Saturday, September 18, 2010

Indiana 38, Western Kentucky 21 FINAL

The Hoosiers were able to overcome a slow start and respond to an early 7-0 deficit by scoring 31 straight unanswered points en route to a 38-21 win over the WKU Hilltoppers. The Indiana passing game was firing on all cylinders with senior quarterback Ben Chappell passing for 366 yards, 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. Chappell's top target was junior wideout Damarlo Belcher, who caught 10 passes for 135 yards including an 11-yard touchdown. Five other Hoosiers had at least 25 receiving yards, including running back Darius Willis and returning star receiver Tandon Doss. Doss missed the first game with a lingering groin injury but started off the game today by returning the opening kick-off 87 yards deep into WKU territory. He finished the game with 161 all-purpose yards and a receiving touchdown.

Doss' return, however, was a lone bright spot early in this game as a fumble on the second play from scrimmage ruined the Hoosiers' chance to go ahead in the opening minutes. The Hilltoppers, led by running back Bobby Rainey, proceeded to march down the field and score. The touchdown marked the first deficit for the Hoosiers in this young season. It was very apparent early on that after the bye last week, the Hoosiers had some rust that they needed to shake off. The defense looked especially lazy, allowing Rainey to continuously run all over them. Some of the problems from the Towson game, like an inability to wrap up the ball carrier, carried over into the first quarter of this game.

More after the jump..

Luckily for the Hoosiers, it only took one defensive drive to get the cobwebs off before they were back in business. The defense really stepped up after the early score, and following a Hoosier touchdown early in the second quarter the momentum shifted towards the away team. Chappell led the offense to 31 straight points while the defense kept the Toppers off the scoreboard for about 40 minutes of gametime.
It was great to see the defensive getting in stride for what seems to be the first time this season. However, I think there is still a certain fire missing on that side of the ball. The Hoosiers were getting the job done but they lacked any semblance of swagger or intensity. I would have liked to see WKU held to under 20 points, but 14 of their points came in the fourth quarter after the game had basically been decided already. The other issues I saw today where on the offensive side of the ball. The passing game was superb, as Chappell fully utilized what seems to be one of the best receiving groups in the conference. But the running game was essentially non-existent for much of this game. Starting running back Darius Willis rushed 12 times for 30 yards, this coming after going off for 102 yards and 2 scores in the Hoosiers opener. He actually had more receiving yards (36) than he got on the ground this afternoon. Nick Turner had the lone rushing touchdown late in this game, besides Chappell's lunge into the end zone in the first half. The passing game was able to cancel out the lack of rushing today, but the Hoosiers are going to have to work on the ground game if they want any continued success moving forward this season. The weapons that Chappell has with his receivers should be opening up this running game and allowing Willis and company to break off some huge plays. Of course, this is not only the backs' problem. The offensive line, who did a decent job protecting the pass today, was not creating acceptable lanes for the backs to get through.
This was a solid win for the Hoosiers. They were able to come back from a slow start and put this game out of reach by the fourth quarter. I was very impressed with Chappell, who completed 76% of his passes and did not throw any interceptions. Belcher continued his hot streak despite the return of Tandon Doss, and Doss also showed that he can make big plays. Also impressive were Duwyce Wilson (53 rec. yds and jumped over a defender at one point), Nick Turner (scored on a solid run up the middle, probably the only great running play of the game for IU), and Ted Bolser (beautiful touchdown catch falling out of the endzone). The defense stepped up and shut down Bobby Rainey after the first drive. Rainey ran wild on the Nebraska (155 yards) and Kentucky (184) defenses, but the Hoosiers held him to 105, only 43 of which came after the opening scoring drive. The most promising stat of the night: Indiana was 10/12 on third down conversions and punted just one time late in the fourth quarter. The defense held WKU to just 5/11 on third down. This comes after the Hoosiers were 2/10 on third down against Towson.

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