First off, before we get started on the relative unimportant escape of college football, I’m compelled to keep you up to date on the ongoing search for Northwestern sophomore, Harsha Maddula. The big news that broke yesterday was his cell phone had been traced close to Wilmette Harbor near Sheridan Road and Michigan Ave in Wilmette. The family has posted a $25K reward to help find him and there is also concern that his severe diabetes could have led to bad things. Obviously, with each passing day – Maddula has been missing since he left a party late Friday night – the chances of “good” happening get slimmer and slimmer. Hundreds of Northwestern students have been searching the area. Be sure to read this article and stay on top of this story. Anyone with information about Maddula is asked to call Northwestern University Police at 847-491-3456.
To volunteer with a search team, people can call 630-251-8365 or meet at the Seabury Building on the Northwestern campus at 600 Haven St. in Evanston.
Awkward segue to the less important stuff…
Today we welcome John M. from the SBNation Indiana blog CrimsonQuarry. We’ve shared respective insights on one another’s program many times over the years and with kickoff about 48 hours away, I thought it would be helpful to get some deeper coverage on one of the least covered teams in the B1G. Let’s get in to it.
LTP: Cam Coffman – help us out – from JUCO man in AZ to the focus of the ’12 IU season. For those of us that missed the Ball State game (and post Tre Roberson UMASS portion) break down his strengths, weaknesses etc…
CQ: He’s looked very good. He seems comfortable on the field, has a nice arm, nice touch, he has done a very good job overall. It’s hardly a knock on him, but he doesn’t have Tre’s mobility. He seems like a nice fit for Seth Littrell’s offense. Also, true freshman Nate Sudfeld played well against BSU, leading the fourth quarter comeback when Coffman left with a hip pointer. I suspect you will see both of them on Saturday.�
LTP: While the home loss to Ball State never bodes well for momentum, the bright side is that Kevin Wilson has doubled his win total from last year. We hear things are getting a bit testy with some local media in B-Town. What’s the fan base mindset right now on the arrow of this program?
CQ: I’m not sure there is a consensus among the fan base. There is plenty of frustration, based not so much on what Wilson has done but based on one bowl bid in 18 seasons. Some are down on him, some think he needs more time. I’m definitely in the latter camp, but I also an increasingly concerned about the cluelessness of the defense and the high number of penalties. He’s going to get plenty of time, however. There is no doubt in my mind that AD Fred Glass thinks he is the guy and will give him several years to prove it. As for the media…you’re making my blood pressure rise. It slays me how sports reporters will give every benefit of the doubt to proven mediocrities such as Bill Lynch and Mike Davis, yet will instantly turn on someone with a great pedigree if he doesn’t kiss their asses. I think Wilson perceives that many in the local sports media (and I’m talking Indy, not Bloomington) are rooting against him, and he’s right. It pisses me off. I think they are a bunch of pansies and hypocrites. They can be aggressive and talk tough, but heaven forbid one of their subjects gives it back to them every once in a while.
LTP: As it relates to media, trust me when we tell you we know what it means to be sensitive to media coverage. Northwestern’s secondary challenges, though vastly improved since the Syracuse debacle, are still widely expected to be tested all B1G season long. Break down the passing attack and rushing attack for us. Particularly with NU’s fantastic rush defense to date (11th in NCAA), I’m thinking over/under on pass attempts might start at 65. Discuss.
CQ: You may be right. IU has run the ball reasonably well, and has four running backs who have seen meaningful playing time, but I think Tre Roberson’s performance, especially two long TDs in the UMass game before he was hurt, skew the statistics as well. As always seems to be the case, IU has several quality options at WR, so yeah, the Hoosiers may be slinging it around a bit. I don’t think IU will competely abandon the run, however.
LTP: Educate us on your defense. It’s tough to make too many judgments based on the IU non-conference schedule to date. Where does the strength of this defense lie? What are the Achilles heels?
CQ: The defense is bad. Not as bad as last year, but bad. Ball State has a good offense, but the breakdowns in the secondary were tough to stomach. Overall, the defense has done a better job getting to the QB (8 sacks after only 17 last season) and had been better on third down before the Ball State game, but it’s just ugly all around. Don’t let the numbers fool you. They are dramatically skewed by a game against an awful UMass team. Strengths? I like Greg Heban and Mark Murphy in the secondary, and we have some experience in the middle of the D-line with Adam Replogle and Larry Black, Jr. But it needs to get better all around. Hopefully they made some progress in the off week. �
LTP: How much of an adjustment to both Tre Roberson and the spread in general did you see from the UMASS game to the Ball State game?
CQ: There wasn’t a tremendous adjustment. In the ISU game, Roberson ran very little. There obviously was a focus on making him a pass-first QB, although they exploited UMass for a couple of long runs. While Roberson’s running ability was an added and needed dimension, I don’t think the offense has changed much.
LTP: How big is this game for IU? Why?
CQ: It’s big for a number of reasons. First, IU hasn’t won a Big Ten game since November 2010. After NU, IU hosts MSU and OSU, and then goes to Navy before playing at Illinois on October 27. So, absent an upset of NU, IU probably is looking at being 2-4 when they go to Navy and not having a legitimate chance at a Big Ten win until the brink of November. NU has been much more successful than IU since the mid-1990s and has controlled the head-to-head series as well, but this generally is a game in which IU isn’t dramatically overmatched physically. Any slim hope of a bowl game probably ended when BSU kicked its game-winning field goal, but a win Saturday at least would keep some hope alive and would be a positive step for the program. �
LTP: I saw you picked up on our never-ending attendance challenges. Despite what “felt” like great atmospheres for Vandy and BC, you are drawing 15,000 more than we are at home. We’ve heard about the priority points system…help paint the picture for why so relatively successful in attendance. What type of cream and crimson turnout do
you expect on Saturday?
CQ: As I discussed on your site, there are a number of reasons attendance has been good. First, IU uses tickets sold, rather than gate count. Second, as you note, IU uses loyalty points for both students and other ticketholders than make it worthwhile to buy football tickets even if motivated by a desire for better basketball tickets. Third, we have played two night games. Night games, for whatever reason, always are better-attended for IU against non-conference opponents. Personally, I hate the traffic jam that results when everyone tries to leave Bloomington at the same time, but to each his own. Fourth, IU has used lots of discounts, such as a “Family four pack” promotion and selling youth tickets for $5. They also will sell student tickets to students from other universities that can be used with a student ID from their school (unless your school is the opponent that day). Finally, having intrastate opponents who brought some fans helped, too. I’ll admit that I’m pleasantly surprised at how attendance has been. It’s still not what it can be, but it’s better than the hardy 25,000 that we saw in the Dinardo era. My last trip to Evanston was in 1993 (I guess I should go again for good luck), and I recall that IU was well-represented that day, but I don’t know how things typically go up there now.
LTP: Top two under-the-radar Hoosiers we should be on the lookout for this weekend.
CQ: I’m still hoping against hope for a Duwyce Wilson breakout game. On defense, CB Brian Williams has been better than most in the secondary and has IU’s only interception of the season.
CQ: It’s Indiana-Northwestern. I’m expecting close and heartbreaking. NU 35, IU 31.
LTP: Thanks John. We look forward to returning the favor on the Q&A with a cameo on CrimsonQuarry in the next day.
LTP Reader Support
There is a great story that has emerged in Major League Baseball and LTP community member, Willie Weinbaum, has it to share with you. It turns out that Adam Greenberg, who had one pitch in his MLB career and was promptly beaned causing all kinds of serious issues, will be making a return – for one day – in a rare second chance. A Chicago documentarian and diehard Cubs fan, Matt Liston (who was heavily featured in the ESPN 30/30 on Bartman) helped make this a reality. Willie has the story here. If you have relevant things you’d love to share with the community, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .