Despite what was a mostly horrific outing Saturday against an Indiana team that should have been a pushover, there were some good things which did transpire during the course of the game. Andrew Maxwell (24-40, 290 yds., 2 tds) appeared to mature in the second half as he began to set himself firmly in the pocket and survey the field, carefully going through his reads. It may be that he has finally hit some sort of comfort zone and the game is slowing down for him a bit. Let’s hope this is a trend. Bennie Fowler (4 rec., 57 yds.) was able to keep his focus and contribute despite being relegated to the bench. He had perhaps the single biggest play of the afternoon, catching a short pass in the fourth quarter and turning it up field for a 36 yard touchdown that finally put the Spartans in the lead. Le’Veon Bell is still Le’Veon Bell, and thank God for that. Young linebacker Taiwan Jones blew up some IU personnel and looked as big, fast, and mean as you could want in a linebacker. Last but not least, Aaron Burbridge made his first start and what a debut he had. All he did was snag 8 catches for 134 yards, and many of those were difficult catches as Maxwell looked to him for bail-out help early in the game. Nothing but love for Burbridge in Spartan Nation right now.
The injury to Dion Sims, one of the few bright spots in the offense thus far this season, is particularly troubling. Not only will his receiving abilities be sorely missed, but the Spartans need him to help with his blocking as well given the numerous injuries to the offensive line. As I write this there has been no official word on Sims’ condition, but he was in a boot on the sidelines which I believe made everyone nervous. It seems the only question is regarding the quantity of time he will miss, and hopefully it won’t be a lengthy recovery. The play of cornerback Johnny Adams came under intense scrutiny as he was set ablaze by IU in the first half, repeatedly. Seriously, no one has been publicly torched like that since the Salem witch trials. The offensive line struggled to open holes all day for Bell and he had to make most of his yards on his own. I don’t want to harp on this unit too much though because there are only so many players you can lose and still have an effective, cohesive unit. The defense as a group looked lost for much of the first half, allowing Cameron Coffman to look like Dan Friggin’ Marino. First half totals for Coffman: 23-30, 256 yards, with three touchdowns. Okay.
The whole first half was the kind of fugly that only a mother could love. Indiana jumped out to a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and still retained a 27-14 lead at the half. The first half malaise can’t continue any longer. If the coaches have to rip into the team every week to get them motivated something is wrong with the team. Yes, they made good adjustments, and yes they won the game but where is the fire and on-field leadership? If the offensive woes stem partly from play selection, will there be a change in philosophy? Far too many ‘ifs’ surrounding this team at this point of the season and if they play like this every week they will be lucky to get another win.