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Lynch becoming regular fix-it man for Hoosiers

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

By MICHAEL MAROT

AP Sports Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Lynch used the weekend to contemplate Indiana's problems.

He talked to his assistants about changing the preparation, maybe changing the lineup and eventually settled on one conclusion: It's all about execution.

"Ever since Saturday night, we've spent a lot of time talking and I think when you hit tough times, that's what you do," he said during Tuesday's weekly news conference. "You re-evaluate. We're not going to do anything dramatic, but it still comes back to we have to execute better."

Things have deteriorated quickly for the Hoosiers (2-4, 0-3 Big Ten).

They've now lost four straight, three of those at home, after opening the season with back-to-back victories over Western Kentucky and Murray State. The losing streak has jeopardized their goal of reaching consecutive bowl games for the first time since 1990 and 1991, and the 45-9 loss to Iowa last weekend was Indiana's worst home loss since Purdue's 56-7 victory Nov. 22, 1997.

The usually high-scoring offense has managed just 12 points the last two weeks and couldn't score in the second half against either Minnesota or Iowa.

Indiana has turned the ball over, and the defense has struggled to get off the field.

And now quarterback Kellen Lewis, their most consistent playmaker, has a high ankle sprain and is questionable for this weekend. Plus, the Hoosiers travel to Illinois on Saturday, a venue where they have won just one time since 1979.

Could it be any bleaker at the midway point of the season?

But Lynch reassured his players things can change if they make the plays.

"You make adjustments, yeah, and we have done that each week," Lynch said. "Some are subtle. But we're not panicking with what we're doing and we're going to get better."

They have no choice if they intend to keep the momentum from last season's bowl run.

The Hoosiers' remaining schedule, after Illinois, has visits to No. 3 Penn State and rival Purdue, and home games against Northwestern, Wisconsin and two-time defending Mid-American Conference champion Central Michigan.

But before they can worry about any of those opponents, or the Fighting Illini for that matter, Indiana must fix its problems.

The Hoosiers need more defensive stops, more consistency on offense and, clearly, stronger second-half performances, which have been a growing problem over the past month when they've been outscored 57-7.

Lynch acknowledged that much last week.

"I understand what you're saying," he said. "We have to execute better in the second half. You know, we've either turned it over, had foolish penalties or shot ourselves in the foot on third down. Those are things you have to do to win football games."

Apparently, the Hoosiers didn't respond to the message.

Indiana had a chance to get right back in the game against Iowa after scoring late in the first half to make it 17-9, then failed to get a first down on its opening series of the second half and let Iowa drive down the field for a touchdown that started the rout and had fans heading home.

Lynch knows his team can't afford to keep playing two-quarter games.

"We've got to play better," he said.

The key will be to find some solutions.

Last week, Lynch changed the offensive line, moving Pete Saxon from guard to center and inserting Andrew McDonald in Saxon's old spot. Yet Indiana managed only 95 yards on 28 carries and when Lewis left late in the first half, never quite got in sync.

Lynch isn't planning major changes this week.

Other, perhaps, than changing directions.

"One of those (points of emphasis) is turnovers and taking care of the football. Certainly, we need to create turnovers, too," Lynch said. "We have to get better with our fundamentals, too, sustaining blocks longer, breaking tackles and that sort of thing. We just have to get better."



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