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Monday, June 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

‘Hard pill to swallow’: Indiana’s fourth down blunder a microcosm of inconsistent offense


INDIANAPOLIS — Tayven Jackson knew how close he was. He didn’t even want to see the replay.  

In Indiana football’s 21-14 loss to the University of Louisville Saturday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium, the redshirt freshman quarterback nearly spearheaded a comeback that seemed utterly improbable for an entire half. 

Trailing 21-14 with a little under five minutes remaining in the game, Jackson was in the midst of leading yet another methodical Hoosier drive. From the Cardinals’ eight-yard line, Jackson stepped up in the pocket to evade pressure and noticed green grass to his right. 

He charged toward the sideline and extended his left arm toward the pylon, knocking it over in the process. His teammates showered him with high fives and praise, but it quickly became moot. Jackson was a foot and a half shy of scoring. 

“We lost that game because I didn’t get in,” Jackson said after the game. “Finally, you get that moment, and it doesn’t go as planned. It’s a hard pill to swallow.” 

[Related: INSTANT RECAP: Indiana’s second-half charge comes up short in 21-14 loss to Louisville

The ensuing play — 4th and 1 from the goal line — offered a chance to see the Hoosiers’ rapid second-half improvement come to fruition. Like Jackson, though, senior running back Josh Henderson came just short. 

Henderson took a handoff inside and attempted to leap over a sea of colliding bodies, but he was stuffed well before he could reach the endzone. The play call drew the ire of fans — some began to rain boos. 

Head coach Tom Allen admitted he wanted that play back. Granted, if Henderson scores, the play call seems correct. Regardless, Allen said he can’t second guess those decisions. 

“Yeah, it didn’t work,” Allen said. “We didn’t execute it obviously. That’s the one I’m sure everybody’s going to focus on, but there’s a lot of other variables leading up to that.” 

One of those variables was the entirety of the first half. The Hoosiers were blanked through two quarters and headed into the locker room trailing 21-0 with their fate all but sealed. Louisville outgained Indiana 302-107 in total offensive yardage and tallied 100 yards on the ground compared to a meager 21 for the Hoosiers. 

Jackson’s inaccuracy was shaky, and he sent passes a tick high of receivers on multiple occasions. Late in the first quarter, Jackson fired a pass into double coverage intended for senior receiver DeQuece Carter, who tipped the ball directly to Louisville senior defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly for an interception. 

In the second half, though, there was a distinct shift in energy. It began with Indiana successfully completing an onside kick, which was recovered by senior defensive back Louis Moore. From there, it took the Hoosiers just three plays to score. 

Jackson connected with sophomore running back Jaylin Lucas first for a 21-yard pickup, then for a 30-yard score just two downs later.

“The energy changed,” Moore said. 

As the Hoosiers’ defense started to regain its dominance and shut down Louisville senior quarterback Jack Plummer and the Cardinals’ explosive passing attack, Jackson and Indiana’s offense didn’t slow down. 

Starting from their own three-yard line, the Hoosiers embarked on what would become a 13-play, 97-yard drive. It took seven minutes and 27 seconds, the longest drive for either team by over a minute. 

Following an underwhelming first half for Jackson, that drive provided a glimpse into the potential he offers. On a 2nd and nine from Indiana’s 29-yard line, Jackson calmly maneuvered the pocket and drifted to his right while keeping his eyes downfield. 

He delivered a strike across his body to Camper for a 22-yard connection and followed it up with a 24-yard pass to redshirt senior tight end Bradley Archer. Henderson capped the drive with a two-yard score to pull the Hoosiers within one possession. 

Camper, who sees Jackson’s poise and leadership in practice every day, wasn’t surprised by his quarterback’s strong showing. 

“He’s running the show,” Camper said. “We just follow his lead.” 

Still, while Jackson’s second-half performance is hard to ignore, namely in his first complete game with Indiana, the offense does not remain without questions. In the first half, the Cardinals dominated the Hoosiers in the trenches, completely negating any semblance of a run game. 

Receivers struggled to gain separation and Jackson was frequently throwing into tight windows. Even in the second half, the Hoosiers had operational struggles — a false start with a little over six minutes remaining in the game took Indiana from Louisville’s five to 10-yard line. 

Then, with a chance to tie the game, and momentum on their side, the Hoosiers failed on the goal line. After driving 89 yards in eight plays, the offense came up just shy. It was representative of Indiana’s half to half inconsistency. 

“We got to play two halves of football,” Allen said. “That’s really the bottom line.” 

Follow reporters Matt Press (@MattPress23) and Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and columnist Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football season.
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