Hoosiers in need of more explosive plays

Peyton Ramsey stepped to the line of scrimmage late in Saturday’s game, saw an opportunity downfield and decided to attack it.

That led to a 65-yard touchdown reception by Whop Philyor — and the longest passing play of Indiana’s young season. The moment was born from Ramsey’s decision to audible and take advantage of a matchup advantage over the middle, where he recognized an opening for a deep post, trusted Philyor to catch his pass, then decided to let it rip.

Indiana needs more of that.

Through four games, the Hoosiers are lacking some of the explosive plays that help an offense hum on the Big Ten stage. While Stevie Scott has given IU a presence on the ground, and Ramsey has operated an efficient short-pass attack, Indiana could benefit from a deeper passing game, which has so far only appeared in flashes.

In Saturday’s loss to Michigan State, it hardly appeared at all.

“It was (tough), because of the pocket,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “When you’re in the course of the game and having trouble that way a little bit, the thing I think about is getting rid of the ball quick, and we tried to do that as best we could.”

Indeed, the offensive line’s struggles against Michigan State’s physical defensive front were a factor toward limiting IU’s offense. With its running game muted, Indiana leaned on its short-range pass attack to advance the chains and get the ball moving.

That led to Ramsey setting a career high for attempts (46) and tying his personal best for completions (32). But only a few of those looks went downfield, even as Michigan State stacked the box and dared IU to throw.

One such deep throw between Ramsey and Reese Taylor, who shot out of the backfield on a wheel route early in the first quarter, barely missed on the connection.

The fourth-quarter touchdown throw to Philyor sailed 22 yards from pass to catch.

“Coming to the sideline, I could have done a better job of relaying the message to our coaches that we probably could’ve taken some shots outside,” Ramsey said. “But yeah, (we took) what the defense was giving us and it just turned out that it was shorter routes.”

After a month’s worth of action, that’s becoming a theme within IU’s offense. According to SB Nation’s advanced stats database, Indiana is one of the least explosive teams in the country, particularly in the passing game. Explosive plays are conventionally defined as runs of at least 12 yards and passes of at least 16 yards.

While Ramsey ranks second in the Big Ten with a 72.1 completion percentage, his 6.2 yards per attempt rank 12th.

Ramsey also ranks 10th in the league with 24 passing plays of 10 yards or more. For comparison, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins leads the Big Ten with 48 passes of 10 yards or more, while Michigan State’s Brian Lewerke is second with 38.

Perhaps a more explosive IU offense will surface across the coming weeks.

One of the keys to finding more explosive plays is offensive efficiency. With Ramsey’s steady play at quarterback and the running game’s emergence, IU seems to have the framework and the personnel to achieve results. Indiana needs to be better at finishing drives with touchdowns — it’s averaging only 3.96 points per trip inside the 40-yard line, which ranks No. 102 nationally — but the Hoosiers have weapons capable of delivering.

In the words of SB Nation analyst Bill Connelly, the key to making big plays is staying on the field long enough to make them.

That also requires taking shots and making the most of the opportunities when presented.

“As a receiver, I wish we could throw a go-ball every play,” IU senior receiver J-Shun Harris joked. “I feel we need to keep the defense honest. If we throw underneath, they can just sit on those routes. So the shots are there. There were a couple in the game (Saturday), but Peyton was either going through his reads (or) had to scramble.”


  1. While Ramsey ranks second in the Big Ten with a 72.1 completion percentage, his 6.2 yards per attempt rank 12th.

    6.2 yards per attempt? So he’s dynamite at long hand-offs and forward laterals….? I can almost lean and extend 6.2 yards. These are yoga passes!

  2. Hey, good for him. It sounds like he is on the same page as everyone else. Best play of the game for the Hoosiers was his audible. Give a little credit where credit is due.

    1. Chet,
      As I said in the other string, PR did a great job on this play. The problem is, it was just one play when that time of production was needed on multiple plays. The defense made a mistake and PR rightly took advantage of it. A good defense is only going to make a few mistakes like this a game. In order to challenge a good defense you have to keep it off balance to set it up for the knock out blow. No different than boxing, trying to get the opponent worn down in order to set up the big punch. If you have no big punch or the threat of it, not something the opponent has to fear.

        1. Might work with lesser teams, but there will be very few of those the rest of the season. Didn’t work so well against MSU and there are at least 3 on the schedule right now that appear stronger than them. If it don’t work any better than it did against MSU you can count on losses to OSU, PSU, & UM. If this keeps up Iowa, Minn, MD, & PU may be up for grabs. Assuming a win Saturday at Rutgers a 4 or 5 win season is a failed season.

          I can acknowledge PR has his moments, but neither am I afflicted with a blind spot concerning his serious shortcomings. We don’t know if his backup is any better than he is because we haven’t been given the opportunity to find out. IUFB can’t wait until the season is a lost cause to start experimenting, that’s a recipe for a head coach to be shown the door. This is about what is in the best interests of the program, not one individual player. If we continue to see this kind of performance and the losses mount it will become very apparent.

          PR may be what is in the best interests of the program, but you’d better be able to prove it on the field. If you’re losing and haven’t put the alternative on the field to show he is no better, then you’ve opened yourself up to be rightly questioned as a head coach.

          1. IUFB can’t wait until the season is a lost cause to start experimenting, that’s a recipe for a head coach to be shown the door. This is about what is in the best interests of the program, not one individual player.

            Maybe the job is too big for Allen…? Mismanaging the qb situation could be in the best interest of the program because it will tell us sooner rather than later that Wilson’s choice for defensive coordinator was no more prepared to be a head coach than Kevin Wilson. Maybe we “move on” faster after another season disaster? Sadly, the best thing for IU Football probably would have been a far more experienced head coach working with Tom Allen as our defensive specialist.
            Maybe Podunker was correct…Maybe an opportunity was lost far bigger than opportunities doodling around with mediocre quarterbacks. We had an opportunity to bring in a true eyebrow raising head coach(pulling out the checkbook) and still retain a very high quality DC (if only for a few more seasons as his conjectured “hot commodity” status increased).
            And we don’t like DeBord? Who brought DeBord into the game of IU Football? Why is Allen so seemingly qualified at managing a qb when he can’t even manage bringing in a dynamic play caller?

            It has been more than suggested that Allen brought in a suspect OC. Isn’t that sort of a bigger roadblock? Penix can’t make up for horrendous play calling….When your new head coach is limited in offensive expertise (defensive coach), his first proof of being ready to be a head coach is his selections at running his offense. Why should I think his next pick will be any better? Isn’t Allen the guy failing to get the ball downfield because he failed at his first primary hire to run our offense? The manufactured qb controversy remains a sideshow distraction deflecting away from other bad decisions/hires.

    1. Morgan knows. You don’t need to know. Coach Allen knows. If and when he gets to rejoin the team, we will get some information.

  3. There is not much being revealed by the program. It’s being kept under wraps in house. Something I agree with completely.

  4. To me one of the best strengths as to character regarding T.A. (including staff). Perspective, rather than twisted perversion that in so many ways society endorses and has come to know.

  5. Outside of an occasional audible the quarterbacks are running the plays Debord sends in. Penix might well be handed the same plays in the same situation. Since he is a freshman and Debord is risk averse, he would PROBABLY be handed the same plays.

    Things might be different…or not.

    1. Chet,
      I’m going to say the same thing I said on the other thread, we won’t know the story until Penix is put in long enough to find out. I keep hearing this DeBord risk adverse narrative being advanced, he wasn’t that risk adverse with Dobbs at UT. Yes, Dobbs had pro QB talent, but how do we know Penix is not? The idea of Freshmen skill players being a liability in this day and age is being blown up all around the country. I’m in agreement with you, I’d like to find out if Penix is the real deal.

  6. DeBord may be more risk averse because of Ramsey’s limitations….

    You’ve got to give Penix a shot. This is IU Football…It’s not like a national championship playoff vote at stake. My Lord….Must everything hinge on a Twinkie Bowl?

  7. For the past two seasons Ramsey has shown he goes with the safe pass short pass. Is this based on his ability or the plays called we can’t know but we can see the problem. Coach Allen openly called for the offense this year to be a top 25 offense and it is languishing in the 80’s and listening to his half time calling for a more open offense I have to think we will see a change after this season.

    An offense with Westbrook and Hale at WR that doesn’t get the ball to them consistenly has a real problem. Last year I said I needed to see this offense this year before judging DeBord; I think we are seeing the trend this offense is on. If IU runs the ball down the throat of Rutgers and doesn’t focus on getting Westbrook and Hale the ball up the field it will be a crime and if I were coach Allen I would make a change on offense.

    Getting more explosive plays takes more than talking about needing them. It takes a QB that is able and willing to get the ball in tight windows on time. I want to see if Penix can do that as Ramsey has shown consistently he can’t make those throws.

    1. V13,
      I think the consensus from what I’ve been seeing here and elsewhere is we need to get Penix on the field to find this out. At least to keep the fan base on board. Don’t know what it is going to take to bring this change about. Maybe some hard questions from the sports media might bring the matter home to the staff. Know they are paying attention to the postings. Could also backfire with the staff and they dig their heels in deeper, but if we can’t find out what we have in Penix quickly this could escalate into a problem for TA.

  8. Well, we don’t know if the plays DeBord calls are based on PR’s limitations or if he’s just naturally risk-averse. That old, “we take what the defense gives us” philosophy is great if you’re dinking and dunking down the field and scoring touchdowns. But when you’re not scoring touchdowns, it is obviously flawed. And it’s not as if we don’t have quality receivers with speed! We have fast, talented receivers, but have not used them to go deep, which suggests Ramsey’s arm strength is a concern for DeBord. And you don’t throw a deep pass on third and long inside your own territory. You throw long on first down, or second and short, when you’re inside the opponent’s territory. And how many real play-action passes did we attempt Saturday? I don’t recall seeing too many, so MSU’s linebackers could sit on those short passing routes and get ready to punish IU’s receivers after the catch.

    As for T.A. being at risk of losing his job, that won’t happen after this season, regardless of how many games IU loses. Too many IU fans and administrators conditioned to having a losing football program to generate the passion necessary to fire the coach. And T.A. knows it. But the bigger issue is that another losing season will destroy the perception that IU Football is building momentum. Instead of benefitting from the perception that his program is on the rise, IU football will be seen to be in decline once again, and that will destroy T.A.’s ability to recruit the improved talent necessary to establish a winning Big Ten team in the future. That’s the risk you take when you hire a Coordinator with no experience as a head coach who has proven he can build a winning program! From a recruiting standpoint, the coach is on a short leash.

  9. A lot of doom and gloom for a team that is 3-1. Yes MSU showed IU has some offensive problems but our young defense is now ranked 19 th in the country according to S&P analytics. The offense is ranked 84 th far from coach Allen’s preseason directive to have them in the top 25.

    The goals for this team in wins and bowling aren’t over. Just as getting hammered by OSU wouldn’t be the end of the season either. IU has the ability to be at the level just below Iowa and MSU; we will have to see if they can rise to occasion and win 4 of the next 8 games. If the team can do this then most problems disappear or can wait until the off season to correct.

    1. v13- Love ya, ,man…but now you’re tempering the summertime talk. Winning 4 of the next 8 (along with the home loss to MSU) may not be “doom” for Allen but it’s certainly “gloom” compared to earlier hype. 25th Best Offense in the country? With Peyton Ramsey? Who was Allen trying to kid? I hope he wasn’t attempting to dupe the few truly knowledgeable football fans like yourself.
      None of this is “breakthrough.” What it is…is pumping more BS “through” the pipeline, spewing it out a naive hometown paper…while an AD, coach, and insiders keep cashing their very substantial salaries for empty marketing and catchphrases.
      I have heard enough. “Bowling” when its always on the heels of mediocrity and coming nowhere near competing against four or five of the better teams in our conference division? Insulting to the zombie IU Football fan base that buys all the catchphrases(along with the many that were used in our basketball program over the last nine years)…
      I was hoping there would be a point when some of it would become insulting to you. How could any of the early season hype meant keeping a guy like Penix on the sideline?
      IU Athletics is merely one big fat immobile cash cow….Every mediocre coach comes in and milks her for six years.

    1. So, a team that put up 19 points in a losing effort to Eastern Michigan and 27 in a loss to Northwestern will rack up 42 against the Hoosier D.


  10. t likely believes their(PU) young talent is getting experience that will pay dividends at the end of the season….while IU is saving their freshmen talent because we have the longest “end of the rainbow” plan in the history of rainbows.
    One day we will kick our winning 75 yard/year rainbow field goal through the uprights and the gold will be ours! Stay tuned, oh patient fan base. Stay tuned…and follow the yellow brick road….Follow the yellow-bellied road….Follow the yellow-bellied conservative football road…Follow the yellow marketing to the a wizard known as Fred. Board the balloon back to Kansas. “Because it’s Kansas.”

    1. There’s no place like home……field. There’s no place like home field…There’s no place like home field…..unless it’s MSU or PSU or OSU or UM.

      If IU Football was an Oreo cookie, the cream would be on the outside and the hard part in the middle.

  11. MSU destroyed our line while only rushing 4. For all the off season talk about the o line being the strength of the team, they were a joke against MSU. They couldn’t open holes on running plays and couldn’t sustain blocks on passing plays. Coy Cronk might as well have lined up 2 inches from Ramsey because that’s were his man took him on every passing play. IU lost because the offensive line lost- badly.

    1. Why on earth did anyone, anywhere outside of the Tom Allen universe, ever think the IU OLine was the strength of the team? I sure didn’t. These are the SAME FIVE GUYS who “led” IUFB to 109/130 in rushing yards last season. And three of them are underclassmen, so unless IU has recruited a couple of road-graders that have been flying under the radar, 2019 looks like more of the same. Unless we get a new position coach who can do something radical with the material at hand.

      1. Okay Davis & HC,
        Exactly where are you going to the get the new OL coach and will he be any better than what you have? Based on IUFB history and what they’re willing to pay you have to move quite a ways down in the quality pecking order. Even if you do luck up and get a good one like Frey, you can’t keep them long enough to establish long term success. By the way from what I hear from the UM people they weren’t that impressed with Frey, but it doesn’t matter he’s off back to Florida State.

        Don’t be foolish enough to think the grass has to be greener on the other side of the fence. That logic has worked very well for a very long time for a much better program than IU out in Nebraska. Matter of fact, unless things turn around for them they may be headed for IUFB territory!

        Hey H4H! You think IU historical FB woes might be traced back to Knute’s curse for not hiring him when they could have?

        1. Curses…? I do love curses…and parallel universes…and destiny…and karma.

          Then again, we shouldn’t bury our heads in the sand too much. There are only a handful of universities in the country to have five or more national championship banners hanging in above a basketball floor. The “curse” on IU Football could very well be the passion it could not capture in the midst of such success(though now more than 20 years in the rear view mirror).
          I don’t know of too many basketball banners hanging at ND, Clemson, Alabama, USC, etc.

          Football is a cash cow…which makes what we did in hoops even more incredible (and may do again now that we have a true teacher to complement the depth and breadth of talent available within our borders).

          Now if you are looking for curses….The tale of the gentleman(Navy enlistee attending IU?) who was found to have hung himself from the scaffolding outside of Memorial during its initial construction is quite disturbing. “Suicide” was finally removed from the death certificate of this gentleman due to details and circumstances that remain a mystery.

          Maybe one day we’ll have a football program to brag…but we have no reason to hang our heads at IU. Great swimming program. Great soccer history…and one of the most storied places in college basketball.

        2. Heck, thinker, I don’t know where you find coaches. Not my job, I just kibbitz like everyone else here. But your philosophy, though, seems to be “Don’t fire Hiller ’cause his replacement might not be any good, either, and even if the replacement is any good he’ll just get hired away by somebody else.” Really? Agreed, IUFB’s challenge has always been landing good talent (for the field or the sideline), but just moping along with an obvious weak link is certainly not the right decision (more like “non-decision) for any organization.

        3. Since you nor I have ever been a HC it is safe to say Allen knows where to find another OL coach. Frey proved himself to me in his 1st at IU with low, low rated personnel. Hiller proved himself to me at IU with far better talent. He may be a fair technique teacher but he can’t coach ‘mean’. In the B1G you need your OL Badger mean, OSU mean, the old Nebraska mean. I’ve replaced personnel and recommended the replacement of same. There is 1 common denominator and that is there is always a better answer available.

          1. You are missing the type of players Wilson and Frey recruited for the OL. OL that had athletic ability but not toughness except for Feeney. That offense needed linemen that could pull outside the tackle box and even when not pulling they reached D players letting players finess block not physically block.

            This offense requires physical OL players that are tough blockers not finess blockers. Drive blocks and kick out blocks instead of reach and pull blocks. The OL is better this year with Hiller’s coaching. Even coach Ballou said the OL wasn’t strong enough when they took over. He also commented that even though they worked hard and are stronger they are still short of where they need to be. The change in players for this system isn’t a quick fix no matter how you and others want it to be. The Recuits they have brought in and commits they have now are physical players that just need college weight training to get to the level of B1G play.

          2. v, no toughness? Please, please convince Houston, Coleman, Howard and Redding. Just like me they won’t believe that either. Hiller couldn’t teach anyone to be tough and/or mean. It is on full display every game.

          3. Exactly about who has what job. It is solely up to the head coach to evaluate, hire, fire helpers. Eating the status quo for breakfast every morning is not leadership. Can’t coach “mean?” Maybe, but if a coach can’t inspire players, that’s a lousy coach. Apparently strength can be coached/developed, but as someone once said to me, “The most important muscle in football is heart.” And the Wilson teams at IU did have that.

  12. No doom and gloom, just realism. We haven’t really beaten anyone yet. And against MSU some of this team’s weaknesses were exposed. Consider that MSU is probably the fourth best team in a group consisting of OSU, UM, PSU and MSU, so if we want to beat any of the big boys, we’d better develop a better offense soon. The defense played well enough to win that game. The pick-six and the offensive-interference non-call in the end zone represented 14 points MSU should not have scored.

  13. Same old story. Teams like MSU and others better than MSU have the ability to elevate their game when games are close or on the line and IU very seldom does. That is one reason IU has a losing fb tradition. Points scored or not scored? There would just be another reason. IU offense is anemic in red zone. IU doesn’t put it in with much authority and often feels lucky to get it in end zone instead of settling for field goal, missed field goal, or turnovers.

  14. I find the acceptance of ‘institutional memory’ by the majority of posters interesting. I mean, the numbers absolutely bear you out. I just have a hard time with it.

    It’s just interesting that people will associate hand eye coordination of a 19 year old in the 4th quarter with the fact that they have ‘Indiana’ on their jerseys.

    That being said, I’ve never found it difficult to believe that people of shady character have long gravitated to UK.

    1. Anyway, back to the issue of the linemen. There are only so many huge guys that are also athletes to go around. If a guard isn’t quick enough to block at the 2nd level or a tackle isn’t quick enough to engage with a defensive end, they are a liability- same kind of problem as the slow 7′ guy in the NBA. So IU has to recruit smaller athletic guys they hope will out perform in the weight room and grow into Big Ten linemen. IU lost out on their priority guard recruit this year. Where did he end up? Michigan State.

  15. Until our O-line improves, it doesn’t matter one bit who is the is head coach, offensive coordinator, or starting quarterback.
    Did anybody commentating on all of these “controversies” even go to the MSU game?
    Poor Ramsey didn’t have a micro-second to do anything except run for his life or unload the ball as quickly as possible, let alone throw the deep ball.
    Give Allen, DeBord, and Ramsey a chance.
    The answer is not the second string quarterback (who is always the most popular guy on any team) or to bring another head Coach to IU.
    Speaking as a 70 year old guy who has seen a LOT of coaches come and go at IU, I personally LIKE Coach Allen and wish him well here.

  16. NatHillIV; I was at the MSU game and had great seats. Yes, Ramsey was under pressure from MSU, but he also made a few big mistakes. One was the pick-six in the first half that effectively ended the game. No QB is ever going to have a perfect game, but what I observed was that his biggest mistake was in trying so hard not to make any mistakes. There’s such a thing as playing it too safe. Against a better team, you have to cut it loose and take some risks. What I witnessed was Ramsey doing what he’s always done, trying to play it safe. With the kind of pressure he faced from MSU’s D-linemen, you have to get the ball out real fast, be mobile, and have the ability to throw on the run. You also have to be willing to dump the ball at the feet of your receivers. There was some hesitation on Ramsey’s part, and he tried to complete most every short pass. That lead to Ramsey being hurried, sacked, and throwing a pick-six. We may be able to place some of the blame on the plays he was being given, but I did not see him (or DeBord) making the adjustments that could have relieved some of the pressure. And did anyone notice that the faster IU’s offensive tempo was, the less effective MSU’s defensive line became? IU should have run that fast tempo all game long, but we started it too late in the game. Once IU got down by 14 points and it was understood that IU was not going to run the ball against MSU, that MSU D-line pinned their ears back and went after Ramsey. Bottom line, IU stumbled out of the gate, got behind a good team, and did not have the firepower to catch up.

  17. There is a close view of the game on youtube and if you break down the plays you find out much of the Ramsey scrambling wasn’t due to the OL. Yes MSU got presure on Ramsey but often the pocket was there if he stepped up. Instead his first response is to scramble which destroys the blocks the OL has set up. Would Ramsey have performed better if the OL was stronger against the MSU front, yes he would have but it wasn’t as bad as many thought.

    The run game was also more about TE’s not blocking the end man when pulling or if it was a zone option play Ramsey misread the DE. Even when he made the right read the DE recovered and didn’t let him punish the defense with the QB run.

    I understand fans can’t see these issues during the game, even as an experienced coach I don’t see a lot of it until I can run the film back and forth watching each player. Fans that don’t see we need Penix to get major reps ignore that in two of four games Ramsey has thrown an INT very early in the game putting the team in a dangerous position that led to a TD for the opponent. Let’s find out if Penix can do the job because his performances so far says he does as well or better than Ramsey; we just haven’t seen enough of Penix to know if he is better running the offense.

    1. V13,
      Here’s another reason you need to get Penix in and game tested. You’ll be facing both OSU and PSU in the next 3 weeks after Rutgers. There’s always the chance you’ll have a banged up QB due to facing those defenses. If Penix is not ready now, are you going to throw him into the fire in the middle of the OSU or PSU game without fully game testing him?

  18. The last three comments are astute, and my post was just a tad overstated (well, maybe more than a tad.)
    I don’t pretend to be an expert on all aspects of Hoosier football, but I get a little worn out with the constant second guessing of just about everything associated with it.
    The last three comments are well written, and I can’t effectively argue that Penix shouldn’t get some playing time. I just don’t think he’s ready to start right now.
    And I absolutely, 100% agree with Podunker’s last sentence! —-> “Bottom line, IU stumbled out of the gate, got behind a good team, and did not have the firepower to catch up.”

    1. WowNatHillIV- I think we can all learn something from your honesty and humility. Your post is refreshing. Thanks.

  19. NatHillIV; you’re probably right about Penix not being ready, in a traditional sense, to be the starter. But, Ramsey probably was not ready to be the starter last year when he replaced Lagow. So the way I look at it, you give the most talented guy the start against the weakest team remaining on the schedule to give him valuable experience and see how the offense responds. If he struggles, you have Ramsey ready to come back in. If he does well, Penix remains the starter because he has a stronger arm. That’s the formula T.A. used last year, so I don’t see why he would not do so again this season. Plus, you don’t want Penix wondering if he’ll have to wait until Ramsey has graduated before he’ll get his chance to be the starter. It is frustrating to believe you have the better talent and still can’t get the chance to lead the offense through an entire game.

  20. We’ll just have to respectfully disagree with who should start, but I totally agree that especially if we get way ahead or way behind, Penix should get a shot. And, hopefully the best chance to play a lot is Cornell. I’ll admit I’m not a Coach! 🙂

  21. We could probably play .500 football in the Ivy League…..as Harvard for Hillbillies.

  22. If Penix doesn’t play well give R.T. a shot at some point. Tired of the Ramsey after Lagow trying to get to 6 games. Not much different than 4 or 5. Just a nightmare posing as sweet dreams.

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