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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Nation's best run defense meets nation's top rusher

Junior running back Tevin Coleman breaks off a run during IU's game against Maryland on Sept. 27 at Memorial Stadium.

The IU offense is in an unfamiliar state with freshman quarterback Zander Diamont.

Statistically, the Hoosiers have gone from one of the nation’s most dynamic pass offenses to one of the worst.

IU is averaging just 152 yards per game through the air this season, ranking 118th of 128 teams.

Throughout the past two games with Diamont, IU has averaged 17.5 passing yards per game. The nation’s worst team in passing yards per game is Army, but even it averages 73 yards per game through the air.

Naturally, with the nation’s leading rusher in junior Tevin Coleman and a struggling defense, IU will likely rely on the ground attack this weekend at noon when it plays Penn State.

“A couple years ago, the pass game was pretty much all we had,” sophomore offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “We relied on that. But now that the O-line is developed, the running backs developed, we kind of relied on that more.”

The problem with that strategy is the opponent. Penn State is the nation’s best run defense, allowing just 77 yards per game.

One of Penn State’s best players at stopping the run has been Austin Johnson.

The 6-foot-4, 312-pound player impressed Penn State Coach James Franklin so much that he showed the entire team highlights of Johnson from its loss to Maryland to prompt players to give a similar effort.

On the other side of the ball, Coleman is still leading the nation in rushing with 162.5 yards per game.

While Penn State has built itself up on not allowing backbreaking runs — the Nittany Lions haven’t allowed a rush of more than 25 yards this year — Coleman thrives on it.

In all but one game this year, he has had a rush of at least 43 yards.

His per-game rushing average trumps 61 of the 125 Division I-A teams, including Penn State.

IU Coach Kevin Wilson mentioned IU wanting to put an emphasis on getting senior receiver Shane Wynn the ball more this week.

On 49 touches, Wynn has racked up 816 yards for an average of 16.7 yards per touch.

On 179 touches, Coleman has 1,440 yards, an average of 8.07 yards per touch.

Those numbers, combined with an inept passing game, prompted the coaching staff to install the Wildcat in the playbook last week.

In seven plays, the Wildcat only picked up 18 yards, 17 of which came on one Coleman rush.

Wilson said he didn’t think the Wildcat was a solution, but with the offense struggling to get into the red zone and score, Wilson isn’t afraid to get clever.

“We’re trying to evolve to what we can do to give us a chance to score,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to get the ball to our running backs. We’ve got to get the ball to Shane Wynn. We’ve got to get the ball down the field.”

On Sept. 20, IU had just defeated then-No. 18 Missouri, and Penn State was 4-0.

Since then, the teams have gone a combined 1-8.

The Nittany Lions haven’t been beaten badly, however.

Their last three games have been decided by a combined 13 points, including a one-point loss to Maryland last week and a loss to No. 13 Ohio State two weeks ago.

Wilson mentioned the word “bowl” Monday, but that would require IU figuring its offense out and beating three out of the four next opponents: Penn State, Rutgers, Ohio State and Purdue.

Penn State has lost its last four consecutive games after winning its first four.

But winning three of those games will be unrealistic if the IU offense can’t get going.

“What we’re trying to do is build on the positive that we have and find a way to accentuate our offensive line, accentuate Tevin Coleman,” IU offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “We’ve got to do a better job of getting the ball to Shane Wynn and really not putting the game solely on our quarterback’s shoulders.

“For sure it’s challenging, but we’ve got to get creative and find things we can go do and execute.”

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