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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

New look Indiana football plays first spring game since 2019, caps off spring camp


Fans were back inside Memorial Stadium on Thursday, taking in their first Indiana football spring game since 2019 — this time with a new leader at the helm. 

Curt Cignetti’s squad gave the Hoosier faithful their first look of what to expect come the fall. Two new faces and a familiar signal-caller threw passes. A plethora of wide receivers caught — and sometimes dropped — the passes. 

But one topic of conversation remains constant: quarterback play. 

Cignetti lured Kurtis Rourke to Bloomington from Ohio University in the offseason. The sixth-year quarterback carries three seasons of starting experience. And while his play may not have stood out in his first game-like action in the cream and crimson, Cignetti believes he was the victim of dropped passes by receivers that wound up stalling drives. 

Rourke’s counterpart, redshirt sophomore Tayven Jackson, turned in a flashier performance. Jackson rarely saw the field in the latter half of last season after then-redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Sorsby asserted himself as the starter. But Jackson’s play Thursday raised questions. 

“I was trying to figure out if our two-offense was that good or our two-defense was that bad,” Cignetti said postgame. “I think I know the answer to that.” 

Cignetti believes freshman cornerback Dontrae Henderson was exposed on the boundary, leading to some explosive plays with Jackson under center. Still, he credited Jackson with making some nice throws to senior receiver Andison Coby. 

All signs throughout spring camp from Cignetti have pointed towards Rourke being the starter come Aug. 31, but he thinks there’s a healthy competition between quarterbacks heading into the summer and fall camps. 

Competition is a great thing,” Cignetti said. “We need more competition at all positions. That was one of our issues this spring is we have some guys that played some football in the past that didn't have the kind of competition we'd like to see to motivate them to go out every day, every play, focused in, best effort, improving.” 

The Hoosiers’ new running backs stood out to Cignetti, displaying a dynamic style of play excelling at pass protection, catching the ball and breaking tackles. Both running backs Justice Ellison and Ty Son Lawton — transfer additions from Wake Forest University and James Madison University, respectively — scored a touchdown. 

Indiana’s defense flew around the field, making play after play, but still missed tackles. Cignetti attributed that to Thursday being the first time in which the Hoosiers have tackled. 

While the new-look defense impressed, it’s still without a few key players that are injured. 

Looking ahead, Cignetti and his staff now look toward recruiting players from other schools that are entering the transfer portal, aiming to strengthen a few key positions. 

The players will remain in the strength and conditioning program for a week before preparing for finals. They’re set to begin their summer program May 20. 

For now, there’s a newfound buzz around the Hoosiers. Encouraging signs were on the field at the corner of 17th and Dunn Streets. Only time will tell if Cignetti can change the losing narrative around Indiana football.

Follow reporters Dalton James (@DaltonMJames) and Daniel Flick (@ByDanielFlick) for updates throughout the Indiana football offseason.

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