McCray undaunted during career game vs. Wisconsin

Robert McCray knew what he was getting into.

Of course, he was aware of the reputation cemented by Wisconsin’s offensive line, perennially among the biggest and most physical in the Big Ten.

But McCray? He didn’t really care.

“You hear a lot about Wisconsin’s O-line,” Indiana’s senior defensive end said. “They’re definitely big guys, but you can’t go out with the mindset of, ‘Oh, they’re bigger than me.’ They’re the same people as us. They train the same. They sleep the same. They eat the same. It comes down to who’s more relentless and who’s gonna be more violent.”

McCray took his own message to heart, authoring one of the best individual performances of his four-year IU career during Saturday’s 45-17 loss to the Badgers.

McCray posted two sacks to mark the first multi-sack game of his career. He also added four tackles and forced a fumble, playing with the kind of relentless energy that his coach demands while earning IU’s weekly defensive player of the week honors.

“McCray probably played his best game, I believe, since I’ve been here,” said Tom Allen, in his first year as head coach and second season on IU’s staff. “I thought he was very physical in the run game, which we have to have that from him. Really challenged him. I applaud his effort and how well he played. We need that (during) the final stretch from him. Really proud of Robert and the way he performed.”

One of McCray’s sacks was a strip sack. The other came on a third-and-dive at the Wisconsin 25 where he overpowered Wisconsin right guard Beau Benzschawel and took down quarterback Alex Hornibrook to force a three-and-out while the Hoosiers were still ahead 7-0 in the first quarter.

“It’s definitely a milestone for me, my first multi-sack game,” McCray said. “It just shows what the coaches are telling us, what the strength coaches are making us do, you see it working. That makes you just want to go harder and buy in more and more.”

Those have been McCray’s goals since the preseason, as he tries to make the most of his final season. McCray credits defensive line coach Mark Hagen for pushing him and holding him accountable throughout the year.

McCray admits to plateauing after a fine season opener against Ohio State, during which he posted four tackles, three of them solo stops, including one sack.

It took him six more games until he picked up his next sack on Oct. 21 at Michigan State, a span that saw him produce five tackles.

“Coach Hagen has been on me the whole time he’s been here,” McCray said. “He’s definitely been on me to push me harder and harder. We set goals before the season and he’s definitely held me accountable for my goals and pushed me harder on my goals. I had a pretty decent first game, then the next few games I kind of leveled off. But he got back in my head and told me to go harder, go harder.”

Last weekend, that’s exactly what he did. McCray recognizes Indiana needs similar performances down the stretch. With only three games guaranteed, McCray wants to deliver.

Those around him believe he can.

“He’s really versatile,” safety Chase Dutra said. “He’s a big dude. He’s got a long reach. He can put pressure on the quarterback, he can stop the run, he’s quick, he’s fast, he’s a good D-lineman overall.”

One comment

  1. I hope McCray has some monster games here at the end of the season. Getting to the QB can cause take aways something the team really needs. Against Illinios and Purdue there should be many opportunites for the front to get to the QB; this week would be a good way to start.

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