Hoosiers looking for offensive remedy at Maryland

When the Hoosiers reconvened for practice on Tuesday morning, Tom Allen liked what he saw.

Walking into the IU football team room, the first-year coach sensed a bubbling energy despite his team’s latest setback — another narrow defeat to a ranked conference opponent only three days earlier.

“I could tell they were locked in and ready to get off to a great week,” Allen said. “These guys are resilient.”

Approaching Saturday afternoon’s game at Maryland, the Hoosiers have to be.

Although not necessarily a must-win contest for Indiana, this weekend’s game gives IU an opportunity to stay safely on track for both bowl eligibility and a potential winning regular season.

After frustratingly-close losses in each of the past two weeks, the Hoosiers are determined to fix their course. To do so, they need a fix for the offensive malaise that has threatened to derail the program’s breakthrough season.

“We’ve played some really good, talented teams,” Allen said. “I know a lot of teams have tough schedules, so that’s part of it. We knew that going in. Now we’ve got to be able to allow ourselves to learn from those and execute in those key situations.”

At critical junctures during the past two games, losses to Michigan and Michigan State, Indiana’s offense has failed to do so.

The Hoosiers are ranked No. 113 nationally in offensive efficiency, carrying a concerning 36.8 percent success rate into this weekend’s trip to College Park. IU has been one of the least explosive offensive teams in the nation, due in large part to a young and struggling offensive line and a running attack that’s failing to produce.

Indiana’s ground game has been the Big Ten’s least productive during conference play, averaging only 92 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry.

Although the offensive numbers are poor virtually across the board, Allen and his coaches find solace in the foundation of the system. The production hasn’t been there, but the Hoosiers see a group with the capacity to deliver.

“With guys being injured in and out and stuff, and other guys coming in, we have to get better at our fundamentals,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said.

Fundamentals and execution.

Quarterback Peyton Ramsey pointed to the obvious this week: Indiana hasn’t been very good at finishing drives.

IU found the red zone six times across the past two weeks, but scored only two touchdowns, while settling for five field goals. For the season, the Hoosiers are ranked No. 77 nationally with 4.3 points per trip inside the 40-yard line.

“I think our biggest issue when we get down to the red zone is we just have to be better on first and second downs,” Ramsey said. “We can’t live in the third-and-long world. Just executing better and not shooting ourselves in the foot on first and second down (would go a long way).”

For an IU program that leads the nation in punts per game (7.6), something has to give.

Perhaps facing a poor Maryland defense is part of the solution.

The Terps are last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (36.7 points per game), total defense (439.1 yards per game and 5.8 yards per play) and passing defense (259.0 ypg). Maryland is also 13th in rushing defense (180.1 ypg).

“We’ve got to be able to run the ball against teams and just hit the shots whenever they’re throwing,” running back Ricky Brookins said. “I know we missed a few long balls that we need to connect with that will change the game. More importantly, we need to get points as an offense instead of getting field goals.”

Allen has been encouraged by what he saw in practice this week, but as always, Saturday is the time to deliver.

“We believe in what we’re doing,” Allen said. “… There are two days that you don’t need to focus on: that’s yesterday and tomorrow. You focus on today. You learn from yesterday. You don’t be anxious about tomorrow. You dwell on today.

“So we’re learning from our past mistakes and things we want to do and improve on and get better at, and we focus on what we’re going to do today.”

4 comments

  1. If they can’t muster some decent scoring against this defense, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season, meaning don’t bank on beating the remaining league “weak sisters” to secure a bowl bid. The Maryland game is now squarely in the must-win category to ensure that an historic defensive unit in modern IU football does not go to waste.

  2. Exactly my thoughts. Also the reasons and need for Lagow in situational duty magnifies each game. DeBord and staff still have much to realize and get right for a successful season.

  3. There are still need for series of plays sprinkled throughout game in IU ‘s qb situation for Lagow, Cobbs and other receivers including rb’s. Those plays should have been implemented for MSU and Mich and every game.

    Why do every tv announcers say that each losing program has improved and future looks bright only to see the same losing results year after year?

  4. Though Lagow is very trying of coaching staff’s patience he should have been replaced as starter but not completely forgotten in qb situation at IU.

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