Prior to Indiana football’s 35-21 loss against the University of Nebraska on Saturday night, concerns arose about who redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak’s weapons on the offensive end were going to be. While many Indiana receivers caught passes, they weren’t enough to fill the shoes of a few Hoosier teammates.
After an injury in last week’s game, there were questions surrounding whether or not Indiana graduate student wide receiver DJ Matthews Jr. would be ready to go ahead of the game against the Cornhuskers.
When it was announced that not only Matthews would be out, but also junior receiver Cam Camper with a non-COVID-19-related illness, it meant Indiana would be without its two primary weapons against Nebraska.
“They’re huge parts of our offense,” Bazelak said after the game. “It’s tough not having them.”
Camper and Matthews were first and second in all of Indiana’s receiving statistics. With a total of 616 receiving yards between the two, the remaining 12 Hoosier receivers had just 555 yards through the first four games of the season.
With the combination of Bazelak coming into the Nebraska matchup throwing over 200 passes throughout the first four games of the season and Nebraska’s suboptimal passing defense, it was apparent that Indiana would look to focus its offense through the air.
A quiet first quarter from the Hoosiers’ passing offense affirmed the gravity of Camper’s and Matthews’ absence. Bazelak had just 11 passing yards on two completions.
Bazelak had a stronger second quarter, though, finishing the half with 11 completions for 148 yards.
The second quarter started with a 24-yard completion to Indiana senior running back Josh Henderson. On the same drive, senior wide receiver Emory Simmons reeled in a 13-yard reception, notching the third down conversion.
The best sequence came with six minutes left in the quarter. Bazelak had a series of eight-straight completions, finding five different receivers for a total of 117 yards and a touchdown reception by Simmons.
Bazelak’s ninth completion went to the Cornhuskers for an interception.
The passing attack fell flat and led to Hoosiers’ demise against the Cornhuskers. In the first half, Bazelak had seven completions for more than 10 yards, but in the second half, he had just three.
“We had some guys step up and made some plays,” Bazelak said. “We just have to find more ways to make more. I’ve got to be more accurate on some balls.”
Bazelak finished the game 22-44 with 223 yards and one touchdown. Saturday’s game marked his second to worst performance in terms of completion and yardage, and it came against the worst passing defense in the Big Ten.
For reference, Bazelak had 330 yards against Illinois, a team that had just 589 total passing yards given up entering week five, ranked third in the Big Ten.
“This whole offense is not good enough,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said after the loss.
Last week, Camper had 126 yards on 10 receptions in Indiana’s loss to the University of Cincinnati. This week, the Hoosiers' two leading receivers — Simmons and junior Andison Coby — had just 111 total yards on 11 receptions between the two.
Without his primary weapons, Bazelak couldn’t produce, and the depth of Indiana’s receiving core couldn’t answer the call Saturday night against the Cornhuskers.
Indiana’s record fell to 3-2 on the season, and the Hoosiers will return home to take on No. 4 Michigan riding a two-game losing streak.