defense is down, lying flat on the canvas. In more cases than one, it’s unable to gain consciousness before the 60 minutes expire.

Saying IU has trouble recovering from its opponent’s punches is an understatement. Whether it’s a run up the gut or a play-action pass, the Cream and Crimson’s corner is often on the losing side. We saw it especially against Ball State, Michigan State and Iowa.

Something is missing. IU’s defense wasn’t this bad last season, right?

So, what made them so successful in 2007? One thing stands out.

The Hoosiers’ defensive anchor has disappeared.

Finalists for the top defensive end award in college football, first team All-Big Ten, the nation’s sack leader at 16 – these attributes defined Greg Middleton in 2007.

On a personal level, Middleton might have attained all his goals, but his impact, moreover, helped advance IU to its first bowl game since 1993.

But the judges aren’t raving about his 2008 scorecard, and rightfully so.

Middleton, a junior, has recorded a mere nine tackles and only one sack in five games.

He missed the Hoosiers’ opener due to suspension, and it seems that missed time has taken a toll on him mentally.

As a sophomore, Middleton, in addition to his sacks, registered 50 tackles. He and his fellow linemen surrendered more than 200 rushing yards in only three of 12 games.

2007 was his breakout season.

2008 was supposed to see his way to the next level. Maybe even place his name in more record books.

But the Hoosiers’ opponents are countering Middleton’s dominance at the line and putting two, sometimes three, blockers on him. Ball State running back MiQuale Lewis, Michigan State’s Javon Ringer and Iowa’s dual threat of Shonn Greene and Jewel Hampton have all told the same story – IU can’t stop the run.

Bill Lynch’s defense has already allowed three 200-yard rushing performances only six games into its season – a defining difference from last
season’s numbers.

However, let’s face the facts – Middleton is a future NFL prospect. If he prevailed as a sophomore, he should have been just as polished, if not more, this season.
Linebackers Jammie Kirlew and Will Patterson are stepping up, but the Hoosiers are still missing a critical piece of their defensive puzzle.

It’s no secret IU hasn’t been able to win any bouts as of late. But it’s bound to happen that way when the Hoosiers’ top player on defense is totally out of sight.

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