BLOOMINGTON – Indiana knows it must solve its defensive problems soon.
The 41-35 loss to Navy on Saturday showed the Hoosiers won’t reach a bowl game unless their defense makes significant improvement. Navy compiled 515 yards of offense and had 444 yards rushing on its way to seven scores in nine possessions. Indiana’s offense, despite five touchdowns on its final six series, could not keep up.
I’m real disappointed, Indiana defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. You’re not going to win many games if you let a team run for over 400 yards, never force the team to punt and create zero turnovers. Regardless of how good your offense is, you’re not going to have a chance if you perform like that.
Improvement won’t be easy. On Saturday, the Hoosiers face Bowling Green, a Mid-American Conference team averaging 37.5 points and one that has played in a bowl game five times in the past decade. The Falcons are 2-0 and had 576 yards of offense in a 41-22 victory over Kent State last week. Quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for 508 yards and running back Travis Greene is averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
The Hoosiers have never faced Bowling Green.
To me, it’s a great opportunity, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said. We’re going to play a very dynamic offense. We need to show what we’re about. You’d like to stop them all the time. You’re not going to. I’m expecting us to bounce back.
Stopping the run is the first priority. The Hoosiers (1-1) are allowing 5.3 yards per carry, a higher average than they yielded a season ago. Only six teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision are giving up more than Indiana’s 287.5 rushing yards allowed per game. Navy’s Keenan Reynolds powered through Indiana’s defense for 127 yards on 32 carries, including three touchdown runs and a late fourth-down conversion that allowed the Midshipmen to run out the clock.
Navy’s a good team, Hoosiers cornerback Tim Bennett said. Basically we need to get off blocks and play more physical. We’ve got to play harder. We’re not going to get down over one game. We’ve got to take it in stride and learn from this.
Wilson is sticking by the Hoosiers’ belief that they can still have a quality defense without making drastic changes.
From a coaching standpoint, we did a bad job making adjustments, Mallory said. We got stubborn. We continued to play it the way we practiced. There were some adjustments we had to make. We didn’t.
Indiana’s defense is a perennial concern. In 2012, when the Hoosiers finished 4-8, they ranked 103rd out of 120 FBS schools in total defense.