On a two-game skid, Indiana football faces its biggest challenge yet, No. 4 Michigan. Ahead of their matchup Saturday, head coach Tom Allen discussed the Hoosiers’ keys to beating the Wolverines on homecoming weekend.
It was a treacherous showing from the Hoosiers last Saturday against Nebraska, losing 35-21. The game featured over 200 yards worth of penalties, 92 of which were at the fault of the Hoosiers.
“They have to be avoided,” Allen said in a press conference Thursday. “Crimes against the team — those kill drives on offense. We have to eliminate those.”
Over the past week, Allen said the team worked on evaluating each penalty in an effort to understand what was executed poorly. He said, while some were technique issues, a couple were selfish indicating a lack of discipline.
Another major focus through practice for the Hoosiers is getting the offense back on track and building consistency. Allen emphasized repetition as a huge key to getting the offense going.
“You make replacements for guys if a guy is not able to get it fixed,” Allen said. “Getting guys in the right sports in regard to their alignments.”
As for Indiana’s leading receivers graduate student DJ Matthews Jr. and junior Cam Camper, Allen said their status is still relatively unknown. Matthews was sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered in the second half against the University of Cincinnati and will be a game-time decision. Camper is still fighting through a non-COVID-related illness that sidelined him last week.
Possibly without his top two receiving weapons, Bazelak and the Hoosiers offense are shifting towards playing through the tight ends.
“We have to make sure that those guys are targeted,” Allen said. “They do a great job securing the football and making those catches. It has been a priority without a question to be able to get all of those guys at every different position to be as balanced as we can be in terms of ball distribution.”
Last week, junior tight end AJ Barner had just three catches for 23 yards. He was the only tight end to catch a pass against the Cornhuskers.
Allen said he and his team understand that their matchup with No. 4 Michigan will be challenged going up against an offense that is multidimensional.
“They run the ball extremely well,” Allen said. “It is the strength of their offense. They throw the ball effectively, but they want to establish the run game.
The Wolverines' top running back, junior Blake Corum, has 376 yards and three touchdowns on 59 rushing attempts against Big Ten teams.
Against Illinois junior running back Chase Brown and Nebraska junior running back Anthony Grant, Indiana has given up 335 yards on 68 rushing attempts to lead backs in Big Ten games this season.
Allen understands that the strength of the schedule doesn’t end with Michigan but hopes his team can respond despite the challenge.
“It's not getting any easier for us with who we are going to play and who we have to execute against,” Allen said. “These teams continue to increase in their talent level, and the way that they are playing — we have to elevate ours as well.”
Indiana takes on Michigan coming in as a 22.5-point underdog. The two teams kick off at noon Saturday and will air on FOX.
“That is the challenge for sure and that is where we put ourselves,” Allen said. “We have to be able to respond.”