Lynch looking for more balance

Bill Lynch wasn’t pointing fingers as individuals — because as part of his core philosophy on life, he never does — but the one part of Indiana’s game that he stressed needed to improve from its first two contests is the running game.

The Hoosiers have been brilliant through the air, as evidenced by senior quarterback Ben Chappell’s 366-yard, three-touchdown performance on Saturday, which led to his selection as Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. However, they were not dominant in running game in either of their first two victories. Sophomore tailback Darius Willis had 102 yards on 14 carries against Towson, but 49 of those came on one play. Against Western Kentucky, the Hoosiers finished with 100 yards on 31 carries, just 3.2 per tote. Wills had just 30 yards on 13 carries, a 2.3 average.

“We have to continue to run the football better,” Lynch said. “That is something that is vital. There are times in games when you have to run the ball when they know you’re going to run the ball, that’s when you have to be good at it. It’s not just a matter of taking what the defense gives you. If they’re going to play a lot of coverage then you’re going to run the ball. There are times in every game when the really good football teams can will their way to run the football.”

It obviously doesn’t bode well that the Hoosiers were not able to exert such will against a Football Championship Subdivision team and another squad that just moved up from the FCS and has lost 23 straight games.

Lynch said it’s a complex problem. He said he likes the Hoosiers’ system and the pistol offense, but he needs to see more from the line and the running backs and everyone else in the offense.

“It’s not, ‘If we get this solved, then we’ll be running the ball real well,'” Lynch said. “It’s a combination of all those things. I like what we’re doing, in terms of we’re not looking to put in new plays or new formations or anything like that. We just have to execute better. We’re close. … But close doesn’t get it done. Close gets you a 1-yard gain when you should get a 6-yard gain. That’s where we’ve gotta continue to improve. … I’m not pointing the blame at the offensive line at all or the running backs. We just have to run the football better.”

It’s still important, he said, even though the Hoosiers are passing the ball so well, to have a running game that will at least keep defenses honest and be dangerous.

“There’s no question that we’re a very good passing football team,” Lynch said. “I think we knew that in the offseason. I don’t like to be called, ‘You’re a passing team or a running team.’ I’ve always thought that you’re at your best when you have balance and you can do either one. Right now we don’t have the balance that we need in our offense. We’re throwing the ball very well. We’re pass protecting very well. … This is not to say we’re going to start (just) running the football. We’re going to throw it. But that’s why I said to start with, there are times you have to run the ball when they know you’re going to run it.”

Other notes from Lynch’s press conference

  • Lynch said he thinks junior defensive end Darius Johnson can return from a hamstring injury this week and he expects sophomore defensive end Kevin Bush should be back as well. Bush was cleared to play in Saturday’s game after suffering a neck stinger against Towson, but the IU coaching staff decided not to play him. “It was not that we couldn’t,” Lynch said. “It was just one of those that because of the nature of his injury over the break, we thought if we could give him another day without banging it around, he would be that much further along. Hopefully he’ll be in good shape, although he was cleared to play on Saturday. That was our decision not to play him.” Lynch said he was impressed with the play of Terrance Thomas, who recorded four tackles and a sack in his stead.
  • Sophomore kicker Nick Freeland should be back to practice after missing Saturday’s game with a hip injury. However, he is still in a battle with redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald. Ewald was 1-for-2 on field goals and hit all five of his extra points on Saturday. He also averaged 65.8 yards per kickoff. Freeland will definitely be the kickoff specialist when healthy, but Lynch said the two will continue to battle on place kicking duties.  “It’s good competition, and it’s very close,” Lynch said. “We chart every single kick from the start of practice until the end of practice.”
  • Lynch said he sent a text message this morning to Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio, who was in the hospital after suffering a heart attack Sunday morning. “He’s a great guy,” Lynch said. “The report says everything’s good and he’ll be back at it before long.” Lynch said he’s read stories about the stress of his profession, but says he doesn’t think it’s any more stressful than any other job. “I don’t think our profession’s any different than any other,” Lynch said. “I think we all do the best job we can, but in everybody’s life in this room, there’s stresses. Sometimes of the year are tougher than others. I’m not one to think that the coaching profession creates problems like that. It’s very unfortunate that it happened to Mark, but he’ll be back at it before long.”
  • Lynch was asked if throwing his gum was one way he relieved stress. “That might be one way,” he said with a laugh.
  • Lynch said Akron has changed from a spread offense to a pro-style offense under first-year coach Rob Ianello, a former Notre Dame assistant under Charlie Weis. “They’re going to try to bang it at you and run the ball,” Lynch said. “You can tell they’re looking to have balance. They’re well-schooled.”
  • There was only one significant change in the depth chart. Sophomore Adam Replogle has been moving back and forth between defensive tackle and defensive end since the beginning of preseason practice. He played mostly defensive end on Saturday, though, and this was the first time he was listed as the starting defensive end on the depth chart. Sophomore Mick Mentzer was listed as the other starting defensive tackle with sophomore Larry Black, Jr. “He’s going to play the end spot,” Lynch said of Replogle. “He has the ability to play inside. I think as we go forward, that’s the best way to look at it. Unless something changes, he’s going to be listed as the No. 1 defensive end, but you could see him play inside.”
  • Senior quarterback Ben Chappell was available at the press conference after being named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. He reacted to the honor with the understated approach you’d imagine. “It’s a great honor,” he said. “We’re going week-by-week, so I guess that means I had a good week. I’ll try to do it again this week.”

Lynch Part 1

Lynch Part 2

Lynch Part 3

Lynch Part 4

Lynch Part 5

Larry Black, Jr.

Ben Chappell

11 comments

  1. Indiana can be a great passing team, average over 40 points per game, win 6 or more games, and really be fun to watch with a 70/30 pass/run mix. If we try to be a 50/50 team, IU will be lucky to average 24 points/game and miss the bowl season. I cheer for us all the time, regardless, and that isn’t going to change. But that is my opinion.

  2. IU will be successful when they can run the ball WHEN they NEED to run the ball. This thing of having our huge linemen create a pile only to have our backs run with their heads down directly into the pile for a one yard loss cannot be tolerated. Lynch is right in that running the ball is a mindset. I’d like to see IU get a 60/40 pass to run balance. We have the backs in Willis, Burgess and Turner. I liked what I saw in Turner against WKU.

  3. BeatPurdue,

    You’re right, IU’s best chance to make a bowl game is to be a 70/30 pass/run team. MarkMe put it best by saying they have to be able to run the ball when they need to run it. Getting first downs and running out the clock at the end of the game.

    I like how the article says Lynch doesn’t point fingers. That is good, unless he points it at himself. IU has the best line we’ve seen in years, and a core group of very good running backs. The issues with the running game started Valentine’s Day of 2008 when Lynch hired Springer as the running backs coach.

    Springer played at Butler as a DB (not a running back) and had a decent coaching career prior to coming to IU, having spent two years as a graduate assistant under Lynch at Ball State. He spent eight years on staff at Ball State, four coaching receivers, two years coaching linebackers and 2 years as a DB coach.

    He was then hired by Bowling Green State University as a running backs coach. For the three seasons he was in that position, the BGSU running game declined in production each year under him. His fourth and final year at BGSU he was made the safeties coach until he took a job at Western Kentucky as a DB coach.

    I didn’t like the hire at the time, still don’t.

  4. I have to agree from the outside looking in at the whole staff Springer is the one who needs to get the pink slip or in the very least reassigned(I do think he helps recruiting). He just does not have it, whatever it is. Just as last year I see the backs getting to the plays designated hole to late. I still maintain the backs need to set-up a half step closer to the line. Also it allows the defense a longer look to track the ball carrier before he reaches the line.

  5. I have to agree…it certainly looks like a coaching problem. If indeed, Willis is as talented as we seem to think, it is pretty clear that we could come up with more creative plays than the assortment of dive plays we’ve run thus far. Our OL seems fairly competent in run blocking, so a little creativity probably can be executed with favorable results.

    As mentioned in previous post, clearly IU does not have coaching talent comparable to other B10 schools. In all fairness, we don’t pay them B10 salries either, but if these guys ever want to get jobs in the upper ranks of D1 football, they will need to step up and this is the season to do it. Otherwise, they will probably bounce around the country coaching at lesser programs. I would rather we get some guys who are hungry to prove themselves rather than guys who are content with mediocrity.

    Also, has anyone compiled any statistics on the effectivness of bubble screens? I have to think it is pretty low, so I don’t get why we seem so committed to that kind of play.

  6. IUfan and Clarion- this is a good topic which clearly connects to last year and Lynch’s “Twelve Plays Away from 8-4.” While everyone was blaming defensive breakdowns for blowing big leads against Iowa and Northwestern, and blowing another great chance against Michigan, clearly the heart of the problem was the inability of the offense to take advantage of turnovers by moving the chains.

    A HUGE element of this was the running game and the inability to get more than 1-2 yards a carry on unimaginative play calls late in the game where taking time off the clock was key.

    This is an ongoing problem, and although it looks dismal, I am glad at least that Lynch is talking and worrying about it before the conference schedule and not half -way through when we are 3-6.

  7. Mike and all, interesting stuff on Springer. Was it just me or what do you all think…I thought Burgess and I think it was Turner looked more focused and hit the hole harder than Willis last weekend???

  8. iufan23,

    The bubble screen is one of the most effective tools a team has when they don’t have a ground game that is working. Look at the Colts, their running game is throwing bubble screens.

    I think what you are alluding to is the swing pass, where the receive runs 3 yards, stops, and waits for a pass. Generally they have to make someone miss after the catch or they get smoked for little to no gain.

    J Pat,

    I thought Turner looked the best of all 3 Saturday. A lot of it is the way they line them up. At one time, 3rd & 1, Chap was 4 yards in the gun, Willis was 3 yards behind him. There was no chance to gain a yard running up the middle.

    I have noticed all our backs seem to be more productive when they are lined up directly to the side of Chap which allows them to make the read and decide if they take the blast, sweep or counter.

    As for Springer, he shouldn’t be given the pink slip, not yet. I just think with the issues in the secondary, a guy who played DB, spent 10 of his 13 years prior to IU coaching DBs, LBs and safties as well as teaching receivers how to play against the defense would help the team more in that aspect.

  9. One more thing, other than speed, has anyone seen any skills improvement in Council? I still can’t believe their is not better options on the bench.

  10. Mike P, no to answer you last question and from what I saw in practice there are better options. I would put Kiles, Kates, and one of the Burks kids in front of him.

  11. I wonder if the addition of Elson(ex-WKU coach) on staff holds for some future changes with assistants. Also offense and defense both have been playing pretty plain base schemes unless someone saw something I did not. I also think the fumble impacted Willis negatively more than I originally did on Saturday. As to Council, I am so tickled to see any IU DB show some swagger that I’ll reserve harsher judgement for another couple of games. I am impressed with our return men and their performance. That could be a positive intangible during the B10.

    HT, I don’t surmise Coach Lynch’s twelve plays away, any differently than other coaches studying film and identifying plays from the previous game or season which impacted the scores and/or records as being a bad practice to exercise. I suppose because he spoke of them at a press conference they could be scrutinized as fodder for an excuse. But he never makes much of an argument using excuses for the staff, team or himself.

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