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Thursday, June 13
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Defensive plays stem from focus in IU practice

IU-Illinois Football

The IU coaching staff emphasized fundamentals, execution and intensity all week in practice.

The defense responded on Saturday.

The Hoosier defense forced three turnovers and made key defensive stops in the red zone to help IU to a 27-14 win against Illinois.

“We came out with so much intensity, it was contagious,” senior cornerback Ray Fisher said. “We took it from the first play and kept going and going and never stopped.”

On two occasions, IU made stops in the red zone as Illinois threatened to score.

With a 7-3 lead, Illinois recovered a Tandon Doss fumble bringing the Illini 29 yards from making it a two-score game. After Illinois reached the 15-yard line, IU forced two consecutive negative rush plays, and freshman defensive tackles Larry Black and Adam Replogle combined for a sack on Illini quarterback Juice Williams to stall the drive.

Illinois kicker Matt Eller then missed the ensuing field goal attempt, failing to capitalize on Doss’ fumble.

The Hoosiers made their second key stop in the third quarter. With IU leading 13-7,
Williams completed two long passes, and Illinois reached the Hoosiers’ 6-yard line. However, senior defensive end Jammie Kirlew knocked the ball out of Williams’ hand on the second down. Fisher scooped up the ball and returned it to the 32-yard line.

Illinois never threatened IU’s lead the rest of the game.

“You just have to step up and make big plays,” Kirlew said about the forced fumble. “With them being so close to scoring, it was big for us to get that ball out.”

Kirlew emphasized the team’s week-long preparation as the key to the victory.

Following consecutive losses to Ohio State and Virginia, Lynch and the coaching staff utilized more live-tackling drills in practice and tried to encourage competitiveness between the first team offense and defense.

“We honestly felt like the game was won before we stepped on the field,” Kirlew said, “not because we were overconfident, not because we knew we were the better team, but because we had a great practice and the confidence was back.”

IU co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic said he was proud of his team’s effort Saturday and also pointed to the preparation throughout the week as the key.

“We made an effort in practice all week in playing physical and doing tackling drills,” Palcic said. “I don’t know if you forget how to tackle or you just need to be reminded with an emphasis on it, but we came out and tackled much better.”

Illinois’ offensive statistics might show they were able to develop a solid run game (185 rushing yards) and pass game (258 passing yards), but Kirlew said his team tackled much better than last week and made the necessary stops to keep the opposition off the scoreboard.

Lynch said earlier in the week that his team’s losing streak came from losing the turnover battle and giving up too many big plays against Virginia and Ohio State.

“I thought the defense did a great job the whole game,” Lynch said. “They played the kind of defense we want to play. We didn’t give up big plays – we gave up the one touchdown pass in the first half, but other than that, we made them earn it.”

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