A wide left field goal by Akron’s Dante Jackson is all that stands between Tom Allen, and pitchforks and torches.
There were two games on Indiana’s 2023 schedule the seventh-year head coach couldn’t lose, and it seems reasonable to ask, should good luck because a MAC kicker missed really change how we view the state of this IU football program?
Allen’s Hoosiers have gone 6-18 over the last two years, and they were on the brink of 7-21 and an embarrassing loss to a team they paid to come to Bloomington. You know, the kind of team Allen says Indiana cancelled the Louisville series to play.
Let’s be clear: Even if Indiana had lost on Saturday to Akron, no one is getting fired midseason.
Allen is still tenuously riding the goodwill he earned from a 14-7 stretch during the 2019-20 seasons, and he’s buttressed by a $20 million contract buyout at the moment.
Sure it was nearly an unmitigated disaster, but the fact remains, Akron was just one game. Even if Allen didn’t have the hefty buyout, or the success a couple years ago, there isn’t much sense in blowing things up midseason.
But Allen can’t let problems fester like he did in 2021 and 2022, when he burned a season and a half before he fired offensive line coach Darren Hiller. He seemed to acknowledge that after midnight, following his team’s great escape at Memorial Stadium.
“So obviously maybe look at changing some things we’re doing,” Allen said after the Akron game. “Our schedule, maybe change the personnel. You just find a way to make some changes to get a different result.”
While a year ago Hiller was the elephant in the room, this year the problem seems to be much more significant — offensive coordinator Walt Bell’s scheme and play calling.
The stats on Bell’s offense don’t paint a pretty picture.
Indiana ranks No. 103 (out of 133) nationally in points per game at 21.8 per contest. Nearly half of their total points this season came against Indiana State from the FCS ranks, along with 12 more via an assist from the overtime rules last night. IU has scored just 34 regulation points against FBS teams through three games (11.3 per game).
The IU rushing offense ranks No. 114 with 109 yards per game, the passing offense is No. 82 with 229 yards per game, and that all aggregates to No. 103 in total offense with 337.5 yards per game.
Only Rutgers and Iowa have offenses averaging less yards per game in the Big Ten, and it’s league play where IU is headed the rest of the way.
The advanced metrics are just as concerning.
PFF grades Indiana as having the No. 105 overall offense through four games. Their data is concerning because the group grading the worst right now is the offensive line, with No. 121 overall pass blocking grades, and No. 104 for run blocking.
There was a lot of optimism that the hiring of respected offensive line coach Bob Bostad would be the cure for what ailed IU the last two years, but thus far there’s not a lot of data to support the notion that there’s been meaningful improvement. The Hoosiers are particularly struggling in short yardage situations, an issue that was magnified on 4th-and-inches vs. Louisville, and again on multiple occasions against Akron.
Allen acknowledged the shortcomings along the offensive line.
“If we have to make changes up front, personnel-wise, we’ll do what we’ve got to do to get that fixed,” Allen said. “That’s where it begins. Puts a lot of pressure on third downs with, you know, a young quarterback that had a tough night. Just call it what it is. But, at the same time, we’ve got to do some things to help him as well. But definitely got to go back and evaluate everything we’re doing on offense.”
How much of the problem is personnel vs. play calling? That’s what Allen and Bell get paid to figure out, and they need to move fast.
Things are about to get real dicey for Allen’s Hoosiers. They face an undefeated Maryland team next that has scored 31 or more in every game thus far while allowing no more than 20. Then comes No. 2 Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Indiana may have escaped against Akron, but there will be nowhere to hide the rest of the way.
Allen’s ability to pull the right levers and be nimble midseason is going to be more important for him than ever.
Eventually it will be his job on the line. And on Saturday night that possibility seemed closer than ever before.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”
- Find us on Facebook: thedailyhoosier
- You can follow us on Twitter: @daily_hoosier
- Seven ways to support completely free IU coverage at no cost to you.