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Saturday, May 18
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

‘I have no words’: Missed tackles plague Indiana football in loss to Purdue


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Myles Jackson and Venson Sneed Jr. each overpowered the opposing offensive tackles tasked with blocking them. But in a theme common in Indiana football’s 35-31 loss to Purdue Saturday afternoon, they failed to finish the play. 

They each burst inside and angled toward Purdue junior quarterback Hudson Card, who appeared helpless as he bounced on his toes. The redshirt junior linebacker Jackson and redshirt freshman defensive lineman Sneed collapsed onto Card, and for a breath, Indiana seemed to shift momentum in its favor. 

It was 3rd and 7 with 12:13 to go in Saturday’s Old Oaken Bucket rivalry game. The Boilermakers, despite picking off Indiana redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Sorsby three times to that point, still trailed 28-25. 

By sacking Card, the pass rushing tandem of Jackson and Sneed had an opportunity to deflate the gradually raucous Purdue faithful and offer a desperately needed jolt to the Hoosier sideline. The receivers stopped as all eyes turned to Card in the backfield. 

Then, that breath passed. Card miraculously emerged from the heap of bodies and headed toward the sideline. Along the way, he dodged another tackle from a diving redshirt senior linebacker Jacob Mangum-Farrar. 

Card finally had space to operate. He kept his eyes locked downfield and fired a bullet to Purdue freshman tight end George Burhenn, who converted the first down with ease. Heads shook and arms flailed on Indiana’s sideline. 

“I have no words,” head coach Tom Allen said after the game. “I’ve never seen that many missed opportunities on sacks in one game. You got him in the pocket, you got to get him on the ground.” 

After the first down, Purdue went on to knot the game at 28 courtesy of a 35-yard field goal from redshirt senior kicker Ben Freehill. In one wizardly escape from Card, and mistake-filled play from Indiana’s defense, the Boilermakers turned the tide. 

Card was the catalyst for Purdue’s fourth quarter surge. He finished the game 21-of-34 passing with 275 yards and a trio of touchdowns. On the ground, he had a rushing score and paced both teams with 85 yards. 

Indiana’s defense — despite frequently hurrying Card and forcing him to flee — only mustered one sack. Each of the Hoosiers' past three games have endured tense finishes. Each of those three losses, redshirt senior linebacker Aaron Casey said, could have been avoided with better tackling. 

“It’s been on the defense to finish, close out games,” Casey said. “And we haven’t been doing a good enough job of it.” 

It’s a relatively moot point now. Following the loss to Purdue, Indiana concluded its 2023 campaign 3-9, and 1-8 in the conference, the worst in the Big Ten. For the third consecutive season, the Hoosiers won two or less games in the conference and finished the season with a loss to the Boilermakers rather than attending a bowl game. 

While not the root cause, defensive execution has been a major part of that equation. On Nov. 11, Indiana surrendered 662 total yards to Illinois. Then, it was Illini senior quarterback John Paddock who picked apart the Hoosiers with ease, methodically poking holes and capitalizing on the secondary’s lapses in coverage. 

The miscues on the back end were less frequent on Saturday. Card wasn’t just dropping back and firing to open receivers around the field. Instead, the Hoosiers beat themselves by failing to wrap him up and allowing him to extend myriad plays. 

It was apropos that Purdue’s game winning touchdown, scored with a little under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, came from Card’s legs.  

On 2nd and goal from Indiana’s six-yard line, Card collected the shot gun snap and took a lightning-quick step back. He immediately rushed through the hole in front of him and set his eyes on the end zone. 

Card maneuvered inside, avoiding a desperate tackle attempt from Casey, and found paydirt, giving Purdue the late lead. 

“Disappointing’s not even the right word,” Allen said. “It’s just devastating.” 

After another lost season, the ire that has been bubbling more and more among the fan base will only grow. Allen admitted the nature of his job is reliant on winning, something that has been sorely lacking for the last three seasons. 

In the immediate aftermath of the loss, Allen said his primary concern was with the players who had donned an Indiana jersey for the final time. He said his heart hurt for those players, who longed for a positive way to finish out their collegiate careers. 

Casey, redshirt senior guard Mike Katic, redshirt senior defensive back Noah Pierre and many others looked dejected as they strode into the tunnel of Ross-Ade Stadium after the game. Their final game was a microcosm of what this season — and the previous two — culminated in: disappointment. 

“The game has got a scoreboard, and there’s winners and losers each week,” Allen said. “So, when you keep falling short, it’s just a gut shot.” 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football season. 

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