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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Indiana hampered offensively, falls 23-3 to No. 3 Ohio State in season opener

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From Indiana football’s first offensive drive, the limitations became glaring. 

With redshirt freshman Brendan Sorsby making the start at quarterback — his first collegiately — offensive coordinator Walt Bell opted for an approach centered around lightning-quick reads and different variations of option plays. 

After falling to No. 3 Ohio State 23-3 Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, it was apparent that the Hoosiers’ stout defensive efforts wouldn’t highlight the team’s performance, but rather an anemic offense that totaled just 82 yards through the air. 

“It was hard to get into a rhythm,” senior receiver Cam Camper said after the loss. “Sometimes you got to be conservative.” 

The Buckeyes opened the scoring on their first drive of the game with an 11-play, 80-yard sequence that took over five and a half minutes. Capped off by a 7-yard scamper from senior running back Miyan Williams, it appeared Ohio State would get whatever it wanted offensively. 

Yet while the Hoosiers’ defense — particularly its secondary — tightened up against a talented Buckeye attack, Indiana’s offense found little in the way of an answer. Sorsby and the Hoosiers went three and out on their second possession after picking up 2 yards on two run plays. 

In neither drive did Sorsby particularly look downfield. After the game, he lamented not trusting his receivers enough. 

“I just felt like we came out really flat. We didn’t really execute early on,” Sorsby said. “I just got to continue to press it down the field and trust my guys.” 

With four minutes remaining in the first quarter, redshirt freshman quarterback Tayven Jackson trotted onto the field. It wasn’t especially surprising, as head coach Tom Allen indicated both would see time Saturday. 

Yet, what Allen wanted to see from each of his quarterbacks was simple. 

“We didn’t have a pitch count,” Allen said. “I couldn’t even tell you how many snaps each one of them played. We weren’t able to score with either one of them, so we obviously got to get better.” 

Like Sorsby, Jackson was charged with leading a hyper-specific offensive gameplan — one that essentially eliminated downfield concepts. In the second quarter, though, Indiana seemed to have some offensive momentum. 

Roughly five minutes into the quarter, junior quarterback Kyle McCord and the Buckeyes were faced with a 4th and 2 at Indiana’s 29-yard line. Ohio State decided to go for it, and McCord sent an ill-advised throw across his body into the waiting hands of Indiana sophomore defensive back Phillip Dunnam.

Behind a rejuvenated crowd, Jackson connected with Camper for 24 yards on the second play of the drive to creep into Ohio State’s territory. Indiana capped the possession with a 42-yard field goal from redshirt sophomore Chris Freeman, pulling the score to 7-3. 

The try — which clanked off the right upright and sailed through the goalposts — proved to be the Hoosiers’ sole offensive output of the afternoon. Jackson struggled to move the ball down the field in Indiana’s run-centric and conservative approach, and while trailing 20-3, Sorsby came back on at the end of the third quarter. 

While Jackson took his snaps in stride, he admitted the rotation was difficult. 

“I think it is challenging,” Jackson said. “It’s hard to have that mindset of ‘I’m not starting, but I might go in.’ You just gotta wait your turn. When your number’s called you go out there and do what you have to do.” 

The Hoosiers began to pass more efficiently in the fourth quarter, and Sorsby notched 44 of the team’s 82 passing yards in the final period. He found chunk completions to senior wideouts E.J. Williams Jr. and DeQuece Carter amid a promising drive early in the quarter, but a 4th and long incompletion in Ohio State’s territory forced a turnover on downs. 

Led by senior linebacker Tommy Eichenberg, the Buckeyes boast a fearsome defensive unit with true play-wrecking potential. Jackson and Sorsby both mentioned the difficulty of running option plays against Ohio State’s athletic defensive ends and linebackers.

“They played like the third ranked team in the nation,” Sorsby said. “They’re big and physical and tough.” 

Though Indiana won’t be facing an opponent of Ohio State’s caliber every week, questions of course remain about the Hoosiers’ capability to play an effective brand of offense. 

Allen said Jackson is in line to start against Indiana State University Friday, September 8, reaffirming the idea that there is truly an ongoing competition between the signal callers. 

Still, Allen said the game plan that fans saw against the Buckeyes is subject to change moving forward. 

“It was probably a little more conservative than we, even in that game, would like for it to be,” Allen said. “There’s no question we got talented receivers on the perimeter and got to do a better job of getting those guys the football.” 

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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