Even when senior quarterback Richard Lagow was benched in the first week of October, Coach Tom Allen kept him as one of IU’s team captains.
The 23-year-old Lagow entered the season as the Hoosiers’ leader on offense. When he struggled throughout September and ultimately conceded the role of starter to freshman quarterback Peyton Ramsey, Lagow never abandoned his off-field responsibilities.
Now, after winning at Illinois on Saturday with Lagow under center, Allen and the rest of IU’s coaching staff are poised to ride their senior leader to what they hope will be two more wins and a third-straight bowl appearance.
“I've kept (Lagow) in that role as captain all through this whole process because his leadership has never wavered,” Allen said. “That's a tribute to him.”
Aside from the obvious decrease in snaps and stats, not much changed for Lagow while Ramsey quarterbacked the Hoosiers to a 1-3 record in four starts. Lagow still marched his way to midfield every Saturday for the pregame coin toss, and practiced each week with the same focus and mindset.
“Whenever the switch was made, I didn’t stop preparing like I was the starter,” Lagow said after Saturday’s win.
Lagow got on the field during two of Ramsey’s starts, with the latter coming Oct. 28 at Maryland. Ramsey took a beating that day and appeared to suffer injuries on two different plays. He hasn’t seen the field since, and although Allen said Monday that Ramsey likely could have played a few snaps against Illinois, Lagow hasn’t given the coach much reason to pause.
In the two-plus games since Lagow has reclaimed the job of starting quarterback, he’s thrown for 646 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions. That's been enough for Allen to confidently proclaim him starter again after the win this past weekend.
“Right now I would say Richard is the starter, and that isn’t going to change,” Allen said.
Allen’s declaration means that for the second time this season, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord is in the process of adjusting many of IU’s offensive sets to better suit Lagow.
When the switch from Lagow to Ramsey was made, that meant including more run-pass option plays and shorter throws for the smaller quarterback. With Lagow’s stronger arm back in the picture, DeBord said the passing game will look a bit different.
Major changes won’t be made this week alone, as DeBord and Lagow were able to use the last two weeks to work the system back into what it was earlier this season. But with Lagow now likely getting a mandate to start the rest of the way, the changes figure to be permanent and more pronounced. In the meantime, DeBord thinks he’s seen a smarter Lagow.
“I think he’s kind of been more patient with taking what’s given and not forcing things,” DeBord said.
Rutgers’ pass defense, ranked 60th out of 129 FBS teams in passing yards allowed, will visit Bloomington this weekend. If the Hoosiers pick up a win over the Scarlet Knights for the second year in a row, they’ll head into the Old Oaken Bucket game against Purdue with a bowl berth on the line.
These are the moments made for seniors who have the experience of playing in pressure situations. IU’s seniors – Lagow included – will be honored before their last home game this weekend. Then they’ll be given the task of carrying the Hoosiers to another win, with Lagow as the quarterback.
“(Lagow) just needs to continue to do what he's doing and play at a high level with confidence, and run the defense and run the offense and the team,” Allen said. “That's kind of what we give our seniors the charge of.”
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