Indiana football came into its game against Purdue on Saturday hoping to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket. To start the game, things looked promising with sophomore quarterback Dexter Williams II making his second career start and putting the Hoosiers up 7-3 in the first half.
However, late in the first quarter, as Williams rolled to his left looking for a receiver, he collapsed without contact when his knee buckled. Following the injury, Indiana had to change its entire offensive game plan for the rest of the game.
“It was a devastating loss,” head coach Tom Allen said.
After beginning the game with an option-heavy run-based offense, the Hoosiers quickly had to switch back to the pass-heavy attack that they had implemented earlier this season.
In his one quarter of action, Williams attempted just one pass for five yards and successfully led the Hoosiers down the field. On Indiana’s first drive, he pitched the ball to freshman running back Jaylin Lucas who did the rest for a 71-yard rushing touchdown.
Following that first quarter, Lucas did not receive nearly as many carries after Williams left the game and finished the game with 100 yards on nine attempts.
With Williams in the game, the mindset for Indiana on fourth down was also different. Twice early in the game, Indiana went for it and was successful on fourth down. With junior quarterback Connor Bazelak and a more pass-heavy offense, the team opted for less aggression on fourth downs until the game was out of reach.
In his three quarters of action, Bazelak went 24-42 with 201 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The discrepancy in Indiana’s passing attempts between Williams and Bazelak was obvious.
“He came in there and gave it all he had,” Allen said. “We had to use two different game plans in the game.”
Another key difference between the two identities of the offense was the time of possession. With the option-based offense, the team kept the ball away from Purdue while also getting points, whereas the heavy pass offense allowed the opposing offense to get more opportunities to score.
The other notable difference in the outcomes for the Hoosier offense after the switch was red zone efficiency. With a heavy run attack, it is easier to grind out yards when the field gets shorter and with the pass heavy offense, receivers aren’t as open as the field gets tighter.
“A lot of red zone opportunities, just not enough touchdowns,” Allen said.
With the season coming to an end and both Williams and Bazelak most likely returning next year, it will be another offseason with uncertainty at the position. Allen said the playbook will also be altered for next season.
“I absolutely see that we need to shape the playbook more around mobile play,” Allen said.
Indiana finishes with a 4-8 record in the loaded Big Ten East and looks to come back and improve once more next year.