Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Season report card: Indiana
By Adam Rittenberg
The season report cards march on with the Indiana Hoosiers.
The emergence of quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Stephen Houston boosted a struggling unit down the stretch of Big Ten play. Indiana scored only 37 points in its first three conference contests until Roberson took the reins at Iowa and consistently moved the offense. Houston also emerged as a weapon and led IU with 802 rush yards and eight touchdowns. The wide receiving corps, pegged to be the team's biggest strength, endured injury issues and inconsistency. Former All-Big Ten wideout Damarlo Belcher played in just six games before being dismissed from the team. Indiana also shuffled its offensive line quite a bit. Coach Kevin Wilson will look for steadier production in Year 2, and Roberson and Houston provide a nice foundation.
Indiana once again failed to field a competitive defense this season. While the Hoosiers played an inordinate amount of young players and should improve defensively in 2012, it's impossible to sugarcoat the struggles this season. Indiana allowed nearly six points per game more than any other Big Ten squad and more than 51 yards per game more than any conference competitor. After allowing just 16 points in an encouraging Big Ten opener against Penn State, the Hoosiers surrendered an average of 46.6 points in their final seven league contests. There were some bright spots like young safety Mark Murphy, but the unit has a long, long way to go.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C-
Place-kicker Mitch Ewald turned in a nice season, connecting on 13 of 16 field-goal attempts. Indiana also was decent on punt coverage and received a kick return touchdown from freshman Shane Wynn. The Hoosiers weren't great overall on returns and struggled on kickoff coverage, ranking 91st nationally. A so-so season in the kicking game all around.
Indiana was the only major-conference program that failed to defeat an FBS opponent as Wilson endured a rough first season in Bloomington. The good news is Indiana played a bunch of young players who should improve with time and a full offseason under Wilson and his staff. There's little doubt the offense will be productive in the near future, but Indiana's biggest issues remain on the defensive side. Until the defense makes significant strides, IU will struggle to win Big Ten games.