I'm back

After some time away from writing, I want to let everyone know I will return to posting on this blog. I will write a spring practice preview of the things I want to see, and then a follow up after the practice is done. Stay tuned and lets hear your opinions on what you would like to see this season.

Sunday Football

While this blog is focused on college-level football, I cannot lie. Much of my Sunday is planned around games. This most recent Sunday was no exception; I was catching the Vikings take on the Packers, held here at our own Memorial Stadium.
Confused yet? Allow me to clear it up. Monroe County Youth Football’s AFL Championship game was held Oct. 26th at 5pm, and the Vikings team, decked out in purple and gold and led by our own Mike P. took to the field. They faced a blossoming green and gold Packers squad, coached by Mark Weddle.
I saw some nice plays on both sides, and a bunch of great kids with a passion for the game. I saw coaches demonstrate levels of sportsmanship and true affection and appreciation for their teams and each other. I saw kids that I hope to see take that field again, perhaps in about ten years, wearing the cream and crimson.
Congratulations are in order for both teams, who played a great, tight game, and to Mike and the Vikings, congrats on your MCYF-AFL Championship!
Final: Vikings-25, Packers-19.

Cardinal Red Shines Brighter than Hoosier Crimson

**Posted for Mike P.**

Saturday night was one for the ages. It was a game that you could watch your team come out, be well prepared, and execute their game plan with poise and confidence. That is, if your team is Ball State (BSU).

Before I go any farther, I want to send my thoughts and prayers out to Dante Love for a full and speedy recovery. Dante was involved in a collision in the 2nd quarter with Chris Adkins from IU. Unfortunately Dante lowered his head to try and power a couple more yards out of the play. The result of this was a very hard hit, their helmets hit off each other and the crown of Love’s helmet was hit square by Adkins’ shoulder. This hit resulted in a cervical spine fracture for Love.

Love fell limp to the ground, and was immediately tended to by members of the IU and Ball State medical and training staffs. The stabilized him on the field, he was took to Bloomington Hospital and then transferred to Methodist. Love had to undergo 5 hours of surgery to stabilize the fracture in his spin. The good news came after the surgery. Love has been able to move all of his extremities. There has not been a long term prognosis given yet, but things are look promising.

From this Hoosier fan, my prayers and best wishes to you Dante Love.

And now, back to the game.

It is hard to decide what really went on in that game. Were we not prepared, or were we truly outmatched by BSU? I think it was a little of both. Their skill guys had incredible speed and field vision, and they appeared ready for the challenge and to get their first win against IU and their first win against a BCS school on the road.

The game did start out with some promise. Ball State got the opening kick, quickly went 3 and out, and was forced to punt. Jerimy Finch from IU got around the corner and blocked the BSU punt out of bounds. This gave IU a 1st & 10 at the Ball State 31 yard line. Kellen Lewis completed 2 passes, and Thigpen was stuffed for a loss. What should have been a huge momentum push for IU resulted in a field goal and a quick swing back to BSU.

BSU was able to get in the end zone on their next 2 possessions. While IU settled for a field goal on their next one. At this point BSU had jumped out to a 14-6 lead, and seemed well in control of the game.

The next points to be scored were 6 of the scariest points any fan, player, or coach can ever witness. Nick Polk scooped a fumble and returned it 31 yards for a TD after the hit on Dante Love by Chris Adkins. Making the game 14-13 and for a blink of an eye shifting the momentum back to IU.

What happened next showed exactly the kind of character and belief that BSU has in them. They had just lost their best receiver get carted off the field and rushed away in an ambulance. In 5 plays, BSU moved the ball 80 yards on the strength of 35 and 45 yard pass plays from Nate Davis to Myles Trempe.

IU got the ball back, drove the field and brought the score back to with in 1 point at 21-20. They then forced a BSU punt (for only the 2nd time) and had the ball back to try and gain momentum. Kellen then threw his 2nd pick of the day, one that was returned for a TD and made the score 28-20 at half.

One thing to note, Kellen Lewis was 3-5 for 57 yards in the 1st quarter. He would go 0-7 the rest of the half and not make his next completion until the last play of the 3rd quarter, one of only 2 attempts for the entire quarter.

The 3rd quarter didn’t provide much action by either offense. IU had to punt the ball away twice. BSU missed a field goal and fumbled the ball away deep in Indiana territory. Entering the 4th, BSU had a 28-20 lead and there was still a slim amount of hope for IU to get the win.

IU started the 4th with the ball, after a holding penalty they were faced with a 1st & 18 on their own 8. In the next 4 plays, IU moved the ball 61 yards to the BSU 31. The drive stalled at the BSU 26 and out came the field goal team. Austin Star missed a field goal and walked away from that drive with no points.

BSU then drove the field, added a TD and made it a 35-20 ball game with just over 6 minutes left. IU comes out, gets a 4th and short, and brings out Chappell for the short yardage push. After a false start, IU is backed up facing a 4th & 5 with over 5 minutes left. Any coach knows, PUNT the ball away. You are only down 2 scores, have 3 time outs, and plenty of clock time. Instead we go for it. Lewis throws another incomplete pass and IU turns the ball over on downs at their own 27 yard line.

It only took 2 plays and the game was 42-20, and all hope was now lost.

My thoughts on the coaching staff and individual performances will be coming later this week.

Heartbreak on the Hoosier Home Turf

Ball State came into this game being touted as a top 25 team. The Hoosier Nation scoffed.

We scoff no more.

Even with the terrifying loss of Dante Love, who went down early in the second quarter, and did not move, Ball State was simply unstoppable. Man after man on the Hoosier defense fell. Even in the final moments, starters were on the field, risking injury, despite being down 22 points. Kellen Lewis took a hit with under a minute remaining that simply took my breath away.

I hate to constantly second guess coaching decisions. I’m not a “technical” football person. I’m a fan, with a fair level of knowledge of the game. I’m comfortable calling things like I see them. What I saw here was what was left of our starting lineup at risk for injury when the game was clearly beyond our reach. We had already lost a number of key players, and clearly had lost the game. Why our coaches would continue to put what was left of our starters out there was truly beyond me. The hit on Kellen was the icing on the cake for me on that thought.

Defensively, we were weak and wounded. Offensively, Kellen ran well, but at times looked injured when trying to pass. I could have thrown some of those passes. (I will bravely admit; I am the poster child of “throws like a girl”.) A number of penalties were painful, but again, a coaching decision jumps out at me on one specific flag- Ben Chappell is put in to punch us across the line for a first down on a fourth and one call. We jumped. You have a new guy with a new rhythm in there to call the snap? That’s ASKING for us to jump. Cadence means a lot, and those guys were used to Kellen at that point. Seven penalties. Nearly 80 yards worth. That’s significant.

Statistically, this game was much closer than the score would show. Total yards were neck and neck, with BSU at 461 to IU’s 414. Time of possession was also close, 31:38 vs. 28:22, with a slight advantage to BSU. Two turnovers a piece. Even the passing game looks close on the surface, with Ball State completing 16 of 25, to IU’s 12 of 26. Yardage was the difference there, at 240 vs. 168. You wouldn’t look at those stats and think you had a final score of 42-20. But we did. We got it handed to us.

Also of note: Austin Starr missed a field goal. (Hello. That doesn’t happen. Indicative of the whole game, perhaps?)

Shamelessly plugging a non-football event

Because Mike P. gave me the ability to be a part of this blog, I am taking full advantage!
This coming Wednesday, Sept. 10th, 2008, I am hosting an Alex's Lemonade Stand Fundraiser. The Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation raises funds to provide research grants for pediatric cancer, and has raised over 20 million dollars since it's inception.
This is our third year partnering with the ALSF, and we are excited to share that we will have a NASCAR, a rock climbing wall, a bungee run, as well as the Lemonade Stand and Bake Sale on site in the Richland Plaza Shopping Center parking lot in Ellettsville. Additionally, we will be selling raffle tickets for an assortment of prizes, including a 5-piece stainless steel BBQ tool set and a Tom Crean autographed basketball! (Raffle tickets are $1 each, or 6 for $5.)
This is a family friendly event, and there is no charge to participate. Your tax-deductible donations go to the ALSF, a registered 501(c)3 charity. We will be operating from 1:00pm-7:00pm. We invite you to stop by and have a cold glass of lemonade while fighting childhood cancer!
More information about the event and the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation are available on our website at www.IndianaJH.com. We hope to see you there!!

2008 Hoosiers Part 1 - Offense

Welcome to my first post of the 2008 IU Football season. I want to say thank you to those who take the time to read this, and offer my apologies that I have not posted in a long time.

The season is now through week 2 and the Hoosiers have started off with a nice 2-0 start, with that they have ten more chances to reach that magical six win mark to be bowl eligible. I’m expecting them to win at least six more games and be 8-4 minimum. To do that, Lynch and company have their work cut out for them, and lucky the have a two week lull in between games to get to it.

Right now it is difficult to predict what this team will do from here on out. Starting next week against Ball State, the schedule goes from friendly to hostile in the blink of an eye. If this team is going to avoid a let down against a solid opponent, they need to buckle down and get to work.

With the loss of the Lewis to Hardy connection that produced many big plays and scoring opportunities for this team the last two years, the running game and their success is now a critical aspect that has no choice but to improve if this team wants to win. Right now it appears that Lynch and company seem set on this three back rotation of Thigpen, McCray and Payton. This actually is something that plays to their favor. These are three different styles of backs that bring their own unique skills.

Thigpen is the speed back. Make a hole, give him a seam, and watch why he is considered a track star as well. His ability to blaze a defense in the open field is amazing, his problem is the lack of field vision and that he is still hesitant to run in a hole that isn’t big enough for a Mack truck to make it through clean. The coaching staff needs to create plays that will allow Thigpen the ball in places where he can use his speed to break free. They try this with the screen, except this team does not have a receiver that can (or is willing?) to block down field.

McCray is the finesse guy. Follows his blockers and takes what develops. At times McCray can be a bit hesitant, though not as bad as Thigpen. He is that 2nd down back that is going to net 3 to 6 yards and set up a more manageable 3rd down play. He lacks the explosiveness of the other backs, if he can maintain his 4.8 yards per carry average he has now, he will be a useful back this season.

Now for Bryan Payton, my personal favorite of the three backs. Payton is the bruiser type back. Give him the ball, he is heading for the first crack he can see, and is going to pound the ball right past you. He is an explosive player that can break the big play, he doesn’t do this with super speed or by fancy foot work, he does this with power. Payton is still a 2nd or 3rd and short back when they need that push for the first down or when they need a push into the end zone. With the departure of Josiah Sears and the lack of a true full back, Payton will be a major component in the running game.

Of course we all know that the running back can only do so much, they need a push up front and an open hole. That is the job of the offensive line. This team is young on the line starting a new center, right guard and right tackle. While the push for the running game looks better, the line still needs to get better against the pass rush and give Kellen more time to work. Each game the line has got better as the game goes on, and that is a credit to the no huddle that doesn’t allow the defense to breath. The good news is the line is coming together, the bad news is they no longer have time to learn from their mistakes. They have to be solid from here on out or it could make for a long season for Lewis and the backs.

Speaking of Lewis, this year we will really get to know just what Lewis can do. Once again he has a young line with little experience, while we have a decent three back rotation and they still don’t have an every down feature back to relieve some pressure on him. The last two years these issues created problems for Lewis, but he had a experienced receiving crew that was anchored by Hardy. This year he doesn’t have that threat, he has returning experience in Means and Fisher, but neither of them are deep threat over the top players. Lewis does have two very good freshmen in Belcher and Doss, as these two see more time on the field, and adjust to the quicker speed of collegiate play, look toward them to become go to play makers. Lewis is still not 100% with his receivers, his timing was better this week, this has got to improve, he can’t expect his legs to bail him out all season.

Bottom line to the 2008 IU offense is improvement needed at every position. There is no position that is solid. Improvement will need to come 1 day at a time in practice, and 1 play at a time during games. If they can take steps forward, and not go back, this offense can score points on anyone and help give us that 8-4 season I’m predicting.

Quick Update: Zachery commits to IU

Mike P just interrupted my lunch to ask me to throw on the following:

Nick Zachery of Sheridan H.S. has committed to IU's '09 class. Mike states:
"He plays both sides of the ball, has 3 campionships, and he's awesome."

Mike will update with better details when he has appropriate access!

Hoosier Standouts Drafted in Second Round

First, I apologize for the delay in this post, as this is obviously "old news", but the basketball fan in me has been somewhat distracted by the activities at Assembly Hall.

Just in case you were not already aware, Tracy Porter and James Hardy were drafted back-to-back last weekend in the second round of the NFL draft. Porter, picked 40th, was selected by the New Orleans Saints, and Hardy went 41st to the Buffalo Bills. Two day-one picks could be a huge boost to this program, especially if either man gets the opportunity to be a starter this season.
Porter is my vote for a potential starter, based on the needs of the Saints program. He needs to focus some on his tackling - be less concerned with the pick, and just make the solid play. It'll take him a long way. Tracy does get to enjoy a homecoming of sorts with his pick, having graduated from Port Allen H.S. in LA.

Hardy elected to forgo his senior season and go pro this year, and personally, I think it was a solid move for him. He needs to bulk up, and I fully expect it to take a year or two for him to truly develop, but I anticipate James will become a high-caliber player at the professional level. He's grown a great deal personally over the last few years, and I know the loss of Terry Hoeppner was especially hard for him. Given the strides he's made over the last 2 years, I can't wait to see what the next 2 (and more!) years hold in store for him.

I also want to mention that Josiah Sears and Tim Bugg have also been invited to attend mini-camps over the next few weeks. Sears will spend the weekend with the Chicago Bears, while long-snapper Bugg will be with the Bengals this weekend, and the N.Y. Giants next weekend. We hope to be able to report contracts for them in the near future!

My congratulations to all of these young men! We, as Hoosier fans, thank you for the last few seasons, and your part in reaching the dream of playing 13. Here's to long and fruitful careers!

Spring Practice Photo's 4/5/2008

Ben Chappell (4) winds up to
deliver a pass in spring
practice as head coach Bill Lynch
looks on. 4/5/2008

Ray Fisher (7) fields a punt
during spring practice.

Bryan Payton (27) tries to
turn the corner and is met
by a gang of Hoosier tacklers.

Punter/QB Chris Hagerup booms a
towering punt during spring practice.

Jake Kocal(34) tries to
haul in a pass while being
guarded by Adrian Burks(23).

Hoosier Turmoil

It is spring time, college football teams all over the country are on practice fields gearing up for the 2008 season. It is a chance to start new, the records are all 0-0, oh what a great time of year for most.

Unfortunately it has not been that way for us Hoosier fans this year. Turmoil off the field has and will lead to turmoil on the field. We start this spring minus our two senior leaders on defense, both of those players were in the skill positions, and not easily replaced. Then an athletic and talented safety gets moved from defense to offense. Why you may ask? Well that has to do with missing personnel on the offensive side of the ball.

Oh the offense. What a mess this is. James Hardy decided to skip his senior season and become eligible for the NFL draft. Who can blame him, after all he already owns the records in most major categories for an IU receiver, and is projected to be a mid to late 1st round draft pick. He will be missed, but the coaches have always talked about the depth at receiver, so we should be fine.

We should be, but will we? The depth at receiver looks shallow to me. It was reported yesterday that James Bailey has decided to transfer from IU to another school that has not yet been named. While Bailey had his problems on and off the field, the experience of a 5th year senior and 3 year starter can’t be replaced easily.

But we have Andrew Means who played in Bailey’s slot last year! Well, maybe. Means is a college baseball player who runs routes and catches passes in the off season. He is currently lighting up pitchers all over the Big Ten with a near .400 batting average, and is not sure about his return to the team this fall. His dream is to play in the Majors, and if a MLB team is calling, Means is going to answer.

That leaves us with only two receivers who have seen playing time in more than 5 games at IU. Couple this with injured lineman, running backs running track, and the fact the starting QB for the past two seasons is currently suspended and his return to the team at this point is not certain, makes you wonder just what the spring practice is worth this year.

On the upside, you don’t prepare for an entire season in the limited practice time you get in the spring, and with the injuries, departed and suspended players, the coaching staff will get a chance to plug in some younger guys, get to evaluate some redshirt players, and hopefully build more depth at each position.

While other schools are polishing the edges, Coach Lynch and his staff are working with grinders. Hopefully the long spring won’t lead to a longer fall.