IU O-line delivers results to build upon

Indiana didn’t recognize one offensive player for contributions leading to Saturday’s 41-0 win over Rutgers.

It recognized five.

After IU’s best rushing performance of the season, coach Tom Allen honored all six of his offensive linemen — tackles Coy Cronk and Brandon Knight, guard/tackle Delroy Baker, guards Wes Martin and Mackenzie Nworah and center Hunter Littlejohn — as Indiana’s Offensive Players of the Week.

For an inexperienced, oft-injured group that has struggled to deliver consistent results this season, Saturday brought a performance the Hoosiers hope to build upon.

Indiana’s O-line didn’t allow a single sack, while paving the way for 100-yard rushing performances from running backs Morgan Ellison and Cole Gest on a day when the Hoosiers totaled 267 yards on the ground.

“Really proud of their performance,” Allen said. “Still have things to continue to work on there, but didn’t give up any sacks as well and ran the ball extremely well, which was a great job. Because of that, Morgan Ellison was named the co-Big 10 freshman of the week.”

Youth and injuries have forced IU to use four different starting combos in 11 games this season. Cronk, Martin and Littlejohn are the only Indiana linemen to start each game this season.

If there’s a positive to draw from the mixing and matching, it’s that it has allowed plenty of Hoosiers to gain game experience that they can carry into next season, when Indiana is expected to return every starter.

“The biggest thing is we’ve been banged up in there,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “You’ve got a guy like Mackenzie, a redshirt freshman, who really probably shouldn’t be playing too much right now, but he’s playing a lot. But I think what’s happened is that experience has really helped him grow as a player.

“So I just think those guys right now are working well together. I think a little bit of that is having everybody there for a couple games more or less.”

The Hoosiers are still monitoring the medical progress of right guard Simon Stepaniak, who has been banged up for much of the season.

Even so, for the offensive line to perform as it did on Saturday was a sign of progress for a group that has often struggled to get the necessary push for a worthy Big Ten ground attack.

For much of the season, IU’s run game has been muted. Prior to Saturday, Indiana’s greatest rushing output against a conference opponent was 177 total yards at Penn State on Sept. 30. The Hoosiers had also been averaging merely 88.5 rushing yards per conference game entering the Rutgers matchup.

But on Saturday, IU tripled that figure, while also keeping quarterback Richard Lagow upright and protected all afternoon.

Now, the challenge is doing even better this week at Purdue.

“We had four missed assignments up front,” DeBord said. “For five guys, when you play 75-plus plays, it’s not a lot, but yet you don’t want those. In this particular week, when we have multiple defensive fronts, we have to do a good job of not having missed assignments.”

11 comments

  1. IU’s OL will be challenged in this game and how well they respond to that challenge will determine how well IU plays this week. If the offense plays as well as they did last week it will make it will give IU a big advantage however with PU’s defense it would be unlikely.

  2. You giving purdue a little too much credit they’re improved but in the west no team is strong on offense Minnesota cant pass Iowa is probably the blandest offensive attack in the power 5 Nebraska not great QB is a turnover waitin to happen Illinois poor attack Wisconsin no speed at the wideout spot so not like they’re facing world beaters on their side

  3. Believe me PUke is making a mark. Their offense creates momentum that the D feeds of off. LOS both ways is paramount for IU. D is next with the running game and ST’s needing to be solid. PUke will be a test for certain.
    PDTTOTMFB!!!!!

  4. I’m sure Purdue is improved since last season but there’s nothing in the W/L column to show for it. They haven’t beaten anyone worth a damn and they’ve lost to the same teams they always have. They are also 0-2 against the B1G East and that was against Rutgers and Michigan. OSU, Penn State, and Michigan State would very likely chew them up.

    Let’s wait until they win something before claiming they are vastly improved.

  5. …and Mizzou isn’t worth a damn.

    When the Hoosiers topped Missouri the Tigers were on their was to the SEC title game. This year the SEC East is a good Georgia team, a fair South Carolina team, and a bunch of flag football squads.

  6. Chet -The same can be said about IU, have they improved from last year?? There is nothing in the W/L column to indicate they have improved. They haven’t beaten anyone worth a damn and they’ve lost to the same teams they always lost too!! My question is that since both program (Indiana and Purdue) have new coaching staff this year, is which program coaching staff has the more upside???

    1. Sure, no question about it. Line the results up side by side and I’d give an ever so slight edge to the Hoosiers but there isn’t much separating the two teams.

      Have the Boils lost the same type of high impact players as the Hoosiers? I don’t really know.

      I just just commenting on the plaudits directed at the Boils based on…what?

      1. I am of the opinion that the Boils would not have been as competitive in the B1G East just because they weren’t as competitive against the B1G East when the played them. I think the Hoosiers would already be bowl eligible playing in the West.

        But, what do I know?

  7. All the points made above are valid, but none of them can provide any insight as to which team will win because this is a rivalry game. Purdue was terrible last year, but IU was fortunate to win the game in Bloomington. We should assume that this will be Purdue’s best game of the season, and that they will let it all hang out. And if IU’s players want to be part of the “break through” season, they’ll need to do the same. If they do, IU wins the game.

Comments are closed.