We don’t need to search for words to describe Indiana football because Talking Heads already supplied them for us.
Same as it ever was.
In Saturday’s season-opening win over Southern Illinois, the Indiana offense was explosive and prolific and the Indiana defense was unable to stop anything.
Same as it ever was.
The Hoosiers have had that identity for the past few seasons now, that of an offense that has the capability to rack up yardage and points with anyone and a defense that could give up touchdown after touchdown to even the most otherwise-lethargic of opposing offenses.
Saturday was the perfect example of that.
Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfeld, in his first game back from injury, completed 19 passes for 349 yards and a touchdown. Indiana running back Jordan Howard, in his first game with the Hoosiers after transferring in from UAB, carried the ball 20 times for 145 yards and three touchdowns. Indiana piled on 48 points and 595 total yards of offense.
But as electric as the offense was, the defense made Southern Illinois — an FCS opponent that finished 2014 with a 6-6 record — look like Oregon. The visiting Salukis posted 47 points and 659 yards of total offense. On a day the Hoosiers nearly hit the 600-yard mark, they were still out-gained by 64 yards.
The only reason the Hoosiers didn’t lose Saturday was because of a risky decision by Southern Illinois, to go for two after scoring a touchdown to bring the score within a point with 18 seconds left in the game. The two-point conversion would have been successful had the Southern Illinois receiver not dropped a pass on the goal line. He heard footsteps.
So as Indiana continually looks to improve under head coach Kevin Wilson, what has changed?
The offense is terrific, and though it was against an FCS defense, it’s easy to see flashes of the 2013 season that Sudfeld posted, when the Hoosiers were the No. 1 passing team in the Big Ten, and the 2014 campaign that former Indiana running back Tevin Coleman had, when he became one of just a handful of running backs in FBS history to go for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
But, as Indiana has routinely demonstrated since Wilson took over, it’s near impossible to win games when there’s no defense being played. Shootouts are al well and good unless you’re not winning any of them.
Indiana barely survived Southern Illinois on Saturday. What happens when Ohio State and Michigan State come calling? No one is expecting Indiana to win those games anyway, but what about opponents like Rutgers and Maryland, who combined to score 113 points — and allow just a combined 34 — in their wins over FCS foes on Saturday? Will Indiana be able to slow them down?
Nothing yet has indicated that they will. Same as it ever was.