IU’s Scott keeping faith in his OL

Facing questions about an Indiana running game that can’t get going, sophomore Stevie Scott remained forward-thinking.

Scott said Tuesday he has “full faith” in his offensive line. The issues that limited the Hoosiers to 1.4 yards per carry versus No. 6 Ohio State can be worked out, the 6-foot-2, 231-pounder believed.

“Practice makes perfect, so,” Scott said. “The last three games, we haven’t been running the ball very strong, but that’s something we’ve been trying to improve and work on.”

There is no panic in Scott’s tone, even as he sits on 118 yards through three games. If the current pace holds, he’d gain 472 yards over a 12-game slate, well below the IU freshman rushing record (1,137 yards) he set in ’18.

That kind out output is far below the expectations Scott had for his sophomore campaign. With a full offseason under his belt, he felt stronger, faster than ever. He was ready to roll. Unfortunately, opposing defenses saw what Scott produced last season, and they have countered with loaded boxes.

It could be frustrating. But there is no use in veering from the path the Hoosiers have set. All Scott can do is take the ball when it’s given, heading toward his aiming point, holding to his belief that a running lane will open.

“Usually a lot of teams like to stack the box around us because they know we had a good running season last year,” Scott said. “That’s just something we have to get used to and just adjust to and scheme up things differently.

“Go into the game and just let everything happen and flow.”

How to unleash the Hoosiers’ talented backfield remains a prominent question for the coaching staff coming out of a 41-point loss to Ohio State. One last non-conference opponent, UConn, will offer another test run.

Physically, IU was just beat at the point of attack by the Buckeyes, and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer adjusted accordingly. After two three-and-outs, which started with first-down runs of minus-3 and zero yards, the next 10 first-down plays were passes. Those resulted in five completions for an average of gain of 11.6 yards. IU’s 13th first-down play was a run, a pickup of just one yard for Scott.

At the end of the game, Scott had six carries for nine yards, which is something DeBoer doesn’t want to see happen again.

“Is it focusing in on more situational things, is it trying to establish it more early?” DeBoer said, acknowledging those loaded boxes. “We just gotta, every once in a while, live with two or three yards early in the game, and let those plays be six, seven, and then 10 to 15 as the game goes along.

“You gotta live with that, and that’s what good running teams do, they establish it and let that wear down their opponent. I look at that being critical of myself, like I asked the guys to be critical of themselves and what they put on film Saturday.”

Whether the quarterback is Michael Penix Jr. or Peyton Ramsey against UConn, the Hoosiers have to produce more on first downs to create more manageable second- and third-down situations. IU ended up with 12 third downs of third-and-7 or longer versus Ohio State, converting 3-of-17 on third downs total.

While DeBoer is searching for the right play-calling mix, the Hoosiers’ blockers have had to ask themselves how they can execute better. Led by seniors Coy Cronk, Simon Stepaniak, and Hunter Littlejohn, this is a prideful unit. They were understandably disappointed with their effort versus the Buckeyes.

“We gotta block it better, we gotta call it better, it’s a mixture of both,” Cronk said. “We are getting loaded boxes and sometimes we are throwing it out there, sometimes we are running it, but we have to be more consistent in our play-calling and our effort up front, really.

“It’s not what we expected heading into the season whatsoever. You can have four or five guys, four guys blocking well and a guy messing up, and it’s a tackle for loss.”

Despite those mistakes, Scott is trying to remain upbeat, actively motivating his offensive line to perform — and not just to a standard that’s required in the Big Ten.

IU’s offensive line has sent multiple players to the NFL in recent years, such as Dan Feeney (Chargers), Jason Spriggs (Packers) and Wes Martin (Redskins), and Brandon Knight (Cowboys). Scott likes to feed his blockers a dream of the next level.

“I always tell my o-line ‘Let’s make money,’ you know?” Scott said. “You trying to get to the league, right? This is how you get to the league. Let’s make that money now.”

Scott is keeping the faith, which means he’s holding to all of the goals the Hoosiers made coming into the season.

Even after a tough loss, he believes IU is bowl material. Saturday versus UConn is a chance to take steps in that direction, one carry at a time.

“We don’t really have negative thoughts about this team, because there’s a whole offseason we worked our butts off to be strong and compete in the Big Ten and get back to a bowl game,” Scott said. “Our mindset has always been ‘Get to a bowl game’ and just win.

“Every game is a big game.”

12 comments

  1. The OL has one more chance to give the fans some hope for the rest of the season. In U Conn’s opening season win against Wagner, 24-21, Wagner’s main running back carried 13 times for 115 yards, or 8.8 yards per carry. If Stevie Scott can’t match those totals, the team is in big trouble!

    IU should manhandle U Conn in the trenches, no excuses. It’s not the first game of the season, there’s no reason for over confidence or complacency, and our OL and DL’s are bigger and stronger, or at least they should be stronger. If our RB’s can’t gain at least 200 yards on the ground this Saturday, they won’t be able to gain 50 on the ground the next week against MSU.

    Has anyone else noticed that Stevie Scott appears to be smaller than last year? I think he was 242 or something last year, but is now listed at 231. He looks lighter than 231. Last year, he was a load to bring down, even when hit in the backfield before he got any momentum. He broke numerous tackle every game last year and usually had to be gang tackled to bring down. This year, he seems to go down with the initial contact by one player.

    And then there is poor Sampson James who is averaging something like 1.2 yards a carry. Almost every time he gets the ball, he is hit at or behind the line of scrimmage, and I have yet to see him break a single tackle. It has to be extremely disappointing for him.

    I think IU will win Saturday, but I fear a nail biter unless the OL can demonstrate they can actually block!

    1. Hiller better mean up the heavyweights. What the hell has happened to physical, mean and nasty? 3 games and no breakaway run from the LOS. I expect 300 yd.+ in rushing against UConn.

  2. I was just reading that Purdue is averaging 2.2 yards per carry and 50 yards rushing per game. They haven’t even played a good team yet. They ran for 23 yards against a TCU team that gave up 101 yards on the ground to Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

  3. It is amazing Scott still has confidence in the OL I hope the OL gives him reason to believe in them after this week. I haven’t been on the “get rid of” Hiller band wagon but with performance right now in third year I have to think DeBoer will ask for a change unless there is tremendous improvement the rest of the season. I am also concerned about the lack of young player development.

    IU can get many things corrected this week against an opponent that is better than E. ILL but not to the level of OSU. We will have to wait and see if the improvement carries over to MSU or not.

    1. V13,
      Your concerns over player development under Hiller are most troubling indeed. My concern was over the inability to stretch the defense. The lack of younger player recruiting and development is a major issue. If this trend continues then a change is definitely needed and quickly. If so, IUFB needs to have the ability to go out and hire the best coach available.

      Hopefully, for the sake of the current season, this will turn out to not be the case despite the ominous assessment. However, we have seen TA unafraid to make such changes and I would expect it to happen quickly after season’s end. If this be the case.

  4. Soap opera…IU Football is always a soap opera. Must be why our best quarterback in years was a ‘Sud’- something or other feld…field?

    Penix is sounding more delicate than Mr. Bubble. Our receivers use Palmolive for soft protection.

    1. Due to time constraints, we will move ahead in the action following this message:

      LOL = Lousy Offensive Line
      LOL ≠ Lovely Old Lady

  5. Wasn’t speaking of the 130 year trend t,
    Try to keep up. Talking about the current problem, which is the old problem, which is the same problem, as always. This version of it happens to be Hiller’s OL.

  6. Current problem, Old problem, same problem as always = Doesn’t matter what problem, that’s the history and tradition no matter how you slice it.

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