Hoosier defense has new goal ahead of Bucket Game

Throughout this season, after nearly every game, Indiana defenders check the rankings.

The preseason goal was to finish the year as a top 25 defense, and after 11 games, the Hoosiers are on course to accomplish that mission.

There’s still at least one more game to go, of course, an Old Oaken Bucket showdown with Purdue on Saturday at noon. For IU, finishing strong has seldom meant more.

“We’re (No.) 22, I believe, and that’s good,” defensive back Tony Fields said. “But we have to finish. We have a chance to go up even further, so we take great pride in that. That was a goal of ours and we’re gonna try and get it. But we’re never satisfied.”

So much so that IU’s top-25 goal has shifted. Not only do the Hoosiers want to finish as one of the nation’s 25 top defensive units, they want to finish inside the top 10.

As it stands, the Hoosiers have allowed 329.8 yards per game, good enough to rank them at No. 22 in the country.

Auburn, the current No. 10 defense, is allowing 302.3 yards per contest.

“That’s our goal this week,” linebacker Tegray Scales said. “It’s reachable. It’s pushing us in ways that we couldn’t imagine at first.”

Scales and senior classmate Chris Covington lead a linebacking corps that is the strength of the defensive unit.

They’ve also been complemented by steady play around them.

The Indiana defensive line has been particularly strong this season. Although that group may not have a headlining player, it has been buoyed by strong, consistent play across the board by defensive tackles Nate Hoff and Jacob Robinson and ends Greg Gooch and Robert McCray.

The Hoosiers rank No. 8 nationally with 35 sacks, 24.5 of which have come from the defensive linemen.

Indiana is also No. 15 in the country with 82 tackles for loss, 38 of which have come from the guys up front.

“We’re a unit, we’re a defense that feeds off each other,” defensive line coach Mark Hagen said. “Our linebackers are our strength with Tegray and Chris and what they’re able to do. Up front, we’ve got some playmakers.”

Motivated ones, at that.

Mondays are a scheduled day off for IU football players, but with classes on break for the Thanksgiving holiday this week, the Hoosiers refused to sit idle.

“I come walking through the hallways and I see the whole D-line in (their position room),” Scales said. “That was our off day. The whole D-line’s in there. They had like 12 boxes of pizza, but they were all in there watching film together. They were all in there on their off day prepping. I think that’s huge. We’ve got an experienced defense, so the leadership is there. I think that’s huge for the whole team.”

The secondary, too, has been solid despite having to weather the most injuries on the defense.

The Hoosiers are fifth in the Big Ten with a pass defense that is allowing merely 179.5 yards per game through the air.

The number that matters most this week is 10. That’s where Indiana wants its defense to be ranked come Sunday morning.

“Now that the season is towards the end, we want to give our best,” safety Chase Dutra said. “It just shows that we want to keep getting better. We reached our goal and we have a new goal. We just keep going and the goal gets bigger and bigger.”

One comment

  1. top 25 defense is getting basted today, by Purdue offense…..Looks like Jeff Brohm had the better game plan today???? Mike Debord had the same game plan and the Purdue defense stuffed it!!!!

Comments are closed.