Indiana's defense prevents disaster

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As stated in this space numerous times throughout the offseason, Indiana's season this fall ultimately hinges on a defense that has the pieces to be pretty decent.

Thursday night's opener against Eastern Kentucky showed why.

If not for several key defensive plays, Indiana would have suffered a demoralizing loss to the FCS Colonels. The Hoosiers needed their veteran defenders to step up and save the team in an unsightly 19-13 victory. Linebackers Matt Mayberry (2 tackles for loss, sack, pass breakup) and Will Patterson (sack for a safety) came up big, along with cornerback Ray Fisher, a converted wide receiver who forced a crucial fumble near Indiana's goal line early in the fourth quarter.

Fisher, by the way, had to sit out the first half because of an unspecified violation, one of several disciplinary issues among veteran IU players. But he and his fellow defenders made just enough plays to win.

Here's the hard truth: If Indiana doesn't markedly improve in several areas, it won't win another game. The Hoosiers lost the turnover battle 3-1, didn't generate a consistent rushing attack, struggled in the secondary and committed eight penalties. Ben Chappell (326 pass yards) did some nice things, but he needs help from the running backs.

As Herald-Times columnist Chris Korman wrote: "A veteran team appeared unprepared for a good, not great, FCS squad."

That doesn't bode well for head coach Bill Lynch, who is very much on the hot seat. Indiana won't beat Western Michigan next week without a much better effort.

But survival is the key, and thanks to several veterans on defense, Indiana stands at 1-0.