“Disappointment” was a common word voiced by IU football players and coaches following Saturday’s 51-10 loss to No. 6 Ohio State. The Hoosiers bridged the gap with the Buckeyes in terms of talent and head-to-head results in recent years, but took a step backward this weekend.
Both IU head coach Tom Allen and the players have expressed their frustrations over the team’s first loss of the season, but they’ve made it a point they can’t let that game define their season.
The Hoosiers obviously had different expectations for themselves heading into this past weekend, but like senior defensive end Allen Stallings said, it’s time to move on to the next game. IU’s focus now shifts to University of Connecticut, which it plays on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
Here are three takeaways from Monday.
1. Penix is still day-to-day, but Ramsey and Tuttle are ready if needed.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. took the Hoosiers’ offense to new levels in his first couple of games as the starting signal caller but has been sidelined since aggravating an undisclosed injury last week in practice.
Allen said he anticipated this week to be another day-by-day evaluation for Penix that will lead to another game-time decision.
“He is a young quarterback and so getting him reps is very important,” Allen said. “So to me, it's a matter of if he can. If he is able to go, then he needs to go.”
It’s important to know that, despite their outings against Ohio State, junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey and freshman quarterback Jack Tuttle are reliable assets to IU’s coaching staff.
“I thought he competed his tail off for the entire game,” IU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said of Ramsey. “He had some guys closing in on him on the edges. It all just kind of snow balls on you because you have a 20 or 30-point deficit and you’re trying to force him.”
Ramsey went 19-of-33 passing for 162 yards and an interception that the Buckeyes returned for a touchdown. Tuttle came in off the bench for the second time in two weeks after having a few strong practices.
“Jack continues to come along,” DeBoer said. “He needs more reps to help him feel more comfortable, that’s why we put him out there the last two weeks. Super talented, as far as throwing the football. There’s no question he’s a fighter.”
2. Faults in run game have been exposed thus far.
Even in games against less-physical opponents like Ball State University and Eastern Illinois University, IU’s run game has struggled to make a significant impact on its offense.
The seven Hoosiers with rushing attempts Saturday combined for 42 yards on 31 carries. Sophomore running back Stevie Scott, who totaled over 1,000 yards on the ground last season, ran the ball six times for just nine yards against the Buckeyes.
Saturday’s effort on the ground may be a byproduct of game-planning against Ohio State’s challenging front seven, but IU’s running attack hasn’t developed much in the first three games of the season.
“It's always been a challenge to run the football against [Ohio State],” Allen said. “Sometimes it's just about a matter of just being able to, schematically and decision-making wise, be able to run the football more. Stevie had six carries, and so just to be able to get him more opportunities.”
Scott’s 37 rushing attempts give him the team lead, followed by freshman running back Sampson James. Given that Scott and James share time with two more backs and IU’s three quarterbacks have different tendencies with their feet, it’s possible the offense’s ground game doesn’t have an identity yet.
“We need to improve the run game to get ourselves better opportunities and more favorable situations on third down,” DeBoer said. “It’s all about finding our style, our niche, what fits us and how it goes together with the rest of the offense.”
3. Effort wasn't there, team responds with ‘flush it and learn’ approach.
Missed tackling has been a recurring point of emphasis for defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and his “Swarm D” unit. Saturday against the Buckeyes, the defense’s display of fully wrapping up ball carriers and bringing them to the ground was reflective of the team’s effort elsewhere on the field.
“It’s a mentality that you have to come in with,” Wommack said. “We’ve got to work on our technique, we’ve got to continue to improve in those things. I think more of it is focusing your eyes through the adversity, that to me is so much of what Tom [Allen] is trying to instill in this football team.”
Fifth-year linebacker Reakwon Jones, IU’s lone defender to speak with the media following the game, quietly said “It's not us,” when asked about the defense’s performance against Ohio State. The Hoosiers’ 16 missed tackles went for over 160 yards allowed after contact, rivaling their tackling woes in the season opener.
Senior receiver Nick Westbrook described IU’s offensive output Saturday as a “shocker,” but stressed the importance of flushing it and learning from their mistakes while they can.
“Take it to heart,” Westbrook said. “We’re embarrassed about how we performed this weekend and we’ll use that to fuel us the rest of the season.”
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