Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Tuesday, Feb. 27
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

IU's evolving offense pays out

As the Hoosiers continue their march through the Big Ten season and toward a possible bowl game, the element of surprise has played a crushing role.  

In their near victory at Michigan, IU opened the rushing playbook, sending men in motion and confusing the defense on the way to a 197-yard, three-touchdown domination on the ground.

And against Illinois on Saturday, the pistol formation – the basis of the team’s offense in the first half of the season – virtually vanished. The Hoosiers revealed new passing formations, and junior quarterback Ben Chappell burst out with 333 yards and three touchdowns.

In the wake of his team’s only victory since a 38-21 win at Akron, IU coach Bill Lynch said the success of the passing game last week doesn’t affect the plan of attack.  

“It really hasn’t changed our offense,” Lynch said. “One of the things we hoped with the pistol offense was to be able to run the ball well enough to force defenses to defend the run. If you get defenses totally committed to defending the run, you have a better chance of getting your receivers one-on-one on the outside where they have a chance to make plays.”

Until last weekend, the pistol offense alone hadn’t given the receivers that chance.
With the new looks and plays IU installed against Illinois, they were finally able to show their skills.  

When sophomore wideout Damarlo Belcher made a catch in the open field, he sent an Illinois defensive back looking for his ankles with a juke-move only seen on video games, freeing open space for a touchdown.  

As Belcher’s athletic ability wowed, other receivers made subtler, yet equally as impressive, plays.  

Sophomore wide receiver Tandon Doss ruled the passing lanes, grabbing seven catches for 130 yards and a TD, and senior tight end Troy Wagner made a terrific falling catch.  

IU exploded through the air last Saturday, but it’s more of an exception than the norm.

The IU offense is built around the rushing attack, and they have a cabinet of players to implement into the game plan.  

Running back coach Dennis Springer said the team’s use of different looks was in the spring plans, and despite the production from passing the ball, the running backs will continue to play a vital role.

Which running backs will play the part, though, has changed from a dilemma to a one-man race.  

The emergence of freshman running back Darius Willis has given the Hoosiers a go-to option, and when healthy, he has assumed the role spectacularly. Springer said he knows he’ll need his full stable of backs in conference play, but the variety in the backfield has diminished.

Senior running back Demetrius McCray, the starter to begin the year, has had three games with one or no carries since a 134-yard performance against Western Michigan. Last week, McCray never touched the ball.

Junior Trea Burgess, who had his best game with 13 carries for 59 yards and a score in Akron, has had just 14 carries for 30 yards in the four games since.  

The Hoosiers will not get the same numbers from Chappell all year, so they will have to get back to the running-back-by-committee approach to succeed.  

Going into their battle with Northwestern, it’s unknown just what, or whom, the Hoosiers will use to come away with a win.

But that’s when they’ve been at their best.

Get stories like this in your inbox
Subscribe