After three games of Division I college football, IU junior quarterback Richard Lagow said he still needs to get better.
Nobody knew how the junior college transfer would perform in his first games replacing Nate Sudfeld at quarterback, but through three games, his Hoosiers are 2-1 and he has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-to-5.
So how can he get better?
The quarterback made a simple answer after the Ball State victory.
“The first game I would’ve liked to start better,” Lagow said. “The second game I would’ve liked to finish better.”
Unlike most seasons for the Hoosiers, the first game of the season wasn’t in Memorial Stadium. Lagow went to Miami to play Florida International for his first game with a Division I team.
That’s not an easy task for a quarterback who has a new feature running back and an offensive line that lost an NFL-caliber tackle.
The scrambled pieces were evident in the beginning of the FIU game, as the Hoosiers punted or turned the ball over on seven of their first nine drives.
But Lagow and the Hoosiers finished with two touchdowns in their last three drives in addition to a touchdown on junior linebacker Tegray Scales’ interception.
In the game against Ball State, IU scored 20 points in the first half but only scored 10 in the third quarter and none in the fourth quarter.
“We just want to continue to put the whole package together and then stack a lot of those up in a row,” Lagow said.
Now, with his worst game behind him – a 33-28 loss to Wake Forest, featuring five interceptions – the Hoosiers are limping into the Big Ten season, where they start with the Michigan State Spartans at home.
The defense was able to bind the Demon Deacons to just 10 offensive points off turnovers, but after five interceptions, many fans were calling for junior backup quarterback Zander Diamont.
IU Coach Kevin Wilson didn’t listen though. He left the junior transfer in, and Lagow responded by setting a single-game IU record for passing yards with 496. But it still wasn’t enough to overcome the Wake Forest lead.
Even with his teammates and coaches’ support, Lagow remained critical of himself after the loss though.
“If I would have handled as well as I could have, I would have stopped throwing interceptions,” Lagow said.
When he first arrived on campus to workout for the team, Wilson said he needed to work on his footwork, mobility and progression within the pocket. Wilson wouldn’t commit on a quarterback until a little more than a week before the season started.
But as the offseason workouts progressed, Wilson began to give Lagow and junior quarterback Zander Diamont the majority of the first-team reps, which then led to Lagow receiving the bulk of the snaps. Diamont and sophomore quarterback Danny Cameron split most of the back-up reps with freshman Austin King seeing some time.
Suddenly, Lagow was named the starter, and the fan base was ready to see what he could do at the position.
The fan base debated whether or not the new quarterback could lead the Hoosiers to a second bowl game in two years.
Against FIU, Lagow threw two different passes for 28 yards — his longest passes of the game — but both of them were dump offs to sophomore running back Mike Majette in the flat and senior wide receiver Mitchell Paige in the slot.
The fans didn’t see him let the ball fly like Sudfeld used to.
But in the first quarter against Ball State, Lagow stood in the pocket on his second drive, looked through his progression and fired the ball down the middle of the field 48 yards to sophomore receiver Nick Westbrook for a touchdown.
Memorial Stadium erupted in what was a long-awaited round of applause for the new transfer quarterback.
Lagow would go on to make throws of 79, 75, 65 and 50 yards throughout the next tow games as well.
“You just didn’t know how he’d handle it,” Wilson said about Lagow playing at a Division I level. “He’s always been kind of calm. He didn’t get rattled. But he’s been that way since he’s been here. Just had a nice look in his eye. Didn’t make the game bigger than it was.”
Now the atmosphere around Memorial Stadium is slightly different, as Lagow not only threw his first interception as a Hoosier, but his first five – in one game. That’s the second most in school history.
But Wilson remained high on him after the Wake Forest game, only blaming the quarterback for one interception.
His teammates remained supportive as well.
Senior receiver Mitchell Paige walked out of the stadium as Lagow talked to the media, turned toward his quarterback and said one sentence.
“Love you, Rich.”
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