He only needed two touches.
The first, sophomore running back Jaylin Lucas took a handoff inside, briefly hesitated to gauge the field and burst down the sideline for a 25-yard score.
The second, Lucas took a similar inside handoff to the right side, this time cutting to his left to dodge a tackle then darting through his blockers into the endzone — another 25-yard score. After two carries, Lucas tallied 50 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Lucas’s production alone would have been enough to topple Indiana State University in Friday night’s intrastate clash at Memorial Stadium. But the Hoosiers added three more touchdowns on the ground for good measure, thrashing the Sycamores 41-7 to move to 1-1 on the season.
“That’s who he is,” head coach Tom Allen said of Lucas after the game. “He’s another guy in our arsenal. Our offense has explosive, talented players; we just got to be able to get all the pieces together.”
Lucas, who added four catches for 39 yards in the air in addition to his game-high 88 yards on the ground, turned in an individually spectacular performance. His lone blemish — a fumble with two minutes remaining in the first half — proved costly.
Indiana State redshirt sophomore defensive back Maddix Blackwell scooped the loose ball and took it 75 yards the other away for a score.
“Gotta have ball security,” Lucas said, lamenting the mistake.
At Big Ten Media Days in July, Lucas lauded the improvement of his offensive line. Friday night, while running lanes were scarce in week one against Ohio State, the Hoosiers’ rushers seemingly always found room to operate beyond the line of scrimmage.
“I ain’t never seen no blocking like this before,” Lucas said with a smile.
While Lucas thrives in open space, senior running back Josh Henderson showed his might between the tackles. Henderson finished the game with 12 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown from three yards out in the fourth quarter.
He displayed potential to be a bell cow, and perfect complement to Lucas, but like the other members of the backfield, Henderson flashed versatility. He nabbed three catches for 55 yards — the third highest mark on the team — and felt Friday night’s team performance rectified a lackluster showing against the Buckeyes.
Redshirt senior running back Christian Turner, a transfer from Wake Forest University this offseason, punched in a score of his own from the goal line. In the first quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Tayven Jackson took a designed draw 10 yards for a touchdown, using an acrobatic dive to find paydirt.
Granted, the opposition paled in comparison to Ohio State. Just a week ago, the Sycamores were blanked 27-0 to Eastern Illinois University of the Ohio Valley Conference. Still, Henderson noted a desire to set the tone and show that the offense could play at a consistent level.
“It goes back to just playing to our standard,” Henderson said. “Last week was a struggle for us.”
From the outset of the game, the Hoosiers’ prowess on the ground seemed overwhelming to the Sycamores. Frequently behind the tackle duo of redshirt freshman Carter Smith on the left and redshirt sophomore Khalil Benson on the right, Indiana’s runners found ample space.
The Hoosiers had four rushers finish the game averaging over 4.5 yards a carry, a testament to Indiana’s ascending offensive line play. It wasn’t just on the ground, though. A whopping nine different Hoosiers caught a pass Friday night, with redshirt freshman wideout Omar Cooper Jr. leading the way with seven grabs for 101 yards.
Allen admitted Indiana was able to see so much offensive success in part due to the disparity in talent, but he said he was pleased with the team’s consistent execution.
“Our offense got after our defense a lot during fall camp,” Allen said. “I knew we had this opportunity. I think we have a deep team.”
With a favorable game script allowing the Hoosiers to mix and match various personnel groupings, Allen was able to put that depth on display both in terms of receivers and running backs.
Indiana won’t have the luxury of facing a team of Indiana State’s caliber every week. Allen knows this. Still, with a litmus test matchup looming against the University of Louisville, the Hoosiers needed a dominant performance.
“We just want to be as consistent as possible,” Henderson said. “Being able to dominate through the pass and the run is a good thing to feel.”