For years, the IU football program used the moniker “Running Back U.”
After IU’s struggles to run the ball the past two seasons, it shouldn’t be used anymore.
IU hasn’t been able to effectively run the ball all season and it cost the Hoosiers in a big way in a 45-17 loss to No. 9 Wisconsin on Saturday. Wisconsin’s rushing attack was dominant, while IU’s attack was nearly non-existent.
The Badgers outrushed the Hoosiers by nearly 200 yards. That’s what Wisconsin football is known for, and IU was powerless to stop it.
“We didn’t run the football well enough, that’s for sure,” IU Coach Tom Allen said. “We didn’t stop run well enough, for sure.”
Against Big Ten Conference opponents, IU has been outrushed in four out of six games. In games against Ohio State, Michigan, Maryland and Wisconsin, IU averaged just over 52 rushing yards per game.
That’s not going to cut it, even if those rushing defenses are some of the best in the Big Ten.
Coming in to Saturday’s game, IU had the 102nd ranked offense, per Football Study’s Hall S&P + ranking. The ineptitude of IU's offense is due to the lack of a rushing attack.
In past years, the Hoosiers had NFL running backs in Tevin Coleman and Jordan Howard, along with NFL-caliber offensive linemen in Dan Feeney and Jason Spriggs. IU doesn’t have the line talent or the running backs of years past and it shows.
Upfront, IU’s offensive line hasn’t been up to par this season and it hurts both the rushing and the passing attack. No matter who the quarterback has been this season, they haven’t had the requisite time to survey the opposing defense because the offensive line consistently gives up pressure and fails to open holes for the running backs.
The disparity between the two teams was most visible on first downs. Wisconsin gained an average of 6.5 yards per rush on first down, while IU only mustered 1.6 yards per rush on first down.
Wisconsin had the ball for nearly 20 more minutes than IU did. While time of possession doesn’t mean everything, this mean that IU’s defense was on the field for nearly two-thirds of the game.
The Badgers’ offense wore down IU’s defense over the course of the afternoon. Allen said that the fatigue was a problem for the Hoosiers.
“They’re just big, big men for sure, a lot of them,” Allen said. “So, that definitely took its toll.”
Wisconsin’s offensive line was better than IU’s defensive line all afternoon.
“They were able to reach some of our (linebackers) and we misfit a couple of the runs, obviously right off the gate,” senior safety Chase Dutra said. “We had to buckle down and it was a tough day on the run game.”
Wisconsin freshman running back Jonathan Taylor gashed IU for 183 yards on 29 carries.
“He’s a bigger back that we’ve faced this year so we had to do a better job of wrapping up,” senior linebacker Tegray Scales said. “He’s just a bigger back that doesn’t go down on first contact.”
The Badgers had 52 rushing attempts to 21 for the Hoosiers. Wisconsin just exerted its will on IU for most the game.
But it all comes back to IU’s offensive line. It’s been the most disappointing position group this season and they might keep IU from getting to its third straight bowl game.
With three games left, there’s no more breakthrough for the Hoosiers — it’s all comes down to breaking even.
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