Indiana football possessed an offense desperately in need of a revival after 2021, a season in which it ranked last place offensively in the Big Ten Conference. With that in mind, head coach Tom Allen brought in former University of Massachusetts head coach Walt Bell to serve as Indiana’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Throughout the offseason, Indiana’s offense was essentially kept a secret to the public. After all, the player starting at quarterback for Indiana was unknown until the Hoosiers took the field Friday night against the University of Illinois. Redshirt junior Connor Bazelak was eventually named the starter, confirming Indiana would use its University of Missouri transfer quarterback in the new offensive system.
Bazelak quickly gained trust from the Indiana fanbase. On just his second pass attempt as a Hoosier, the quarterback completed a 40-yard pass to junior wide receiver Cam Camper.
Bazelak and Indiana wasted no time while on offense, going no-huddle on multiple occasions. The Hoosiers played an offensive game pace that draws a familial resemblance to former Indiana men’s basketball head coach Branch McCracken’s “Hurryin’ Hoosiers”: a nickname given to his team’s common fast-break style of basketball.
After the huge completion, Bazelak wasn’t done. The Hoosier quarterback threw for 36 yards, going 4-11 in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Bazelak let it loose and found graduate student wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. for 52 yards and a touchdown. Within the next seven passing attempts, Bazelak found Camper for 39 yards and senior wide receiver Emery Simmons for 24 yards.
By the end of the first half, Bazelak had more passing plays above 10 yards — six — than below — five. The big play activity certainly fell to the Hoosiers’ advantage, but a mere 12 rushing yards only allowed the Hoosiers a one-score lead of 16-10 going into halftime. Bazelak finished the first half 11-24 with 205 yards and a touchdown, undoubtedly one of the better quarterback stat lines Hoosiers fans have seen in recent games.
Bazelak continued to rack up incompletions throughout the game, but the inability to hit his receivers was not the problem. Much like Indiana’s lack of rushing yards, the fault was with Indiana’s offensive line.
In the second half, it appeared Bazelak’s luck ran out when on the second play he notched another first in a Hoosier uniform, an interception. An 11-24 first half turned into 18-37 through three quarters, and he was unable to produce a passing play eclipsing 10 yards.
While the Illinois defense was able to get to Bazelak on numerous occasions, his awareness to get out of the pocket and throw towards the sideline came to the quarterback’s aid. It wasn’t until the last play of the third quarter the Illinois defense finally got Bazelak down behind the line of scrimmage.
Entering the fourth quarter, it seemed as if there was not much more to tell about Indiana’s offense. With a couple of huge takeaways and stops from Indiana’s defense, the Hoosiers' offense looked dead in the water. After a Camper fumble with 4:36 left to play, it seemed to have stayed that way.
Bazelak and the ‘Hurryin’ Hoosiers' were put to the test on a potential game-winning drive with 2 minutes and 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Despite only having 32 total rushing yards leading up to that moment, a string of big plays landed the Hoosiers in the endzone and gave them the win Friday night over Illinois.
Despite a few kinks that still need to be worked out, Indiana has seen immense improvement on the offensive end thanks to the new additions of Bell and Bazelak.