Wednesday, September 29, 2004

DiNardo frets IU sluggishness in second half

By Michael Marot
The Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Gerry DiNardo prepares for each game with a mission statement. Last week, it was better tackling. This week, it is resuscitating an offense that has developed a troubling habit of stalling late in games.

"I think you achieve what you emphasize," DiNardo said Tuesday. "We have to make sure we start playing better in the second half."

The numbers illustrate the problems.

In the last three games, Indiana has managed just 264 yards and one offensive touchdown in the final two quarters. On Saturday, Michigan State pitched a second-half shutout by limiting the Hoosiers to 41 total yards.

DiNardo blamed the most recent lapse on a unit that got out of sync and that didn't execute well enough against a Spartans defense that made few, if any, halftime adjustments.

"The intensity level dropped tremendously last week," wide receiver Courtney Roby said. "I don't understand why. It was a lack of focus, I guess."

If the Hoosiers are to turn that around against a Michigan defense that leads the nation in turnovers (19) and is ranked No. 2 nationally against the run (43.8 yards per game), DiNardo knows corrections must be made. The Wolverines (3-1) enter the game ranked No. 19 and haven't lost to Indiana since 1987.

Still, DiNardo did not blame quarterback Matt LoVecchio for the problems and indicated he was not ready to make a change.

LoVecchio has completed 50 percent of his passes, thrown for an average of 145.2 yards per game and has five touchdowns and four interceptions - two in the second half against the Spartans. His passer efficiency rating, something DiNardo has stressed since August, is 123.5 and third-worst in the Big Ten. Only Northwestern's Brett Basanez and Illinois' Brad Bower have lower ratings.

If LoVecchio were replaced, the Hoosiers' next option would be redshirt freshman Blake Powers, who has thrown just five career passes. But DiNardo made it clear he wasn't prepared to insert an untested youngster against one of the nation's best defenses.

"Anytime you change personnel, you have to take into account practice games, the game plan, the opponent, whether you're home or away," he said. "I remember last year, (center) Chris Mangiero started his first game at Michigan and that's not the best place to start your first game."

DiNardo has already made some changes offensively.

Before the season began, he decided to primarily use one running back. Sophomore BenJarvus Green-Ellis won the starting job.

Last week, however, DiNardo more frequently used Chris Taylor and Yamar Washington, both of whom had lost the job to Green-Ellis earlier.

"We had both guys in there Saturday, and, yes, I like it," DiNardo said of the running backs. "We're going to try and find a way to get Chris and Yamar in the game."

DiNardo also changed his game plan by adding some different plays - LoVecchio on an option, shovel passes and deep passes.

The Hoosiers had some success - for a half.

What DiNardo wants now is more consistency for four full quarters.

"I think it could be a lot of things," he said. "I thought we got out of sync Saturday and we just have to play better."

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