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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Column: IU’s season lies within its defense

Everybody loves offense.

If chicks dig the long ball in baseball, they had to love sophomore Edward Wright-Baker’s 65-yard bomb to senior wide receiver Damarlo Belcher against Ball State last weekend.

It was pitch and catch at its finest.

We spend months talking about the best choice for a starting quarterback — rightly so, in some cases — but little to no time discussing a similar battle at safety.

Many idolize players like Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson and Andre Johnson, but fewer look up to guys like safety Ed Reed or defensive end Dwight Freeney.

So when Kevin Wilson, who has been called an offensive mastermind by several former players, became IU’s new head coach, everybody wanted to know about his new schemes.

Faster? How much faster? Is he going to spread them out and throw it 40 times a game? Will Wilson call the plays? Who’s the best quarterback for his system?

These are all fair questions, but they really don’t matter for the Hoosiers this season.
The fact is, IU has always had a pretty good offense. The Hoosiers lose because they rarely have a defense to match it.

Last year against Michigan, the Hoosiers couldn’t be stopped, but they couldn’t stop Wolverine quarterback Denard Robinson — losing 42-35.

In 2009 against Wisconsin, IU put together four really nice touchdown drives but never got closer than three points after the first quarter — losing 31-28.

In 2008 against Central Michigan, they scored 34 points but gave up 37.

It’s been happening in Bloomington for years — just ask former quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who always had to put up huge numbers to keep his team in the game.

It doesn’t really matter what kind of system Wilson puts in, how fast he runs his offense or who he uses at quarterback. IU isn’t going to be able to score with the Big Ten’s best.

The Hoosiers’ only chance to be successful this season is to improve drastically on the defensive side of the ball and stop somebody every now and then.

I loved the Mike Ekeler hire, and I think he’ll eventually turn this into a pretty good defense. But if we’re judging from the performance against Ball State, well, it might be another long year.

“I don’t know if there were a lot of bad plays,” Wilson said. “It was just a very average game.”

He’s right — they didn’t give up any big plays. And that’s a good step. But they also didn’t create any turnovers, stop the run or get to the quarterback.

Those are the areas in which they must improve Saturday if they want to beat Virginia in the home opener.

I know the personnel are virtually the same as last year, but the defense has to be more opportunistic than it was under Bill Lynch. The Hoosiers have to take more chances with blitz packages, even if it means giving up the occasional big play they are trying to eliminate.

If they continue to sit back in coverage like they did against Ball State, somebody is going to get open. That’s not fair to the secondary.

“They showed some formations that we didn’t know, that we haven’t seen,” sophomore cornerback Greg Heban said of the Cardinals. “The line needs to get in there harder, which is going to make it easier on us in coverage. I know they’re going to work on that, and we’re going to work on what we need to work on.”

They better work on it quickly. If the Hoosiers are going to “Win Today” and “Finish,” it’s going to start on defense.

No matter how much we love big offensive numbers.

Prediction

I know everyone wants to look back at IU’s 47-7 loss to Virginia in 2009, but this game will be much different. The Hoosiers don’t have to travel. The game is earlier in the season, and they have a new coach that should be hungry for his first win.
It’ll be much closer, but Virginia’s running game will be a little too much for IU’s defense in this one.

Virginia 27, IU 21

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