Same song, different verse.
For the second consecutive Saturday, Indiana football was out-played, out-coached and statistically dominated — and unlike Sept. 23’s four-overtime survival against the University of Akron, the Hoosiers (2-3) were run out of SECU Stadium by Maryland (5-0) in an embarrassing 44-17 defeat.
Indiana’s defense allowed a 62-yard pass on the first play of the game. Two snaps later, the Terrapins were in the endzone, taking the lead after just 25 seconds and setting the tone for a dominating afternoon in College Park.
The Hoosiers trailed 37-3 at the end of the third quarter in front of a Maryland crowd that was sparse before the game and only worsened as the point margin increased.
Indiana twice had lengthy first-half drives end without points after an inability to convert on fourth down. A fake punt deep in its own territory in the third quarter came up a yard short and preceded a quarterback change between redshirt freshmen Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby. The Hoosiers are now 1-9 in their last 10 conference games.
This is the reality of Indiana head coach Tom Allen’s seventh season in Bloomington. This is the reality of the state of the program.
Perhaps most indicting about the Hoosiers’ performance is that Allen noted Monday he anticipated the best week of practice his team has had all year following a self-proclaimed lack of focus throughout the locker room leading up to the Akron game.
This week, practices improved – but the result of disappointing on-field play remained the same.
“I felt like we had a good week of preparation,” Allen said postgame. “We missed some open receivers and didn’t make some good reads, so those are critical things. It was just both sides feeding off each other.”
Despite running 21 fewer plays, Maryland posted 472 yards of offense to Indiana’s 321. The Terrapins (8.3) more than doubled the Hoosiers (4.1) in yards per play.
Maryland redshirt senior quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa dominated through the air, going 24-of-34 for 352 yards and five touchdowns. Jackson, conversely, had his second consecutive difficult start, connecting on 17-of-29 passes for only 113 yards with no touchdowns and an interception.
During his Monday press conference, Indiana offensive coordinator Walt Bell said his unit’s identity was running the ball, but the offense once again struggled to get the ground game rolling, averaging only 3.1 yards per carry to Maryland’s 5.2. The Hoosiers’ longest run went for just 11 yards.
Be it offensively or defensively, Indiana was outclassed from the start Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers will be off next week before traveling to face No. 2 Michigan on Oct. 14, and the time off presents a chance for Allen’s group to go one of two ways: spiral or regroup.
“We’ve got to get a whole lot better,” Allen said. “I do believe we have a chance to be better, but we’ve got to do it. No matter what I say or think, we’ve got to use this time to improve.” Allen stressed the need for those on the field to better execute the play calls, but later said the coaches have to find ways to put the players in their best position to succeed. Nothing sums up Indiana’s day more than that – the on-field product certainly wasn’t up to par, but the issues extend far beyond the players.
Regardless of who shoulders the blame, the fact remains that Indiana football is, once again, trending towards a dismal campaign. The magical 6-2 season in 2020 feels like decades ago as the Hoosiers are staring down their third consecutive year without a bowl appearance.
There are still seven games left and plenty of time to change the narrative surrounding this season and program — but the last two years have inspired little confidence in such a turnaround.
Indiana’s now facing a crucial week of self-reflection before hitting what Allen described as the home stretch — and if the Hoosiers roll into Ann Arbor unchanged after the defeat to Maryland, it’s likely this song of sorrow will continue spiraling into another verse.
“It’s about understanding the big picture of where we’re at and where we want to be,” Allen said. “We have a lot of football ahead of us. That’s the reality. We’ve got a week to be able to get better.”