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October 14, 2013Indiana beat Penn State two weeks ago, earning its first win in 17 tries against the Nittany Lions, but what they did Saturday, even in defeat, was impressive - IU scored 28 points, in a 42-28 loss, against a Michigan State defense that was allowing only 13.4 points per game in its first five.
Yet, the Hoosiers, a team that had averaged 44.4 points and 535 yards in their first five contests, were not happy with their production.
"While 28 points against a top-rated defense on the road wasn't bad, it wasn't quite the offensive production fans have come to expect," Peegs.com Senior Writer Jeff Rabjohns wrote.
In other words, this isn't the same Indiana team that has been the doormat for the Big Ten for the better part of two decades - in cycling through seven head coaches, IU was a collective 64-143 in the 18 seasons since last posting back-to-back winning records in 1993-94, with a lone winning-record campaign (2007).
These Hoosiers have higher expectations, and they expected to produce more than 351 yards and 28 points against the ferocious Spartans' defense.
"Four or five deep balls we just weren't in sync like you have to be against such a good defense," sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. "Don't get me wrong, they're a very good defense, but I think we stopped ourselves more than they stopped us.
"We were just a hair off on some deep balls that usually are our bread and butter, me to Kofi [Hughes], me to Cody [Latimer]. I overthrew them. We can't afford to do that against such a good defense, but it's good to know there are still a lot of things we can improve on. We really can play so much better than we did."
Indiana scored on a 64-yard run that represented the longest rush the Green and White had allowed all year, and set up another TD with a 53-yard pass completion to slot receiver Shane Wynn.
Still, four TDs were not enough against Michigan State to end a four-game series losing streak against the Spartans (IU beat MSU in 2006).
"We had a few opportunities to what ended up being a 14-point game," head coach Kevin Wlson said. "You're sweating uphill but you had a few opportunities to get close -- you need to make some plays to connect and we just didn't connect enough."
When IU beat Penn State a week earlier, it did so because its defense limited the Nittany Lions to just 24 points, and defense has been the issue for the Crimson and Cream; in their three losses the Hoosiers have yielded 128 points (42.7 per game) and 1,611 yards (537 per game) to teams - Navy, Missouri and Michigan State -- that have otherwise averaged 27.2 points and 333.2 yards in their other games.
"We just have to be better all around," Indiana sophomore defensive end Nick Mangieri said. "We have to get to the quarterback faster, give our DBs a chance to make plays and be physical in the run game."
Like Michigan's offensive line, the solution for IU's defense does not appear to be arriving imminently. This is a long road that will likely take another year or two before the Hoosiers are even respectable. Until then, they have to hope their offense can do what it has in Indiana's three wins - average 53.0 points and 573.0 yards per game.