The Hoosiers (2-5, 0-4) have let up an even 100 points in their last two games, and an average of 40 points per game on their current five-game skid.
“I think we got banged up a little bit mentally,” junior safety Nick Polk said. “But the guys have come together, and we have said we are going to stick together and pull through this.”
Slowing the landslide of points won’t get any easier this Homecoming weekend, when the Hoosiers welcome to Bloomington the Northwestern Wildcats, a team with two dynamic facets to its offensive attack.
The first head on the Wildcats’ offensive front is tailback Tyrell Sutton.
Sutton comes into Saturday’s contest averaging just shy of 100 yards on the ground per game. But Sutton also comes out of the backfield to make big catches for NU. The Akron, Ohio, native has 28 grabs for 262 yards so far this season, with two touchdowns.
Sutton is a smaller back – at 5-foot-9, 205 pounds – than the last two backs to run over the Hoosiers: Shonn Greene of Iowa and Jason Ford of Illinois. Greene had 115 yards and a score in Bloomington on Oct. 11, and Ford had 172 yards and three scores last weekend against IU.
But senior safety Austin Thomas warned Sutton is bigger in person than what paper shows.
“Wait till you see this guy’s legs,” Thomas said. “He’s a thick guy. He is a little quicker in space than Shonn Greene and Ford, who we played the other night. But he’s quick; he’s a good back.”
Sutton helps to distract defenses from quarterback C.J. Bachér, who is equally formidable.
After Bachér lit up opposing teams for 3,656 yards, seventh-most in Big Ten history, Sporting News named the California native the Big Ten’s “Best Player Under Pressure.”
In seven games, Bachér has tallied solid offensive numbers, including a 112.6 passing efficiency, 1,545 yards through the air with 10 touchdowns. Bachér can also run – he has two rushing scores and 180 net yards.
“(Bachér) has played well,” IU coach Bill Lynch said in his weekly press conference Tuesday. “He operates the offense, get’s the ball where he is supposed to and is an accurate thrower.”
Taking in the individual skills of Bachér and Sutton, where Northwestern might really hurt the Hoosier ‘D’ is with the play-action pass, a weakness as of late with IU.
“(The corners against Illinois) didn’t execute their techniques.” Lynch said. “They had their eyes on the backfield instead of on the receiver. That’s fundamentals, technique and concentration. That all adds up to that inconsistency we have been talking about.”
But even with the threats Northwestern’s bus carries into town, Polk said he is assured in his defense’s ability, citing a strong week of practice.
“I definitely feel a lot more confident coming into this week,” he said. “We have had guys flying around like it was the beginning of the season. ... I think we are ready to play.”
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