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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Column: IU accepts win despite penalties

IU vs. SCSU

IU beat South Carolina State 38-21 Saturday night.

Ultimately, that’s the important thing.

But, man, was that game hard to watch after the first quarter.

The Hoosiers still made far too many mistakes to make me feel good about this win or this team. To be honest, I felt better after last week’s loss to Virginia.

IU committed a school-record 20 penalties for 176 yards. That’s absolutely inexcusable, especially at home. The Hoosiers were playing a lot of youngsters on the offensive line, but IU Coach Kevin Wilson has talked time and again about not making the same mistake twice.

And it’s not like the linemen had a reason to move early. Former Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt or former Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan weren’t lined up on the other side.

There were simply too many mental lapses a week after the Hoosiers blew a fourth-quarter lead.

When the Hoosiers punted on third down late in the game — the refs somehow lost track after an intentional grounding call — it played perfectly to the sloppy theme.

“There’s no reason to have that many penalties,” Wilson said. “It is what it is. We’ll look at it. We’ll talk about it. We cannot let it creep into our play as we play stronger teams, closer games. Those are drive-stopping plays.”

Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker — who was very good for the most part — fumbled in the red zone after being chased down and hit from his back side. After he performed a similar move and effectively ended the game against Virginia, I thought he would have felt the blitz better.

Those are the plays that make me wonder about Wright-Baker as the leader of this team. He has plenty of talent, but he can’t afford some of the mistakes he’s made in the first three weeks of the season.

“I still think Ed is capable of so much more,” Wilson said. “The thing Ed is doing great is he’s not forcing the ball and throwing into traffic. Sometimes I think he’s either getting bluffed, or he’s afraid to let it go sometimes. Sometimes I think it’s there, and he needs to cut it and rip it.
“I’m tired of sometimes just seeing guys scramble. That looks like our third-down package ... that’s not what we want to try and accomplish. He’s running with the ball all over the place. He cost us points. If you fumble, you come out of the game.”

Defensively, the Hoosiers struggled again. They gave up a 69-yard screen pass for a touchdown, allowed a Football Championship Subdivision team to score 21 points and, quite frankly, looked disinterested at times.

“We kind of let off the gas a little bit at the end, which we shouldn’t have done,” linebacker Jeff Thomas said. “We just got to limit those plays and take better care on the field.”

Thomas is right — it did look like the Hoosiers let off the gas.

After they went ahead 21-7 in the first quarter, they began to play down to their competition. And that’s concerning.

I really wanted to see Wilson’s team come out and make a statement against an inferior opponent.

I wanted to see him run up the score and give his players some confidence after a rough 0-2 start.

To the Hoosiers’ credit, though, they made plays when they needed to. Every time South Carolina State cut the lead to 10, the IU offense immediately responded with a strong drive and a score of its own.

Maybe that’s more encouraging than the mistakes are discouraging. I’m not sure.

What I do know is, despite a mediocre performance, IU won Saturday.

And for this team at this time, any win is a good one.

­— jmalbers@indiana.edu
Justin Albers is a junior in journalism.

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