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Performance Review: Sad Times at Indiana High

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My first reflection on the year thanks to MNW and boy did it suck.

This is the saddest Tom Allen
Don’t Remember

Hey guys! Long time, no see! As you may remember, I am the fool who said Indiana was going to go 11-1 and end up in the B1G title slot in our preseason closing arguments. I thought that Indiana was a team of destiny behind a lovable coach and a wonderful, quaint, if not slightly hippy “love each other” culture.

*sigh*

Well that didn’t even come close to happening. I have trouble deciding who is the biggest fool of them all though. Is it us, the fans, for buying in and believing that Indiana football had finally arrived? Is it the national media who ranking Indiana preseason top 20? Is it Tom Allen for shamelessly refusing to address eyepopping problems and just pretending it’ll all get taken care of?

Probably the media because screw them.

Quick Recap

Probably the latter. First though, let’s go through a little walk through of the season. The season started out with a 50 yard run and pick 6 at Iowa, where Indiana would fall behind in the first half by 20 and ultimately get their door kicked in while failing to score a touchdown. Don’t worry, they threw 2 pick sixes though! Indiana then preceded to rebound versus a terrible Idaho team and looked to be on the mend.

Indiana then played future CFP participant Cincinnati and had a strong first half in a bid to reestablish some of the preseason hype. A targeting call on our most important defensive player and a late fumble caused the wheels to come off wildly and they got beat by 14. Indiana then went to Western Kentucky where they barely hung on to a win and lost their best receiver to a punt return.

From there, the calls to bench the starter Mike Penix began as Indiana travelled to Penn State. The calls to bench Penix ended up working out as during the game, Penix left with what would become a season ending injury. Indiana also failed to score a touchdown here too, losing 24-0. Bye week came and went before taking on the new and improved Michigan State Spartans. The Hoosiers gave a fantastic game to the CFP hopeful but could not overcome self-inflicted wounds and lost 20-15. They did score their first touchdown in conference play though.

Then Indiana took on Ohio State and got demolished, scoring only one touchdown during which backup Jack Tuttle was injured. For those keeping track to this point in the season (4 conference games), Indiana had thrown more pick sixes in conference play than they scored touchdowns total. That fun fact would be obsolete in the next game as Indiana would put up points against Maryland, but would ultimately lose 38-35 and essentially take Indiana out of any position to make a bowl.

I’m not going to go into much detail here, but the Hoosier squad definitely packed it in after that. The 2-6 and eventual 2-10 Hoosiers would go on to lose to Michigan, Rutgers, Minnesota, and Purdue scoring 7, 3, 14, and 7 points in each game. The defense didn’t keep them into those games either as defense began to get hit with the injury bug.

What Went Wrong?

Honestly, this question really circles around one side of the ball. It doesn’t excuse some of the terribleness in the special teams squad or the late season quitting the defense performed, but the offense was historically bad this year. I mean Rutgers under Chris Ash bad.

It starts in the trenches as the offensive line was never able to do anything all year. They routinely allowed linebackers and even linemen to play in Indiana’s backfield and were never able to generate any holes for a run game to appear. The meltdown starts here.

It then travels to the quarterback position, where the Mike Penix, Jack Tuttle, Donaven McCulley combination was not able to throw the ball consistently all year. Even in clean pockets, the QB squad struggled. No QB played in more than 5 games, none threw for more than 1000 yards, and Penix threw for 300 yards one time, and Penix and McCulley each had a game throwing over 200 yards. Past that, every pass total was under 200 yards per QB with 5 games having a leading passer with under 100 yards through the air. Until the Maryland game, Indiana had more pick sixes in conference plays than it did touchdowns.

Blame then shifts to the wide receiver core. This group was pitiful. NFL hopeful Ty Fryfogle saw whatever stock he’d accumulated disappear as he was unable to catch literally anything this year. Transfer Cam Buckley was horrendous in his little time. DJ Matthews did pretty well but he got injured in game number 4. The rest of the receiver core refused to help their QBs out at all as unless they were wide open and hit in the stomach with the ball, they wouldn’t catch it. In fact, the first conference touchdown reception for the receiver core didn’t come until garbage time in the Minnesota game. These guys were very bad.

The running back room is next, but to be fair they didn’t really have a ton to work with. The offensive line did nothing for them. That said, outside of Stephen Carr, there was nothing special here. Tim Baldwin fumbled his was into the transfer portal, Sampson James transferred during camp, and anyone else I’m forgetting also left.

The last thing/person to blame is the offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan. The offense starts and ends with the OC. Everything. Sheridan insisted on not changing anything all year. No new schemes. Preferring walk-ons to throw passes and not getting his freshman 4 star QB ready to play. Predictable play calling. Sheridan just did a horrendous job all around.

Fallout

The only real head to roll was offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan. He was fired the Monday after the Purdue loss. He’s since been replaced by Walt Bell from Umass fame so time will tell if that helps at all.

DC Chartlon Warren left for UNC and was replaced by Minnesota DL coach Chad Wilt. That’s both major coordinators gone for those who are keeping track.

To top all this off, Indiana had 23 players enter the transfer portal. LB Micah McFadden entered the NFL draft. Indiana All-American CB Tiawan Mullen decided to stay along with Devon Matthews and Jaylin Williams.

What’s It All Mean?

Well, Indiana had a terrible year. In many coaching positions, a year like this gets you fired regardless of your previous body of work. Indiana is not one of those positions. The Hoosiers have made a sizable investment in Allen and Allen has earned a bit of goodwill over the past couple years. Unfortunately for Allen, every ounce of that good will was used up this season.

Tom Allen has his work cut out for him. He’s bringing in 30+ new players from high school and the transfer portal, replacing both his major coordinators, and replacing his starting quarterback. That’s a lot. To be honest, if he’s able to go 6-6 next season it will be his most impressive feat of his time at Indiana. In my opinion, he kind of must go 6-6 next year if he wants to keep his job. Like I said above, the good will and leeway he earned the past couple years got spent by trotting out one of the least competitive teams in Indiana football history. Here’s hoping he surprises us all.