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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

New coach, same old IU

So, this is it.

This is the beginning of the Kevin Wilson era we were promised would have so much promise. These are the new-look Hoosiers, a group of guys who repeatedly told us last spring and summer that this year would be different.

And this was a game IU was never supposed to lose, a potentially great public relations event for IU that became an even better one for Ball State.

The Hoosiers got to play a weak opponent in front of their Indianapolis alumni to get them fired up about a new coach and a new era.

Instead, they fell flat on their faces. They lost their season opener for the first time in the last eight seasons.

While the disappointing 27-20 defeat Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium doesn’t mean doom for the season, it does raise some serious issues for IU going forward.

And even though these Hoosiers ran a faster, more aggressive offense, there are many reasons why this is the same old team.

“It was kind of like an old classic game where the team that won the line of scrimmage won it,” Wilson said.

That can’t happen. Wilson and his staff just spent the last eight months getting these guys in the best physical shape possible so they wouldn’t lose battles at the line. If the Hoosiers lose because the opponent has more talent than they do, fine. But you can’t lose to a Midwest Athletic Conference team because they beat you up at the line of scrimmage.

The Cardinals did anything and everything they wanted against the IU defense. They ran through them, passed over them and punted only three times. The Hoosiers might have a new coaching staff, but they still have the same defensive personnel responsible for letting so many games get away last season.

“There were a couple times in the third and fourth quarters where we got in some third-and-longs and their defense had a chance to tee off on us,” Wilson said. “I don’t think there were too many situations where (our defense) could pin our ears back and come. They got the manageable situations, and that’s all because of winning the line and having a good run game.”

Offensively, IU was good enough to win. Sophomore quarterback Edward Wright-Baker, making his first career start, played like Ben Roethlisberger did as a rookie for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He made some plays, and he didn’t hurt the team. But he didn’t make many tremendous plays.

Wright-Baker made some good third-down completions early in the game, and he connected with receiver Damarlo Belcher on a 65-yard touchdown.

He also showed a lot of inexperience. He gave up on his progressions and took off running far too many times, but he should get a better feel for that as the weeks go by.

“I think I did all right, but I think I can improve,” Wright-Baker said. “Everybody can improve. I need to get the ball to Damarlo more, work on my footwork ... I can improve on everything.”

It seemed, at times, that Wilson didn’t want to put a ton of pressure on his young quarterback. When the Hoosiers did get into third-and-manageable situations, Wilson usually elected to run the ball with Matt Perez and Stephen Houston — who were terrific, by the way — instead of letting Wright-Baker make a play.

But when it came to the biggest call of the game, a fourth-and-3 from the Ball tate 9 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Wilson not only went for it — he put the ball in Wright-Baker’s hands. And the quarterback failed.

“I (saw) the out open . . . I should have thrown the fade to Damarlo,” he said. “That’s over with.”

Listen. I love Wilson’s aggressiveness. He went for a similar fourth down on the first drive of the game, and it resulted in a touchdown. But on that specific play, when you’re down only seven points with an entire quarter to play, you take the points and hope your defense can stop them, especially with an inexperienced quarterback.
But of the many reasons the Hoosiers lost this game, that call was one of the smaller ones — far behind losing the line battle.

After all of the talk about how this season was going to be different — and it sure felt that way looking down at IU’s new uniforms (the Indiana Sooners?) before the game — we were reminded many times that things haven’t changed all that much.

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