This loss hurts more than the blow-out at Virginia. The Hoosiers were up 28-3 half way through the second quarter, but still managed to lose to Northwestern, 29-28.
The Hoosiers gave up 14 points in the final 4 minutes of the first half to give the Wildcats hope, then did not score a point in the second half. The offense was stopped on 4th and goal from the 1 yard line in the third quarter, which likely sealed the loss. Northwestern had turned the ball over for a second time in the quarter and still were down 28-19 after IU had a punt blocked for a safety.
An IU touchdown would have put the game out of reach and a field goal would have increased the lead to 12. Instead the Hoosiers got no points and Northwestern converted the turnover into a touchdown, which cut the deficit to two.
The winning score came on a Northwestern field goal with 21 seconds left. Unfortunately, I can't fault the IU defense for its inability to stop the Wildcats when the game was on the line. The Hoosiers forced three turnovers in the second half, which the IU offense could not convert into points. Northwestern gave the Hoosiers opportunities to put the game away, but IU refused to finish.
I think the story of the 2009 Hoosiers is they are a 30-minute team. The Hoosiers were able to play well in the first half, but consistently fell apart in the second. An inability to finish caused losses to Northwestern and Michigan and made several other games closer than they should have been.
Barring two miracle wins in the next four games, the IU season is essentially over. The Hoosiers play Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State before finishing the year at home against Purdue. Now that the Boilers are playing better these past two weeks, it is entirely possible the Hoosiers could lose out. Fortunately for me, that would mean my season prediction (4-8) would be correct.
Maybe that's not such a bad thing. I think the coaching staff needs to be changed and head coach Bill Lynch is in the last year of his deal. Lynch and his staff always seem to have great game plans at kick-off. But when opponents make adjustments, the IU coaches don't seem to be able to counter. Northwestern clearly made an offensive and defensive adjustment when IU took the early lead. Throughout the second half, IU seemed to play right into Wildcats' hands.
Throughout the season, it has not been superior opponents like Ohio State that have stymied the Hoosiers. Eastern Kentucky and Northwestern did not allow any IU points in the second half. IU was 1-1 in those games and both games were decided by a touchdown or less.
Western Michigan, Michigan, Ohio State, and Virginia also outscored IU in the second half. The Hoosiers were 1-3 in those games, including two that were decided by four points or less.
It is an alarming statistic, especially given the talent IU has on both sides of the ball this year. To me, it means someone is unwilling or unable to change when the other team figures out the game plan. It is not coaching that long-term will help rebuild the IU football program.