Indiana offense catching on quickly #iufb

The game changed and Nate Sudfeld knew what he wanted.

After Indiana scored on its first offensive series Saturday, SIU switched its look. The Salukis were lining up differently and the film the Hoosiers viewed to prepare for the season opener didn’t cover everything they needed. IU’s game plan suddenly needed a tweak, but Sudfeld didn’t panic, nor did he wait for anyone else to call for an adjustment.

He simply marched over to Indiana coach Kevin Wilson and told him what needed to happen next.

“He was talking to the coaches about that, just trying to find out the different coverages and how to beat them,” receiver Ricky Jones said. “They came in with a different type of defense than we had seen previously, but Nate’s very smart. That’s why I think he’s going to play very long on Sundays.”

In previous seasons, Sudfeld would’ve hesitated before taking such a direct approach with his superiors. But the early inconsistencies of last season’s offense provided an important lesson for Indiana’s skill players.

Nothing good comes from complacency.

A year ago, Sudfeld has admitted, Indiana failed to start the season with a proactive approach to offense. The Hoosiers waited for great plays and big moments to happen simply because they were coming off a prolific 2013 season.

Indiana entered the 2015 campaign with a different outlook.

“We came from the big-time dudes like Cody Latimer, then (in 2014) we just kind of felt that we were so great,” Jones said. “But we got serious this off-season and took things way more serious than we did the year before. We built more confidence and I think we got better as a receiving corps. We connected with Nate and a couple other quarterbacks better this year.”

And as Indiana’s defense stumbled in its 2015 debut, the offense resembled its former self.

There was balance, but there were also flashes of brilliance from individual groups. Jordan Howard and Devine Redding combined for 202 yards, while Sudfeld’s 349 passing yards were the second most of his career. Since Wilson arrived for the 2011 season, IU has rushed for 200 yards 22 times and passed for 300 yards on 16 occasions.

Wilson credited Sudfeld after the game for being direct with the coaching staff and demanding the plays and adjustments he felt comfortable switching. Indiana managed only nine yards on seven plays over its second and third possessions Saturday, but from there, the Hoosiers scored on seven of their next 10 drives.

While Indiana needed every one of those scoring drives to squeak past the Salukis, offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said the urgency of the offense wasn’t a product of the defensive struggles so much as it was part of IU’s natural approach to scoring quick and scoring often.

“We always feel that way,” Johns said. “We expect to score every time we have the ball. Our goal is to be the No. 1 offense in this league. For us to do that, we have to score a lot of points.”

After one week, Indiana’s 595 total yards are good enough to lead all Big Ten teams. Jones, meanwhile, leads all Power 5 conference receivers after his career-best day of 186 yards and a touchdown.

Jones, a redshirt junior who had only four catches for 60 yards in his career entering Saturday, was the feel-good story of an otherwise uneven victory. Jones has been viewed as a breakout performer since the spring, and finally followed through in the opener.

“Ricky’s the man,” Sudfeld said. “This is what I’ve seen all camp. We’ve been connecting like this since summer. Really, in spring ball, we were connecting like this, too. It was cool to have him get out there, do what he’s shown in practice and do it on the big state. It’s only the beginning for him. He’s going to have a really big year.”

Indiana, as a whole, clearly wants the same.