4 storylines for Indiana’s game at Virginia

1. Can Indiana establish a running game?

Last week’s absent rushing attack can be attributed to a tough Ohio State defensive front, a deep group that should give similar fits to future opponents. However, Indiana needs an immediate response. It will be concerning if the Hoosiers can’t get anything going on the ground against a Virginia team that allowed 4.1 yards per carry to Football Championship Subdivision opponent William & Mary. For IU, it begins with the offensive line doing a better job. The possible return of injured right tackle Brandon Knight would give Indiana a nice boost.

2. Can Simmie Cobbs and IU’s receivers pick on Virginia’s secondary?

The Cavaliers lost top corner Tim Harris to a season-ending wrist injury last week, so Virginia will turn to either true freshman Germane Crowell or redshirt freshman Brenton Nelson to fill his spot. Virginia will also likely look to pay extra attention to Cobbs, who caught 11 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against Ohio State. That means the playmaking trio of receivers Donavan Hale and Luke Timian and tight end Ian Thomas could have more opportunities to take advantage of their matchups. Also, keep an eye on Taysir Mack, Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor, three receivers fighting for backup reps after Nick Westbrook’s season-ending knee injury.

3. A special teams advantage for Indiana?

The kicking game wasn’t a strength for the Hoosiers in 2016. Meanwhile, it was practically non-existent for the Cavaliers. Virginia attempted only 10 field goals last season, making merely five. After UVA kicker A.J. Mejia missed a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter last week, the Cavaliers opted to go for it on fourth down on at least two occasions within realistic field goal range. Although IU didn’t attempt a field goal against Ohio State, coach Tom Allen says he’s most comfortable using kicker Griffin Oakes up to the mid-40s range, depending on wind. This could be a week where IU gets Oakes, the 2015 Bakken-Andersen Big Ten Kicker of the Year, and his field goal unit back on track.

4. Will IU win the takeaway battle?

IU didn’t claim a single takeaway in its season opener. On the other hand, Virginia went without a turnover for the first time in four years in its opener. Does that change this week? It will be interesting to see just how much Indiana misses former linebacker Marcus Oliver’s takeaway prowess moving forward, but his loss alone shouldn’t prevent the Hoosiers from getting their hands on the football. Corner Rashard Fant, one of the Big Ten’s top cover men, wants to claim more interceptions after recording only four through his first three seasons. Safety Jonathan Crawford has also demonstrated ballhawking qualities in the past. As coach and defensive coordinator, Tom Allen demands takeaways. There are signs taped all over IU’s North End Zone complex reminding Hoosiers that “It’s all about the ball.” On the road against a Power 5 opponent, this would be a good week for Indiana to get its first few takeaways of the year.

5 comments

  1. IU needs to answer several questions against UVA if this season is to be a break through season. This article does a good job explain four of the questions IU needs to improve on this week. The running game needs to see an improvement in the OL but also show which RBs are really going to be able to do the job. Defensively IU needs to show they can maintain leverage on the ball while covering the field so the offense can’t get outside of the defense. The big pass plays against OSU came when coverage broke down with players out of position.

    I hope IU comes out and controls this game from beginning to the end.

  2. Exactly. The need most paramount for the IU program “breakthrough” to be achieved is to control the LOS. I like the fast pace and I hope IU stays full speed. It is a mindset advantage. I’ll also bet a $ to a donut the DB’s were damn humble and listened intently in practice and meetings this week. Unless the “road bug” rears its head this week I believe IU will win going away at Charlottesville today. Much like OSU did last week to IU.

  3. HC, if you want to see the coverage problem in the third and fourth quarter check out the site: PuntJohnPunt. It gives stop action video along with explanation of what is happening. Needless to say if my secondary and LBs screwed up so bad when I was coaching I would look for some answers. First with what I was asking from them, second their understanding of what we wanted to do, and third field spacing that was terrible on the plays.

    1. Yup, I read PJP every week during the season. Reading it never fails to make me know what I don’t know.

  4. Bad, in that is the strength of IU defense. However, OSU game was not a pivotal game, realistically. The Virginia game is realistically pivotal game either positively or negatively as to what direction program is headed this season and beyond.

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