BLOOMINGTON – Indiana coach Kevin Wilson joked about the dichotomy of the hyperbole around the Hoosiers' defense from Week 2 to Week 3 after his team's 42-10 win against Bowling Green on Saturday.
"Last week, they were the worst defense that's ever played in the history of the universe if you just listen," he said. "Now, they're gonna be the greatest thing ever."
Regardless of the exaggeration, the defense looked very different – and very promising – in the win today.
IU didn't give up an offensive touchdown for the first time since 2008 to a Bowling Green team that averaged 37.5 points as it entered Bloomington. The Falcons also averaged 226 rushing yards per game, which was 36th in the nation.
The Hoosiers, a team that surrendered 444 rushing yards to the Midshipmen last week, gave Bowling Green 136.
"We were all focused all week," sophomore defensive end Nick Mangieri said after putting up four tackles, a sack and an interception. "We just had to come back and show everybody we have a solid D."
Senior safety Greg Heban led the team with 12 tackles and admitted all the talk about the poor defensive effort in a 41-35 loss to Navy got the Hoosiers fired up for this game.
"I think the defense had a lot more fun flying around today," Heban said. "You could tell we were having fun in the first game, and last week we were too focused on where we needed to be and weren't flying around and having fun."
Wilson said he wants his players to be able to exude that excitement and play carefree football. The IU defense is at its best when it isn't thinking too much.
That's what people saw Saturday. For the entire first quarter and part of the second quarter, it was the defense, not the offense that held the Hoosiers aloft.
"They corrected their errors, they scored and we kept doing what we had to do," said junior defensive tackle Bobby Richardson, who had six tackles 1 ½ tackles for loss and a pass breakup. "I thought we played a lot better. We had a lot less mistakes, and basically we almost shut them out."
Hoosiers run over tough Bowling Green defense
IU wanted to establish its run game during its matchup with Bowling Green on Saturday.
It did just that, with 100-yard rushing games from sophomore Tevin Coleman and senior Stephen Houston.
Houston went for 162 yards on 13 carries, including one 60-yard gain, while Coleman carried it 19 times for 131 yards and two scores.
The last time two IU running backs went for more than 100 yards in a game was in 2003.
"We just kept on running hard, with velocity, and then holes opened up for us," said Coleman, who has five touchdowns this season and recorded a career-high 43-yard run for a score in the 42-10 win. "We're working hard, and we're doing our jobs."
The Falcons stacked the box against IU, but that didn't matter. The Hoosiers broke big plays outside the tackles and ran for 266 of their 601 total offensive yards.
The outstanding production came after a pair of goal-line trips ended with no points. Coleman and Houston both failed to get the ball into the end zone despite coach Wilson going for it on fourth down both times.
"I thought Stephen and Tevin both played really, really hard," Wilson said. "I didn't look the goal line runs, but otherwise they were very, very good today."
IU special teams, goal line offense need work
The Hoosiers were solid all-around in the 32-point thrashing of the Falcons, but had some areas to improve before taking on Missouri in Week 4.
Senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes bemoaned the team's performance on special teams, where IU gave up two turnovers – including a baffling blocked punt in which three Bowling Green players went untouched to punter Erich Toth. Falcons linebacker Paul Senn grabbed the ball and ran it back for 56 yards and the team's lone touchdown.
Damon Graham also fumbled a kick return that went in favor of Bowling Green.
"It was a very complete game all-around, except for our special teams. That's something we've really got to clean up," Hughes said. "We were really fortunate today that our defense kind of shut out BG.
"That's something that we spend a lot of time on, and then to go out there and give the ball up twice on special teams, that's really just the opposite of what our team is really about," he said. "We put our best players on special teams."
IU also struggled in its goal line sets. The Hoosiers went for it on fourth down twice from the goal line and came away with nothing.
Sophomore left tackle Jason Spriggs said that was a big deal for this team in 2012, and those mistakes shouldn't happen again this season.
"I think we just needed to come out harder," Spriggs said. "Our O-line wasn't coming off the ball, Tre had a fumble. That's what we needed to work on from last year: our goal line play. We had multiple times that we got stopped in the red zone, and that's what we want to work on."
Indiana was playing without starting linemen Dan Feeney, who is out for the season with a lisfranc injury, and Peyton Eckert, who also sat out Saturday. But backups Jacob Bailey and David Kaminski filled in, and with the depth along the line, those kinds of blown opportunities shouldn't happen.
"That's what we practice for," Spriggs said. "We have to have people that can come in and play regardless of the situation."
Mitch Ewald had six extra points Saturday, tying him for the all-time scoring record among kickers at Indiana. He is notched with Scott Bonnell at 261 points, which is good for third on the all-time list. ... Junior wide receiver Shane Wynn became the 38th IU receiver to reach 1,000 yards in a career. He is the fourth Hoosier on this team to make the list, along with Hughes, tight end Ted Bolser and wideout Cody Latimer. Prior to Saturday, IU had never had four 1,000-yard receivers on the same team. ... Latimer set a career high with with 137 yards on six catches in the win and also had a touchdown. He was made a captain for Saturday's game because his father Colby, who died from cancer in 2005, played for Bowling Green during his college career.