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Three things to know: IU football looks to bounce back against UConn



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Redshirt junior defensive back Marcelino Ball runs with the ball during warmups Sept. 7 at Memorial Stadium. IU will play the University of Connecticut this weekend. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

As the crowd roared with excitement in Memorial Stadium this past weekend, IU came out flat as No. 6 Ohio State ran away with the game. The Hoosiers are trying to forget about the 51-10 thumping they received from the Buckeyes this past weekend and bounce back against the University of Connecticut.

“Don’t let Ohio State beat us twice,” senior offensive tackle Coy Cronk said.

IU must take the lessons it learned against Ohio State and forget the rest if it wants to avoid another blunder this weekend against UConn, a mistake that could sink its entire season.

Here are three things to know about the Huskies as the Hoosiers take on their final out-of-conference opponent.

 

UConn relies on a run-first offense.

So far this season, UConn’s offense has relied on the ground game to produce much of its offense. In their two games this season, the Huskies have only managed to get into the endzone four times while on offense, all of which coming on the ground.

The Huskies’ backfield is led by junior Kevin Mensah who has started the season strong with 177 rushing yards and two touchdowns in only two weeks of action. UConn also has senior transfer from Toledo University, Art Thompkins, as a change of pace back. Even though Mensah gets the majority of the team’s carries, Thompkins has been very efficient in his limited playing time, averaging 5.8 yards per carry.

Defending against the run has been a problem so far this season for the Hoosiers as their tackling continues to be a concern. Against Ohio State, 16 players on 11 different plays missed a tackle, which led to an additional 166 yards of offense for the Buckeyes.

“Obviously we got to continue to work on that,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “You know what you want and you don't get what you want and you just keep fixing it and keep working on it and you finally get to the point where you get it the way it's supposed to look, and right now we're not there yet.”

Saturday will be another good opportunity for IU to correct its mistakes while tackling against UConn’s run-heavy offense, similar to its performance in week two against Eastern Illinois University.

 

This isn’t the same UConn defense from last season.

There’s no if, ands or buts about it, UConn’s defense last year was bad. The Huskies were the fourth-worst defense in Division 1 football, giving up 519 yards per game and a staggering 6.77 yards per play.

This season, the Huskies defense has been much improved in their first two games.

So far this season, UConn ranks as the No. 19 defense in the country giving up only 271 yards per game. The Huskies have also been strong against the run early in the season, ranking inside the top 50 and allowing 116 yards per game on the ground, an area in which IU has struggled to perform on the other side of the ball.

“We need to improve the run game to give ourselves more manageable situations on third down,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said.

The Hoosier offense has stalled at times during their first three games and UConn’s new and improved defense will give IU another challenge to measure themselves against.

 

Jack Zergiotis takes the reins of the offense.

Last week against the University of Illinois, the freshman quarterback from Quebec, Canada, got his first taste of college football.

Zergiotis came to UConn this season as a two-star recruit and was ranked as the 78 dual-threat quarterback in his class according to 247 Sports.

Zergiotis didn’t play in UConn’s season opener against Wagner College but took over as quarterback in the team’s second game against Illinois after senior Mike Beaudry was a late scratch due to injury. Zergiotis completed 21-of-31 pass attempts for 275 yards against the Illini but also threw two interceptions in his debut as UConn lost 31-23.

“There’s something about that young man,” UConn head coach Randy Edsall said about Zergiotis after the Illinois game. “He kind of has a little bit of the it factor.”

Edsall has stated that Zergiotis will be the Huskies’ starting quarterback going forward, so Tom Allen and the IU defense won’t have to spend the week guessing who will be behind center when UConn takes the field Saturday.

IU announced that the word of the week is “passion,” and the Hoosiers will need to come out with a lot of it if they want to avoid disappointment from Ohio State leaking into this week’s game.

“I'm looking forward to seeing us respond in the right way,” Allen said as he walked off the podium.

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