Indiana went to the University of Cincinnati in hopes of pulling off a road upset in its biggest challenge of the season thus far. The Hoosiers have struggled against the run this year, but they improved in that area by allowing just 40 total rushing yards in the contest.
Following week one where Indiana had 23 missed tackles and weeks two and three where it allowed 126 and 216 yards, respectively, the defense made great strides to stop the run game. Consequently, the Hoosier defense allowed big plays through the air.
Cincinnati’s offense came out humming to the tune of four first-half passing touchdowns, one of which came on a 75-yard bomb from redshirt senior quarterback Ben Bryant to junior receiver Tyler Scott. Scott finished the day with three scores for the Bearcats. All of Scott’s career receiving touchdowns have eclipsed 20 yards.
The Indiana defense, which has been known as a ball-hawking and reliable group in the secondary, looked like a different squad in the first half compared to the rest of the season.
“The defense let us down in the first half,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “Some of our best guys got beat on double moves. We adjusted to get them more help in the second half, and there weren't any more big plays.”
Despite the struggles to contain the passing attack, Indiana senior cornerback Tiawan Mullen came down with a key interception for the Hoosiers early in the second half. The defense seemed like a different unit after halftime, shutting down the Bearcats’ attack and allowing only one score in the game’s final minute, after the outcome was all but decided.
The Bearcats’ leading rusher on the day was redshirt senior running back Charles McClelland, who toted the ball nine times for 25 yards. Joining him in the backfield was former Louisiana State University running back Corey Kiner who received the majority of the touches, finishing with 14 carries for just 17 yards and the late game touchdown.
As for the Hoosiers’ secondary performance, it was uncharacteristic, to say the least.
“Some of the mistakes on defense to me were just one-on-one guys who got beat,” Allen said. “It’s not that we weren’t focused and playing hard.”
As the season enters the grueling Big Ten schedule, the Hoosier defense will look to replicate its first three performances and get back into form. If it gets on the same page with the run and pass defenses, the results will pay dividends. Following its first loss of the season, Indiana’s response down the stretch will be telling of the Hoosiers’ true nature.
“We just have to get back in the lab and prepare, do the little things,” Mullen said. “It’s football at the end of the day, and we are not just going to let this loss define us.”