At the beginning of the season, really when the schedule was released for 2023, we all had this game circled on the calendar. Not because we were really excited for it, though it was intriguing. The reason this game was circled was because it was going to be the actual, real first test for the Hoosiers on the 2023 season.
Let’s face it, nobody thought the Ohio State game would be competitive. Also, nobody thought the Indiana State game would be competitive. Everyone on this site and in the media anointed Indiana 1-1 heading into this Louisville game. This would be the first moment this season where we’ll determine what the Hoosiers are and what they’re going to be.
Well, in true Indiana fashion, the Hoosiers did their best to confuse us all. After these three games, the Indiana Hoosiers are still left with some mystery as to what they’re going to be this season. There’s been good, there’s been bad, and unfortunately the Hoosiers have managed to drop a non-conference game for the 3rd year in a row.
The Hoosiers lost to the Louisville Cardinals 21-14 in Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday. Let’s see what happened and see what we need to talk about.
The Hoosiers lost to the Cardinals 21-14 in a game that can only be described as bi-polar and confusing. In the first half, the Indiana Hoosiers allowed 21 points by the explosive Cardinals offense including 2 BIG blown coverages that resulted in a 43 yard gain and an 85 yard touchdown on the first two Louisville series. Louisville would also sustain touchdown drives of 78 and 69 yards. The offense wasn’t better, as the Hoosiers had drives stall in Louisville territory multiple times and just couldn’t get close enough to get points.
The second half was the complete opposite. The Hoosiers came out of the gate with an onside kick that they successfully recovered. That resulted in a 54 yard touchdown drive capped off by Tayven Jackson’s first touchdown pass to Jaylin Lucas. The Hoosiers would hold serve a couple times and then had a 97 yard touchdown drive to pull the game to 21-14 going into the 4th quarter. The Hoosiers would then muster an 89 yard drive down to the Hoosier 1, but unfortunately could not get another yard and tie the game. Louisville would run out the clock on Indiana and drop the Hoosiers to 1-2 on the year.
Indiana mustered 357 yards of offense with Tayven throwing for 299, a touchdown, and an interception. Indiana would only rush for 58 yards. The Hoosiers allowed 422 of offense to the Cardinals, with 238 through the air and 184 on the ground. Indiana tied the turnover battle and won the time of possession battle 31 minutes to 29 minutes.
Offensively, Jaylin Lucas, Cam Camper, Bradley Archer, and Donaven McCulley had good days. Lucas had 98 yards through the air and 29 on the ground. Camper had 74 yards receiving. Archer and McCulley had 38 and 39 yards respectively, but had FANTASTIC catches at different points.
Defensively, Phillip Dunnam got his second interception of the year. Aaron Casey had another fantastic game with 2 sacks and 3 TFL with a MAJOR blow up of a double reverse in the second half.
What’d We Learn
Tayven Jackon went 24/34 with 299 yards through the air and 11 yards on the ground with a QBR of 60.2. Perhaps the biggest thing Tayven did was just look the part. He had tremendous pocket presence all day. Made defensive linemen miss on sack attempts. He extended plays and showed off that, yes, can can indeed throw the ball down the field with accuracy.
Tayven is definitely the guy at QB for the Hoosiers. For the first time since Mike Penix was behind center in the same building, Hoosier fans saw their quarterback play and thought, man, this is the guy. He simply was impressive. The Hoosiers very well may have their QB of the future with this redshirt freshman. We’ll see how the season continues to unfold.
Aaron Casey is All B1G
Aaron Casey is showcasing himself as an All-B1G candidate. Casey picked up his first two sacks of the season in huge spots. He blew up plays left and right and was really a force to be reconned with in the second half. The Hoosiers certainly look like they’ve found their answer at linebacker. He’s going to be a big problem for O-lines in the B1G.
Coaching Remains a Question Mark
I’ve had some time to cooldown from my rant on SMCD. No matter how you slice it though, one of the biggest takeaways from this game is that the Hoosiers are losing in the coaching department right now. I don’t just say that from the perspective of one coach is the entire problem, though one coach certainly is responsible for all of it at the end of the day. No, I mean this team was woefully out coached in all aspects on Saturday. It was woefully outcoached against Ohio State. It could very well get woefully outcoached in two weeks at Maryland.
From the first defensive snap the Hoosiers took, it was very clear they were not ready to play. Blown coverage to a deep threat for a 43 yard gain that would have been a touchdown if Jack Plummer was a better QB. Next series, 2 plays, 85 yard touchdown pass where Thrash just runs right through the Indiana coverage. In fact, the Cardinals did not punt in the first half.
Offensively, the Hoosiers got to Louisville territory on their first two drives, but would not get back to midfield until the second half. The last two drives of the half for Indiana were -3 yards and 17 yards. Perhaps the biggest issue to me with regards to coaching, is that out of timeouts on offense in the first half, the Hoosiers mustered a 2 yard run, and then an interception.
That’s simply bad coaching if I’ve ever seen it. As a coach, you have to have your players ready to go at the beginning of games. Getting into a 21-0 hole against a team while allowing them to do exactly what they do is bad.
As far as the 4th down play at the end goes, I don’t like the call. I think it’s vanilla and it was foolish as the Hoosiers hadn’t proven they could run the ball AT ALL. However, the biggest problem I have with it is that you wasted a timeout AFTER A REVIEW to call it. So we had a mini timeout where the refs reviewed the play. You immediately have the players go back to the field (remember you already called one timeout in the second half to stall a Louisville drive), and then you CALL A TIME OUT with 5 minutes left in the game. I mean the instinct to know you weren’t getting another shot at it was understandable, but for all that’s holy you couldn’t have just rolled with the original playcall and saved a timeout?
I’d be lying if I said I was super confident that the staff was going to figure things out too. We’ve seen plenty of games like this from the Hoosiers over the years, and most of the time it falls on deaf ears. We’ll see if the staff can get it going, but I’m not convinced they will.
How’s the Season Shaping Up
In a MACrifice game, the Akron Zips will come to Bloomington this weekend as the Hoosiers gear up for another FBS opponent, albeit a bad one. The Hoosiers come into this thing an obvious favorite and more importantly it should move the Hoosiers to 2-2 on the season. I’d honestly be surprised if anything else happened other than a severe beating.
Looking ahead, Indiana is facing down the barrel of needing to win 4 B1G games to make a bowl. That has not happened since that 2020 season and has only happened 4 times since Bill Mallory was dismissed (2001, 2016, 2019, 2020). To say it’s a daunting task is a bit of an understatement.
That said, let’s see how the remaining 2023 opponents are shaping up:
@Maryland – Maryland has rode great second half performances the last two weeks after abysmal 1st half performances. Maryland is a lot like Louisville physically. It should be a good fight as always. (Toss Up, but leans loss)
@Michigan – Though Michigan looked human against Boiling Green, I’d expect this to be a smooth win for Michigan (Loss)
Rutgers – Rutgers has played well so far this year and sits at 3-0. As the pendulum swings, Rutgers has taken this from an “Indiana should win this” to a true Toss Up. Now, a lot can change between the meeting between these two teams, as Rutgers plays Michigan and Wisconsin. However, it’s completely plausible that Rutgers comes into this game at 5-2 and looking fired up after beating Michigan State. (Toss Up)
@Penn State – Loss
Wisconsin – This possibly presents the first REAL upset opportunity for the Hoosiers after the Louisville game. Wisconsin will come to Bloomington after hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes. They will have also played Iowa prior to this game and could be in a position to fight for a B1G West crown. Given the way Wisconsin played at Washington State, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of sanity to say Indiana has a good chance here (Toss Up, Leans loss)
@Illinois – Illinois was a great team last season. However, it feels like the wheels are falling off quickly for the Illini. Originally, I’d have placed this as a leans Illinois, but with the way things are going I think it’s right back to true toss up. (Toss Up)
Michigan State – Not to elaborate much, but the Hoosiers should win this game. If Michigan State hasn’t already been defeated or had half its players enter the transfer portal by this point, they’ll at minimum be rudderless. (Indiana Win)
@Purdue – It’s been a rough start for new Coach Ryan Walters. The Boilers find themselves at 1-2 just like Indiana. However, the next true “we’re definitely winning this game” isn’t until November 18th when they go on the road to Northwestern, while Indiana gets Akron this week…and then has a long time until a surefire win. The point is, if things go super south for the Boilers, this game could move into the “leans Indiana” bucket. For now, because of it being at Purdue, we’ll call it a true toss up. (Toss Up)
That Louisville win would have gone a long way towards ensure Indiana finds a bowl this season. However, it’s still plausible that Indiana can get to that elusive 6 win mark. With 2 wins (Akron, Michigan State) likely in their pocket, Indiana will have to find a way to disable programs on the rise (Rutgers, Maryland, win a game they shouldn’t (Wisconsin), and grab a couple of the toss ups (Purdue, Illinois). It’s not an ideal scenario, but Indiana isn’t that far away.
On to Akron this weekend I guess.
Game Time – 9/23 – 7:30 PM EST – Big Ten Network
Odds (Monday, September 18) – Spread: Indiana (-16.5) – ML (-1000) – O/U (45.5)