Film review: IU in the red zone

Since Indiana’s 36-33 loss to Michigan on Saturday, there has been much consternation among the suddenly optimistic fans* over Indiana’s failure to convert in the red zone. It advanced to or beyond the Wolverines’ 20-yard line five times and scored only one touchdown.

(*It is amazing how quickly a group can turn from “Oh lord I hope our players make it home ok!” to “We must now dissect the footwork of our backup right guard to figure out where this game got away!” But that’s the beauty of rooting.)

Here’s a breakdown of Indiana’s red zone trips:

2:57 1st quarter: Tandon Doss’ long reception brings Indiana to the 11-yard-line

  • First and 10, from the 11: It wouldn’t take long for Indiana to capitalize. It lined up in the Wildcat with Mitchel Evans at quarterback. Doss went in motion and came across the line from the left and stopped before crossing the center and marched in place. Since Indiana had already shown the triple option with Doss, Michigan’s defensive line saw him as a threat to take the ball up the middle or around the other end. But Evans handed the ball to Darius Willis, who had little difficulty running around Rodger Saffold before diving for the pylon to score. Indiana tied the game at 14.

10:45 2nd quarter: A pass out of the swinging gate to Willis sets Indiana up at Michigan’s 13-yard-line

  • First and 10, from the 13: Indiana again came out running the Wildcat, with Evans at quarterback and Willis as the pistol back. All four receivers — Max Dedmond as the H-back, Troy Wagner as the tighte end, Doss in the slot and Belcher on the outside — lined up to the right of the formation. There was very little question of which way the ball would go. Willis took the handoff and flowed right. He was caught on the backside by safety Jordan Kovacs, who had come unblocked off the edge. It didn’t appear a hole would have opened anyway, as LB Stevie Brown had blown through the line.
  • Second and 10, from the 13: Chappell re-entered the game, and lined up in the pistol with Willis behind him and Dedmond lined up as the H-Back to the right. Doss (slot) and Belcher lined up to the left. Before the snap, Will split wide right. Chappell threw to Dedmond, who’d released into the near flat. For whatever reason, Willis did not block Donovan Warren — it seems that Willis didn’t realize the ball had been thrown — and Warren stopped Dedmond after five yards.
  • Third and 10, from the 8: The Hoosiers lined up in their bunch formation, with the triangle of three receivers to the left. (This formation shows much promise in practice.) Belcher was split wide right, and Willis stood next to Chappell as he awaited the shotgun snap. Michigan showed blitz late, but brought only three linemen and two linebackers (OLB Brandon Herron was lined up as the right DE after a shift). Rodger Saffold cover the man directly in front of him, though, leaving Justin Pagan to try to pull left and get to Herron, which he couldn’t do. LB Obi Ezeh ran through the gap left by Pagan and was actually pounded by Willis on a strong pickup (his backfield blocking was excellent all day), but Chappell surely saw him coming. With two guys flying at him in his periphery, Chappell threw a quick out to Terrance Turner and threw it high. All Turner could do was make the grab and fall. He would have had some open field to his left had the throw been better, but Michigan had covered it pretty well.
  • Fourth and goal, from the 7: Nick Freeland’s 24-yard kick made it 17-14.

6:58 2nd quarter: Ben Chappell’s pass to Tandon Doss can’t be tipped by a diving J.T. Floyd, and Indiana storms into the red zone one play after Nicholas Sliger’s interception.

  • First and goal, from the 3: You guessed it. Indiana comes out in the Wildcat. Dedmond (H-Back), Doss (slot) and Terrance Turner (wide) are the receivers, all lined up on the right side of the field. Willis is the pistol back. Evans fakes the hand-off to Willis, who heads right. Evans bootlegs back to his left but the Michigan defense had stayed put. Evans appeared to want to hit Doss, who was nearing the corner on his cross, but wasn’t sure he’d get the ball beyond safety Troy Woolfolk. While Dedmond, who’d actually run under the formation and was only a few yards ahead of Evans, may have been open, Evans opted to pump fake and try to run. LB Jonas Mouton anticipated this and released from Dedmond to stop Evans for no gain.
  • Second and goal, from the 3: Chappell returned, and Indiana lined up with tight ends on each side of the line (Wagner to the left, Dedmond to the right) and Willis in the pistol. Doss and Turner (I think) are the wide outs, with Doss to the left. Chappell opted for Doss, who was driving hard toward the pylon. The throw was wide and had too much on it for Doss to handle. After the game, Chappell lamented missing that throw.
  • Third and goal, from the 3: Bunch right this time, with Belcher again the wide out to the opposite side. Willis to the left of Chappell in the shotgun. Michigan manages to get quick pressure. DE Brandon Graham set up very wide, and forced Saffold to drive left. That made a hole for Mouton to come through. That forced Chappell off his first read and into a step right. Chappell alertly saw Terrance Turner waiting at the goal line, but Ryan Van Bergen, a defensive tackle who’d actually dropped into coverage, helped Stevie Brown squeeze Turner and cause the incompletion.
  • Fourth and goal, from the 3: Freeland’s 20-yarder made it 20-14 in favor of IU.

1:57 2nd quarter: Jammie Kirlew comes up with the ball after Chris Adkins’ hit to set IU up at the Michigan 21, but a holding penalty by Pagan on first down knocks the Hoosiers’ back 10 yards. They only actually run one red-zone play, and it’s the kick attempt after Evans’ gains 17 yards on 3-19. (By the way, if you taped the game, check out Bill Lynch’s rant to somebody (a ref who called the holding) with :32 left in the half)

  • Fourth and 2, from the 13: Freeland makes a 30-yard to give Indiana a 23-21 lead heading into the half.

6:35 3rd quarter: A play-action fake by Chappell allows Dedmond to get free on a corner route for a 32-yard reception, and Indiana has another chance in the red zone.

  • First and 20, from the 14: Indiana goes big. Belcher, split right, is the only receiver on the field. Trea Burgess is the running back. He plunges left, and nothing goes right for the Hoosiers. Brandon Graham eludes Rodger Saffold to close one gap, and then the entire backside collapses. Burgess loses a yard
  • Second and 11, from the 15: Indiana opens it back up, with two receivers to each side of the line and Willis offset in the back field. With Michigan showing blitz, it appears Indiana has made the correct call with a quick screen to Willis as he releases into the flat. The problem comes when Willis gets scraped by Craig Roh coming off the end. As he turns to try to find the ball, Chappell has already realized it’s too late. He is being crushed by Mouton while also finding a way to get rid of the ball. His pass hits right tackles James Brewer in the “rump” according to ESPN announcer guy.
  • Third and 11, from the 15: Chappell stands in an empty back field, three receivers to his left and two to his right. Michigan lines up Stevie Brown on the edge of the line. He breaks in untouched and destroys any chance Indiana has of doing anything at all. No other analysis needed of this one.

So there you have it. Five trips, four field goals.

I’ll be back later with more thoughts on this. For now, have at it.


  1. If I remember correctly, the play you refer to where Willis didn’t block D. Warren, I think he was 5 yards past Warren running towards the end zone and turned around after the pass was thrown to Dedmond. I don’t know how the play was written up, but it looked like Willis was on a route. It would have been a better play to keep Willis back as a lead blocker, but again I just don’t know how the play is written up to know what his responsibility was for that play.

  2. You do remember correctly, Chris. That’s exactly what happened. Went through it a couple of times, and it seemed like Willis’ main obligation was to block. He didn’t turn find the ball or anything.

    But as you say, it’s impossible for us to know since we don’t know the play.

  3. Excellent analysis and proof that really the play-calling was just fine. It was more about execution of those plays.

  4. Not once did I read the words “play action”. Except for the play that got us into the red zone *hint*

    Play action to the tight end is probably the best play in the red zone. Do it Matt.

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