It was precisely the kind of throw Indiana head coach Tom Allen needed to see from redshirt freshman quarterback Tayven Jackson.
While the Hoosiers sputtered offensively against a talented Ohio State defense in week one, Jackson shined in Indiana's 41-7 win over Indiana State on Sept. 8 — enough to earn the starting job against the University of Louisville on Saturday at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
A little over midway through the first quarter against the Sycamores, Jackson took a quick three-step drop, turned to the right sideline and delivered a 54-yard strike to senior receiver Cam Camper in stride. The play was called back due to an ineligible man downfield, but Jackson's decisiveness and zip on the pass offered Hoosier fans a glimpse into the offense’s potential under the University of Tennessee transfer's command.
“He has a tremendously high level of poise,” Allen said of Jackson Thursday morning. “It’s already shown up in the two games he’s played in, and I expect the same on Saturday.”
Familiar Places and Faces
While Allen fostered significant changes to the roster this offseason, he’ll have some familiarity Saturday. In 2019 — Allen’s third year at the helm — Indiana took down Ball State University 34-24 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Several of the Hoosiers’ players, including Jackson, have already experienced the atmosphere as high school players. More recently, Indiana held a practice there toward the end of fall camp.
Allen noted the practice was important for growing accustomed to the stadium’s lighting — specifically for Indiana’s receivers and return men who track the ball through the air.
“Anytime you go someplace and it’s not the very first time being there, I think it helps with your comfort level,” Allen said.
For Allen, Saturday’s contest won’t just offer familiarity in venue. Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm spent the last six years at archrival Purdue before resigning last December. Brohm compiled a 36-34 record with the Boilermakers and made four bowl appearances.
Allen and Brohm’s teams squared off five times in the Old Oaken Bucket Game, and Brohm exited West Lafayette with a 4-1 advantage. Regarded as an intelligent offensive mind, Brohm drew heavy praise from Allen, who called the Cardinals’ head coach, “a special play caller.”
Brohm brought over several Purdue assistants to Louisville, but it wasn’t just staff. The Cardinals are led by sixth-year senior quarterback Jack Plummer, who played four years with the Boilermakers before transferring to the University of California, Berkeley last season.
In wins against Georgia Tech and Murray State University Sept. 1 and Sept. 7, respectively, Plummer threw for a combined 494 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Like the Hoosiers, the Cardinals feature a smaller running back with big play ability in redshirt junior Jawhar Jordan. In just 14 carries through two games, Jordan has accumulated 231 yards and three scores. The 5-foot-10 back paces the nation in yards per carry at 16.5, a testament to his breakaway speed and skill in open space.
Allen likened Jordan to Ohio State junior running back TreVeyon Henderson, whom the Hoosiers faced in week one of the season.
“He’s very, very important to what they do,” Allen said of Jordan. “If he gets a crease, he can take it to the house. Not everybody can do that.”
While the Cardinals have been running the ball effectively, they face a worthy adversary in the Hoosiers’ defense. Defensive coordinator Matt Guerrieri and Indiana’s new group have been the story of the first two games.
On all three levels, the Hoosiers have received plentiful contributions from newcomers. Against a Louisville team capable of inflicting damage both on the ground and through the air, Indiana’s current defensive form can’t slow down if it looks to pull off an upset Saturday.
As for Louisville’s defense, which has surrendered just 17 points per game, Indiana offensive coordinator Walt Bell said he is planning for multiple different looks and coverages. Due to the addition of Purdue staffers in the Cardinals’ defensive room though, Bell expects familiarity.
Saturday’s game, which kicks off at noon and will be available to watch on Fox Sports, is just the third ever matchup between Indiana and Louisville — the Hoosiers lead the series 2-0.
Still, when Indiana takes the field, Allen will feel right at home across from Brohm.
“They got our attention without question,” Allen said. “We’re going to have to play our very best football on offense to be able to move the ball and score points.”