LINCOLN, Neb. – Regroup?
Indiana has no choice.
Saturday night’s 35-21 loss at Nebraska hit hard.
“We beat ourselves,” quarterback Connor Bazelak said. “We have to blame ourselves.”
Specifically, IU (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten) was just 2-for-15 on third-down conversions and committed 11 penalties for 92 yards.
“We have to make sure we do things the right way,” head coach Tom Allen said. “Not shoot ourselves in the foot.
“It’s a long season. We have to get better.”
Fourth-quarter frustration peaked with three offensive drives totaling five yards in 11 plays, and a defense that allowed a 71-yard touchdown pass and a 54-yard TD drive.
That was the difference.
“There was not much open,” Bazelak said. “We’ve got to find ways to win on the outside.
“We had some drops. I missed a couple of deep throws not giving the guys a chance.
“At the end of first half, they couldn’t stop us. We couldn’t do that in the second half.”
Added Allen: “We have to find ways to get our playmakers the ball. We have to stay on schedule.”
How does IU fix that?
“It’s being focused on the details,” Bazelak said. “It’s doing the little things right. Execute. That’s what it comes down to.”
The Hoosiers had seven second-half drives. They punted five times, had an interception and failed to convert on fourth down.
“You look at the penalties,” Allen said. “The drops. The execution. At the same time, you’ve got to make plays.”
There were flashes of what might have been.
IU dominated the last five minutes of the first half (145 yards and two touchdowns on 13 plays in two drives) to rally from a 14-point deficit and force a 21-21 tie.
Allen’s attacking defensive approach set up a second-quarter touchdown. With Nebraska inside its 10-yard line and backup quarterback Chubba Purdy in the game, the Hoosiers attacked with linebacker Cam Jones and safety Louis Moore. They combined for a sack and a fumble that outside linebacker Myles Jackson recovered in the end zone for a touchdown.
It wasn’t enough.
“For us, it’s about how you practice,” Allen said. “It starts with me and our staff.”
Fourth-quarter execution decided it.
Nebraska (2-3, 1-1) snapped a 21-21 tie with a 71-yard touchdown pass and a 54-yard TD drive.
The Hoosiers had no counter.
“We have to get better,” Allen said.
IU took a shot before kickoff by losing its top two receivers. D.J. Matthews Jr. was out with an injury, Cam Camper with an illness.
That cost the Hoosiers 50 catches for 616 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re huge parts of our offense,” Bazelak said. “It was tough not having them.”
Added Allen: “D.J. was at the game and tried to go. Hopefully, we get those guys back soon.”
Somebody had to step up.
Emery Simmons did with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
Javon Swinton did with an acrobatic 28-yard second-quarter reception.
Andison Coby did with five catches for 54 yards.
“We had some guys make plays,” Bazelak said. “We’ve got to find ways to make more plays. I have to be more accurate on some balls.”
A struggling offensive line benefited from a lineup change that added experience.
Veteran Zach Carpenter returned to the starting lineup after missing a couple of games with a hand injury. He was switched from center to left guard. Mike Katic took over at center.
“We worked to find the best combination,” Allen said.
IU opened with consecutive three-and-outs. Nebraska connected with a touchdown pass on its first possession. In less than two minutes, the Hoosiers trailed 7-0.
IU tied it early in the second quarter on Jackson’s fumble recovery in the end zone after Jones and Moore combined for a sack and forced fumble.
Nebraska regained the lead by blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown. It added a rushing TD for a 21-7 lead with six minutes left in the half.
IU mixed two Josh Henderson runs and one catch with a 28-yard Bazelak completion to Swinton that set up a 13-yard TD catch by Simmons for a 21-14 score.
The Hoosiers came back with a pair of Jaylin Lucas runs for 39 yards, and passes to Coby and Simmons to set up a Shaun Shivers TD run for a 21-21 halftime tie.
In the third quarter, a big Nebraska hit forced a Bazelak interception. IU came right back with a spectacular Bryant Fitzgerald interception at the 1-yard line.
Nebraska’s 14-point fourth quarter won the game and left the Hoosiers facing a Saturday return to Memorial Stadium against No. 4 Michigan (5-0).
Used with permission and courtesy of IUHoosiers.com