On Saturday, the Hoosiers (2-1) will attempt to end that streak as they travel to Evanston, Ill., to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (4-0).
“It’ll be a good challenge going up there,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “We have talked for a long time with our team about improving and playing better Big Ten games, so this is our first challenge, and it’s a road challenge.”
Just barely ranked outside the top 25, Northwestern has shown its ability to beat top-tier opponents. The Wildcats were the first team this season to beat three BCS-level teams, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Boston College.
Northwestern brings with it an offense that contains the dual-quarterback threat of Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian as well as running back Venric Mark, who is averaging about 100 yards per game.
The Wildcats defense has allowed fewer than 19 points per game and fewer than 73 rushing yards per game. Northwestern poses a threat the Hoosiers have not faced the likes of this season.
“We’ve got numbers on these kids, some of their key guys where we have to know where they’re at on every down,” IU Co-defensive Coordinator Doug Mallory said. “Those guys are numbered, so our kids need to be tuned in and execute the game plan.”
When the Hoosiers faced Northwestern last season at Memorial Stadium, they lost 59-38.
Heading into this year’s game, the team is expecting another shootout. Northwestern has averaged about 31 points per game while IU has scored 36 per game.
However, IU has the opportunity to create trouble on Ryan Field and potentially pull off the upset.
The Hoosiers currently rank among the top 10 in the nation in yards per game offensively and also lead all Big Ten teams in passing yards per game with 326.
Northwestern, meanwhile, ranks last in the conference in pass defense, allowing about 295 yards per game.
The Wildcats have not won a Big Ten home opener since 2004.
“They play well as a team, but if you get one of their defenders in a one-on-one situation, they miss tackles,” junior running back Stephen Houston said. “We’re just going to put them on islands, and then we’ll make the plays.”
Throughout this week, Wilson has reiterated that despite getting a hip pointer during the Ball State game, sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman will start Saturday afternoon.
Despite sophomore starting linebacker Chase Hoobler possibly not playing due to a nerve injury, Wilson noted his team is mostly healthy heading into Evanston.
With that good health, he said it will be critical for IU to play well in all three areas of the game Saturday, offense, defense and special teams.
“Every day is getting better for us and our program,” Wilson said. “It’s a great challenge to go to Evanston, but we’ll be challenging our team to play some Big Ten football and win.”
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