The annual homecoming game was unkind to IU once again, as IU dropped its eighth consecutive homecoming game in a 42-16 loss to Iowa on Saturday afternoon. Led by junior quarterback Nate Stanley’s career-high six touchdown passes, there was little IU could do to slow down Iowa, who rolled up 479 yards of offense behind a balanced attack.
Here are three takeaways from IU’s most disappointing performance of the season.
1. IU’s offense was inefficient both through the air and on the ground.
After starting the game with a 13-play, 64-yard drive resulting in a field goal, the Hoosier offense failed to capitalize on any early momentum. After that opening drive, IU ran six more plays in the first quarter and lost three yards.
After a 33-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Peyton Ramsey to sophomore receiver Ty Fryfogle in the second quarter, it looked like the IU offense had shaken off a poor first quarter and was starting to click. That was not the case.
“It was frustrating,” Ramsey said. “It just came down to a mistake here or there, and across the board, we just struggled to execute.”
The second half brought more of the same for the Hoosier offense. After starting the half with a three-and-out, IU marched down the field for a 75-yard touchdown drive on its second possession of the half, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown scamper from Ramsey.
But just like the first half, IU failed to get going offensively and turned the ball over on two of its last three drives.
2. The special teams unit was nothing special.
Even with a solid game from junior kicker Logan Justus, who hit a 29-yard field goal and converted his only extra point attempt, IU’s special teams matched the offense and defense with a poor performance.
Namely, the Hoosiers had a lot of trouble covering kickoffs, as Iowa had four returns for 136 yards with an average of 34 yards per return. IU special teams struggles were summed up in the second quarter, when Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette bobbled a kickoff, then juked a couple of defenders and sprinted for a 60-yard return.
IU, on the other hand, went with a completely different approach on kickoff returns. Senior running back Mike Majette chose to signal a fair catch on six of seven kickoffs, only returning one for 18 yards near the end of the game. Postgame, Allen said that was part of IU’s gameplan, but the Hoosiers’ attempt to play the field position game backfired Saturday.
“As a staff, we’ve decided that if you start with the ball on the 25 every time, you’re going to be one of the best teams in the country in field position,” Allen said.
3. The Hoosier defense was abysmal.
For the second straight week, IU gave up six touchdown passes to an opposing quarterback. Stanley was dominant and the IU defense had no response, as IU allowed Iowa to find the end zone on six of its 11 drives.
Iowa’s tight ends did most of the damage through the air, as junior Noah Fant and sophomore TJ Hockenson combined for 208 yards and three touchdowns.
“We need improve our focus,” senior safety Jonathan Crawford said. “We need to practice more on deep balls, that’s an area where we gave up a lot of big plays.”
In addition to IU’s struggles defending the pass, the Hoosiers couldn’t seem to slow down Iowa’s rushing attack either. The backfield duo of sophomores Toren Young and Mekhi Sargent combined for 155 yards on 29 carries, and both backs averaged over five yards per tote against an IU defense that had been solid against the run in previous weeks.
Whether it was penalties – IU had 10 for 99 yards – or missed tackles, the Hoosiers found plenty of ways to beat themselves. After the game, Allen expressed his disappointment in the Hoosiers’ defensive performance, but shouldered much of the blame himself.
“It’s my responsibility to get our team ready to compete and play at the highest level,” Allen said. “Based on how we performed throughout the game, it wasn’t to our standard. I’m the head coach. It’s on me.”
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IU Coach Tom Allen has yet to announce a starter.
The match will begin at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.