IU O-line feels back on track

When Indiana’s offensive line didn’t play to coach Tom Allen’s expectations in the season opener, they heard about it.

Then, leading into last week’s game against Virginia, they did something about it.

IU’s O-line responded with a much more encouraging effort in Saturday’s 20-16 win over the Cavaliers, paving the way toward a banner performance from freshman running back Stevie Scott, who posted 204 yards and one touchdown on 31 carries.

There’s still more improvements to be made up front for the Hoosiers, but after last week’s success. IU feels it’s on the right course.

“We’re the (most) mature group on the team and we didn’t play the way we needed to in Week 1,” senior left guard Wes Martin said. “We played good enough to get the win, but didn’t play up to the standard we’ve set in our room. And we knew that. We took that personal. Coach (Allen) reinforced that. So going into Week 2, we knew we had to get back up to the standard we had set for ourselves.”

All off-season, Indiana’s offensive line drew praise for their approach toward authoring a comeback campaign after injuries and inconsistency plagued the group in 2017. IU’s linemen were lauded as the top performing group in the weight room and emerged healthy from fall camp, bringing a combined 125 career starts into the first game of the year.

While the opener at Florida International saw a decent performance from the O-line, it didn’t contain the attention to detail that Allen and position coach Darren Hiller wished to see. Allen, in particular, was displeased with IU’s struggles to convert a couple of key third-and-short situations at FIU.

But this week, with Allen demanding his linemen do a better job finishing blocks, the Hoosiers fared much better. Perhaps most pleasing to Allen, they helped convert five of offense’s seven opportunities on third down with four or fewer yards to go.

“I really challenged our offensive line a week ago after our first week performance about finishing blocks and finishing the plays off and really being the strength of our team and they did,” Allen said. “They were good Week 1, but they weren’t great, and I felt like they responded.”

In doing so, Allen named the entire line — Martin, left tackle Coy Cronk, center Hunter Littlejohn, guard Simon Stepaniak, tackle Brandon Knight, center Nick Linder and guard/tackle Delroy Baker — as IU’s Offensive Players of the Week.

“That’s awesome and kudos to the kids,” Hiller said, “but at the end of the day, we’re on scholarship for a reason. That’s our job. I tell the offensive line it’s awesome and I’m happy for them and all that, but what we can’t do is feel too good about ourselves from that perspective. It’s all about mindset and mentality.”

This week, the focus is repeating that performance against Ball State.

With its odd front, Virginia presented a new look for IU’s offensive line in this past weekend’s game. The Hoosiers also expect to see some similar fronts from the Cardinals on Saturday.

Early this week, the Ball State defense seemed to have IU’s full attention after an impressive defensive performance in last week’s 24-16 loss at Notre Dame. The Cardinals posted four sacks and 10 tackles for loss, harassing Irish quarterback Brandon Wimbush for much of the afternoon.

“We have to continue with our assignments,” Hiller said. “Virginia created a whole new animal for us with an odd front. I thought, from an assignment standpoint, we were really good. From a technical standpoint, there’s still things that we’ve got to get fixed. But they’re coming around in that regard.”

“… Leading into Game 3, it’s Ball State, a scrappy football team that plays extremely hard. Lot of odd front stuff. They mix it up a little bit, so we have to be even better with our assignments and knowing what to do.”

One comment

  1. The OL is much better this year but far from being a dominate OL in the B1G. They need to get better at driving DL off the LOS at the point of attack. The other thing still needing improvement is the ability to stay on blocks and finish. No OL is perfect and this OL is much better and does a good job making the offense successful so far this year.

    The OL has kept our QB clean most of the time and open holes for the RBs averaging
    225 yds/game. This is a very good start to the season but the challenges are going to step up in the B1G. The season is set up for the OL to make steady improvements heading into the teeth of the B1G.

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