Indiana football is poised to bounce back from its first loss of the season last week as the team goes on the road against Nebraska this Saturday. The Hoosiers will be playing in a Memorial Stadium, just not the one they’re used to when they take on the Cornhuskers at 7:30 p.m. in Lincoln, Nebraska.
In addition to both teams playing at a Memorial Stadium and wearing red, both Indiana and Nebraska have had a rough time on the defensive side of the ball so far to start the season
The Hoosiers give up an average of 429.3 yards per game through the first four games of the season and rank 13th out of the14 Big Ten Conference teams in total defense. The only team behind them? The Cornhuskers.
The luck that the Hoosiers have had hasn’t come for Nebraska in terms of their record. They come into this game 1-3, being one of two Big Ten teams with only one win in the conference. After starting the season 1-2, the Cornhuskers fired head coach Scott Frost after coaching in Lincoln for the past five seasons.
Nebraska named Mickey Joseph as their interim head coach, with him taking over for Frost on Sept. 11. In his first game, the Cornhuskers lost to No. 6 Oklahoma at home in a 49-14 blowout. Despite the loss, Joseph looks to build momentum at home against Indiana.
“Beating Indiana is the number one goal,” Joseph said Tuesday when speaking to the media. “It’s really important for this football team to get some confidence that they can start something and finish it.”
Indiana head coach Tom Allen admitted Thursday it’s hard to know what to expect from Nebraska after the departure of their head coach but is prepared for all possibilities.
While Nebraska’s defense has been the achilles heel for the Cornhuskers' success, their offense averages 451.0 yards a game, seventh in the Big Ten Conference.
Nebraska is led by junior quarterback Casey Thompson, a transfer from the University of Texas at Austin. Thompson averages 248.8 passing yards per game and has thrown just five touchdowns and three interceptions this season.
The other dimension of Nebraska’s offense features the running back tandem of freshman Ajay Allen and junior Anthony Grant. Both average about 5.7 yards per carry so far this season with a total of 654 rushing yards on the season, Grant having 464 of those yards.
“We are going to have to have it on full display on Saturday night against a very talented running back,” Allen said of Grant. “We are very impressed with his skill set.”
Allen said the main goal this week in practice from his staff was looking to address a problem that’s been a pain in their side in every game so far this season, putting together a strong four quarters of football.
“We haven’t started fast enough or strong enough,” Allen said. “It's gotta be all three phases that haven't been as focused in the beginning and we have to be able to play strong in the first quarter.”
As for Indiana redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak, he comes into this matchup with seven touchdowns to six different receivers and averages 292.8 yards per game with over 200 passing attempts so far this season. Most notably among his receivers, junior Cam Camper and graduate student DJ Matthews Jr. have led the way but the pair’s injury status for Saturday night’s game is still uncertain.
A main focus for the Hoosiers ahead of Saturday night will be to tighten up the secondary. Last week against the University of Cincinnati, Indiana gave up 314 passing yards and four touchdowns in just the first half.
“It’s very disappointing,” senior cornerback Taiwan Mullen said after last week’s loss against Cincinnati. “That’s not our DNA, that’s unacceptable.”
The Hoosiers look to bounce back in a matchup with the Cornhuskers as a 5-point underdog. The game is scheduled for this Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and will air on BTN.