College football

Indiana defense struggles in 41-35 loss to Navy

2013-09-07T22:34:00Z 2013-09-16T21:21:03Z Indiana defense struggles in 41-35 loss to NavyMichael Marot AP Sports Writer nwitimes.com
September 07, 2013 10:34 pm  • 

BLOOMINGTON | Indiana coach Kevin Wilson saw the danger signs all week.

The body language and the discussions on the field and in the locker room weren't up to the usual standards. On Saturday night, neither was the defensive play.

Despite having two extra days to prepare for Navy's throwback triple-option, the Hoosiers defense was confused and discombobulated. Keenan Reynolds ran for 127 yards and three touchdowns, and the Midshipmen finished with 444 yards rushing in a 41-35 victory at Indiana.

"I thought we were a little casual in our prep work here recently," Wilson said. "I thought pregame started a little casual. I thought the game started a little casual and that being said, when we made our adjustments, I don't know if we got them made. I don't know if our kids understood. I'm not blaming those guys, it's just a difficult deal."

For the Hoosiers (1-1) it was a complete deflation after last week's 73-35 rout over Indiana State.

This time, the miscues showed up everywhere. Kofi Hughes dropped two TD catches, though the Hoosiers did manage scores later on those drives. There were an untimely rash of penalties, an interception and they turned the ball over at their own 34 after a failed fourth-down attempt in the first quarter.

Nate Sudfeld did what he could to rally Indiana, finishing 31 of 42 for 363 yards and four TD passes as Indiana broke the school record for most points in any two-game stretch (108). But the defense struggled all night and couldn't even force a single Navy punt.

"We didn't come out nearly as ready as we needed to," safety Greg Heban said. "We prepared for them for a year and a half, even going back to spring ball, and it's just a little discouraging that we didn't come out and play the way we needed to."

Indiana was up against a Navy team that used every option at its disposal Saturday night including the motivation to win one for their coach, whose mother died earlier this week.

The Midshipmen put a heart-shaped decal on their shoulder pads and played like a wrecking crew in their first road win over a Big Ten foe since 1979 at Illinois.

"It was hard, but I felt at peace," Niumatalolo said. "I could feel my mother's presence here, just during the whole week, I wasn't super emotional out there. I just tried to stay glued into the game and tried to find a way to win this one for my mom."

The greatest tribute might have been the way Navy responded Saturday.

On a night the Midshipmen (1-0) held an almost two-to-one advantage in possession time and rushed for 444 yards, they committed only five penalties, had no turnovers and wound up with only three negative rushing plays — one of those coming on a kneel-down on the game's final play.

They methodically used the clock against Indiana, even forcing the Hoosiers to waste a precious timeout late in the game as they attempted to milk the clock.

Navy won for the first time in three tries in Bloomington and beat a BCS foe for the 20th time since 2003 — the most of any non-BCS school in the nation over the last decade. And the Midshipmen who did make the long bus trip from campus and the family members who got an undisclosed financial assist from Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay to also make the trip, responded by repeatedly singing "Anchors Aweigh."

Why not?

Reynolds kept the ball on Navy's throwback triple option 32 times. Geoffrey Whiteside ran nine times for 97 yards, and DeBrandon Sanders carried five times for 68 yards. In all, the Midshipmen ran 70 times, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, and never even bobbled the ball on a pitch. Navy threw just five passes with Reynolds completing two for 71 yards.

But afterward, it was all about their heartfelt emotions.

"My mom's here, so I can't wait to see her," Reynolds said. "It just makes you realize how precious life is and that life is more than just a game on Saturdays."

Navy made it look easy, too.

The Midshipmen opened the game with 29 consecutive runs, churning out 212 yards in roughly 1½ quarters and finished the first half with 255 yards rushing — just two fewer yards than it had in last year's game against the Hoosiers.

They finished with 18 carries of at least 10 yards, and it started quickly as Whiteside ran for 31 yards on Navy's first offensive play and went for 18 two plays later. Eventually, Reynolds scored on at 1-yard TD run to make it 7-0.

Then, after stopping Indiana on a fourth-down try at the Hoosiers' 34-yard line, Chris Swain scored on a 3-yard run to make it 14-0. Navy settled for a 23-yard field goal on its next possession and, after Sudfeld threw a perfect 45-yard TD pass to Kofi Hughes, answered with another long scoring drive that Noah Copeland capped with a 3-yard TD run to make it 24-7.

That was all the Midshipmen needed.

"I coach great kids," Niumatalolo said. "They presented me with the heart, that was all their idea. I'm the luckiest coach in the world."

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