Feeney looks to provide jolt to ailing offense

Five weeks of inactivity left Dan Feeney understanably rusty.

Now, Indiana’s All-American right guard is seeking to regain his feel for gameday and give a jolt to an offensive line that could use it.

A concussion suffered midway through IU’s second game of the season on Sept. 10 forced Feeney to miss 18 consecutive quarters until he received a full medical clearance and returned to action Saturday at Northwestern.

Admittedly, Feeney said, the layoff took a toll. He played a little more than half of the available snaps at right gaurd, splitting time with Jacob Bailey as he worked his way back into a routine. So Feeney’s goal this week is to find his legs, and he’s not stopping there.

Indiana’s offensive line needs more consistent play, and Feeney wants to be the one to lead that development.

“I’m trying to get better,” Feeney said. “Every day, I’m just trying to get better with what I can do. I want to go back to where I was at the end of the season and the beginning of (the season opener at) FIU and excel from there. I want to pick up right where I left off. Obviously, it’ll take more conditioning, a little more time and a little more effort, but you gotta do what you gotta do.”

Rusty or not, Indiana is happy just to have its All-American back on the field.

IU coach Kevin Wilson revealed that Feeney first returned to practice two weeks ago leading into the Oct. 15 game against Nebraska. Feeney wasn’t a full participant at that point, but was deemed healthy enough to return at Northwestern.

There, Wilson thought Feeney looked tired at different points.

“He did okay, but there’s a lot of rust in him,” Wilson said. “Probably also a loss of self-confidence and some things. He’s a good player, and when he falls off, his play is still really good.”

And he brings a steady presence to an Indiana team that could use some offensive stability. That’s especially true up front, where missed blocks and underwhelming play have left IU’s offense without a reliable running game.

Only Purdue’s rushing attack has been less productive than Indiana’s among Big Ten teams in conference play. The Hoosiers are averaging 106.8 rushing yards per contest, and a lowly 3.1 yards per carry.

Incredibly, they’ve managed only two rushing touchdowns in four games this month.

Throughout October, as the team has dropped three consecutive games, IU players have pointed to small adjustments that must be made in order for the offense to get on a more positive track. From his perspective, which has included more than a month of watching games instead of playing them, that was a sentiment Feeney echoed.

“I think just getting back to basics, that’s kind of the biggest thing,” he said. “Scrapping, fighting to the end of the play, just doing everything we can do to make sure that we’re blocking our guy to the end of the whistle and he’s not hitting the running back. Everything that we can handle, we want to handle.”

This week, Feeney’s in position to handle much more.

With five games remaining in the regular season, Indiana’s offense clearly has work to do. Entering Saturday’s home game against Maryland, IU holds a sense of urgency to make things right.

Having a Feeney approach a overall level closer to 100 perecent may go a long way toward doing so.

“We want to get the ball rolling,” Feeney said. “We obviously beat Michigan State, then lost the next couple so it’s not what we want to be. We gotta strike fire and get the ball rolling in some way, shape or form.”