Tournament season starts early for Indiana men’s football.
A win over Maryland on Sunday earned the Hoosiers a fourth straight Big Ten title in the regular season. A loss ends the streak and doom them to second or third place in the Big Ten tournament.
This Friday edition of the Q49 Journal breaks down Indiana’s biggest game of the season so far, drawing inspiration from past performances and past encounters between the Big Ten’s perennial contenders.
HOW IS MARYLAND HERE?
Maryland enters Halloween weekend ranked # 7 in last United football coaches poll, with an overall record of 11-3-1 and a conference record of 4-2-1.
The Terrapins’ path to a regular season title requires them to win at home against the Hoosiers, and for the Wisconsin game against Penn State to end in a draw or loss for the Nittany Lions.
As this week dawned, Maryland was in control of its fate, taking on Penn State and Indiana in the span of six days. Things went well against Penn State, with goals from Ben Bender and Caden Stafford in less than 30 minutes putting themselves on the path to a road victory. However, the Terrapins started to crumble just before half-time with Nittany Lions forward Peter Mangione shooting at home from eight yards after poor defense inside the box.
A touch from Maryland inside their half turned into a touch at the back post for Seth Kuhn, sending the game into overtime. The Terrapins will consider themselves unlucky that a deflected golden goal from a free-kick has doomed them to defeat, but losing a game from a position of strength will be worrying for head coach Sasho Cirovski.
While that’s a rather flawed way of looking at performance, the conceded goals follow a flighty pattern from the Maryland defense. In seven conference games, Maryland conceded eight goals, knocking out only Rutgers in a goalless draw.
Maryland’s key player sits in midfield, with Ben Bender, whose six goals and four assists lead the team in both categories. The first goal against Penn State was a magnificent left-footed outside shot from the edge of Bender’s 18-yard box.
The nation’s best freshman in Top Drawer Soccer’s Mid-season Top 100 Freshman Joshua Bolma will also pose a threat to the Indiana defense who have maintained shutouts in their last seven games.
Blessed with individual talent, Maryland is seventh in the country for a reason. Indiana will need to be disciplined and focused on defense if he hopes to finish the regular season on his shutout streak.
HOW IS THE INDIANA HERE?
My last article explained Indiana’s defensive problems in the first eight games of the season. Sitting 5-2-1 at time of publication and conceding just over one goal per game, Indiana followed with a 2-1 home loss to Michigan.
A slight panic took hold among the fan base. But not in the Hoosiers locker room.
Indiana has won seven straight wins, conceding none and scoring 21 goals (at a net rate of three per game). Their last game against VCU was the culmination of a season of improvement and tune-up. The Hoosiers scored two goals in eleven minutes against a team that had the best 25 votes the day before.
âTonight you could feel it from the start. I felt great all night, âIndiana head coach Todd Yeagley said after the game.
The reintroduction of Sam Sarver into the starting lineup worked wonders, as he scored twice and assisted another in his best individual game of the season.
“That was one of the reasons we put him in tonight, we knew he could wreak a lot of havoc in that press,” Yeagley said after the game.
Indiana is all the rage at the right time. For more on VCU’s victory, Jared Kelly wrote a great post on Indiana’s Global Night.
HOW DID THESE MATCHES GO?
Heading into the season, Indiana and Maryland were not to be fighting to become the dominant force in the Big Ten. Indiana was a unanimous first pick in the preseason poll after a national championship appearance, but Maryland was selected fourth behind Penn State and Michigan.
A regular season later, however, sees them play the deciding title game.
Last season, the Hoosiers and Terrapins met in the semi-finals of the Big Ten tournament, Indiana winning 2-0 on the back of a double from Victor Bezerra.
The starting XI this fall will be slightly different, as Indiana has asked Brett Bebej to replace injured Spencer Glass at left-back, now-graduated AJ Palazollo in midfield and Nate Ward in the lead. Expect Glass to return, and potentially Ben Yeagley and Sarver to start in College Park on Halloween.
The predominant creative force for Indiana in the spring meet came from the right side, with Brett Bebej’s defensive lean to the left-back allowing Nyk Sessock to freely bombard forward, providing breadth and support from a deeper position. He scored his first assist in Indiana with a nice right-footed ball into Bezerra inside the box.
His role will likely be more balanced this time around, with Glass also looking to attack from the left-back position in his last regular-season game in an Indiana jersey.
Bezerra’s passing is noteworthy on my second viewing of the game. He frequently dropped deep into midfield and extended the ball, mostly to the right wing for Herbert Endeley to release him in 1v1. Considering Maryland’s crossball fight against Penn State, expect the junior to play a slight quarterback role again.
The final game at College Park was strongly one-sided for the Terrapins, who scored three goals in half an hour. That game dates back to 2019, however, and six of the starters have since left Indiana.
Expect the atmosphere and the occasion to play a big part in the early proceedings. Indiana would be well advised to be more careful on their press than they were against VCU. Both teams can start quickly, but the home atmosphere could prevail over the opening moments with the crowd behind them.
Indiana’s regular season is over in many ways. Every match from now until December increases the chances of winning money.
A legendary quadruple double trade for the Hoosiers. It’s time to reach out and claim it.