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IU football look to improve running game


Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld hands the ball off to senior running back Stephen Houston on Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Ben Mikesell Buy Photos

“Our running stats are horrible,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “Our third down conversions are horrible. Our ability to score points when we get to the 35 is horrible. The other stats look good, but it doesn’t relate to points. And points relate to wins. And the run game relates to wins.”

Despite being “horrible” in the run game, IU’s offense was ranked second in total offense in the conference. However, it was fourth in points per game.

The offense was not able to score points in the red zone with efficiency. That’s where the role of a run game comes in with a pass-heavy offense.

“When the field gets smaller, the passing windows get tighter,” Wilson said. “So the run game gives you the balance to score.”

The Hoosiers run an offense that stresses an up-tempo pace, trying to keep the defense on its heels. They were the conference’s most proficient passing offense last season, the only team to average more than 300 passing yards per game.

Wilson has said he wants the offense to be more balanced, rather than so one-dimensional.

So far this season, IU has had mixed results.

In the season-opener against Indiana State, sophomore Tevin Coleman ran for 169 yards on just 14 carries, and the run game accounted for roughly 50 percent of the Hoosiers’ total yards.

Saturday against Navy, the leading rusher was sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who had 35 yards, while Coleman was held to 34 yards by the Midshipmen defense.

The Hoosiers were down most of the game, so IU had to throw the ball more often than run it. The run game accounted for only 25 percent of their total yards.

In 2012, the running game was one of the league’s worst. The Hoosiers averaged 131 yards per game, third least in the conference.

They left several hundred yards on the field, IU running backs Coach Deland McCullogh said.

“We went through the film from last year, me and all the backs. We estimated there was six or seven hundred yards we left on the field, just by poor reads,” he said. “Forget blocking, it’s poor reads.”

The goal of the no-huddle offense is to get more snaps than the other team, Wilson said. Last year, that didn’t happen in part because of the running game woes.

“We had games last year where we went 70 plays, and the opponent had 70 plays,” Wilson said. “The deal is, if you go no huddle, you need more plays. You want 80 or 85 cuts. Not 70 or 75. Then at the end, the time of possession is the same, but snaps played it’s 85 versus 65. We want to get to there.”

Last year’s leading rusher, senior Stephen Houston, said the goal for the team is to hit 95 percent of their reads and try to get back some of those yards they left on the field.

Houston lost his starting job earlier this year to Coleman, who said he is excited for the opportunity to be the primary back in a system he’s not used to running.

“It’s really different,” Coleman said. “In high school we ran something similar to Georgia Tech’s offense. It’s real different to line up in the back and just hit the holes like that. It was definitely hard to get used to because I’ve never really ran in a hole like that.”

His teammates also had to adapt.

“The receivers have to adjust to the system, too,” senior wideout Kofi Hughes said.
Because of the unusual style of offense, the receivers have to be prepared and play their part in the running game.

“The things we always say as wideouts is we need to DTP — dominate the perimeter,” Hughes said. “The O-line blocks for five or six yards. We block for touchdowns.”

Whether or not Houston will see many carries this season is not known, as McCullogh said he wants there to be one primary back this year.

“I told them no longer am I looking for a couple guys with two or three hundred yards and a guy with four or five hundred yards,” McCullough said. “We want a 1,000-yard back. A marquee guy.”

Follow reporter Evan Hoopfer on Twitter @EvanHoopfer.

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