Indiana football heads into week three undefeated and with a conference win already under its belt, but the feelings around the locker room aren’t sanguine. After the team’s late arrival to last Saturday’s win over the University of Idaho, the focus through practice this week is consistency.
Coming back in the second half and beating the Vandals Saturday, the Hoosiers were shut out in the first half where they recorded only 110 yards of total offense. While the offense came alive in the second half, big plays given up on the defensive end didn’t bode well for head coach Tom Allen’s outlook on the game.
[Related: Come rain, come shine: Indiana football wakes up in second half, squeaks past Idaho]
In a very Kobe-esque manner, Allen, displeased by his team’s performance, and the Hoosiers come into practice this week looking to draw attention to a lack of focus throughout the game.
Defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Chad Wilt is hopeful the Hoosiers’ attention off the field will translate to success on the field.
“How you prepare is usually how you play,” Wilt said.
Allen emphasizes he and his team must, in his mind, do something they’ve never done before: put together their best effort for all four quarters of the game — playing from start to finish. He said he is still fortunate that his team was able to learn after a win — something he acknowledges doesn’t always happen.
One of the bright spots from last week’s game was freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough, to whom Allen gave defensive player of the game recognition.
“He’s pretty unique,” Allen said. “He has a high football IQ mixed with a strong work ethic.”
[Related: COLUMN: Indiana puts fans through 30 minutes of misery before deciding to play good football]
Last year, Indiana blew past Idaho en route to a 56-14 win. Only two weeks into the season, it looked as if Indiana’s offense would be a mainstay for the rest of 2021.
However, the 56 points from Indiana’s year-old offense would prove to be misleading, and the Hoosiers’ failed to crack more than 35 points in their matchup with the Vandals over the weekend.
Newcomers transfer redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak and offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Walt Bell looked to overcome the lackluster offense from a year ago. Two games into this season, Indiana has recorded more than 300 yards from its quarterback, more than 100 yards from senior running back Shaun Shivers and more than 100 yards from junior wide receiver Cam Camper, all single-game statistics.
The connection between Bazelak and Bell and what the starting quarterback credits as a shared football mindset between the two have led to success.
“We’re always going to be attacking the defense in the run game,” Bazelak said in a press conference Monday. “Not going to be conservative when we're winning games — we're going to try and win by more.”
The attacking mindset Bazelak is referring to is exactly what Bell said he wants for Indiana’s offense. So far this season, the Hoosiers have possessed the ball in significantly less time than their opponent. Along with that, four of Indiana’s seven touchdowns this year have resulted from plays eclipsing 25 yards.
Bell compares this type of football style to playing basketball at an upbeat tempo.
“You want to run up and down the floor and have fun,” Bell said.
The respect between the two isn't one-sided either. Bell takes great confidence in his quarterback’s ability to be “even-keeled” at all times.
“No matter what, he’s the exact same guy all the time,” Bell said. “A mistake doesn't rattle him, and something good doesn't change his demeanor.”
Allen and the Hoosiers will stay in Bloomington for a third-consecutive week as they welcome Western Kentucky University for a noon kickoff Saturday.