Location: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington, Ind.
While IU's MAC winning streak continued, IU followed the Ball State comeback with one of the worst losses in school history. Certainly, the Hoosiers faced trying circumstances. Terry Hoeppner, although he watched from the press box, was out for brain surgery, so this game marked the first of two games that Bill Lynch directed as interim coach. Fairly or not, the outcome of Lynch's two interim games leads to quite a bit of skepticism about whether he should be IU's coach after 2007. Nevertheless, the 2007 season will decide that, so let's look at what happened.
IU dominated the early minutes of this game. SIU's first six possessions were unproductive, while IU scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions. The IU offense flagged after that: after taking the lead 14-0 with 4:55 remaining in the first quarter, IU ran only 13 plays for the rest of the half and managed only two first downs. SIU managed a late touchdown drive, and what looked like it would be a walk for IU led to what then seemed to be a disappointment: only up 14-7 at halftime against the I-AA Salukis. After the teams traded punts to begin the half, IU took advantage of a shanked SIU punt with a 40 yard touchdown drive, and it appeared that the Hoosiers were restoring order at 21-7. Instead, SIU went 78 yards in 10 plays to narrow the margin to 21-14. After the first IU touchdown of the second half, SIU outgained IU 238 to 151 and outscored the Hoosiers 28-7.
How? Why? Unlike Nicholls State, which nearly upset Indiana with a service academy-style misdirection-based running game in 2005, SIU seems to have been a bit more traditional. SIU gained 244 yards on the ground, an average of 4.9 yards per carry, but also managed 138 yards on 10-19 passing. SIU's ran a rush-heavy offense, but not to NSU absurdity. More disheartening is that SIU's defense made things difficult for Kellen Lewis in his first start. Lewis was 20-40 with a touchdown, and interception, and a fumble. He gained 32 yards on ten carries--but lost 31, for a net of 1 rushing yard. In any event, the Hoosiers led 21-7 and could have controlled the game with some offensive production. It's also worth noting that James Hardy missed this game and the UConn game for disciplinary reasons. Marcus Thigpen (7-32) and Demetrius McCray (10-49) had some success running, but after IU's 21-7 lead, the two combined for only four more rushes. Whether it was the OC, Lynch, or Lewis, someone called Kellen Lewis's number a lot that day. Would a more traditional rushing attack against what should have been an overmatched I-AA oppoent have made a difference? That's second guessing, but again, whether IU can maintain any sort of "traditional" (i.e., non-Kellen Lewis) rushing attack remains an issue for the 2007 Hoosiers.