Finishing a struggle for Indiana’s offense

It’s not that Indiana struggled to move the ball against Iowa.

It didn’t.

But the Hoosiers largely failed to cash in on their scoring opportunities, continuing a concerning trend for the IU offense.

Already one of the least explosive offenses in college football, Indiana ranks 116th out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in finishing drives, averaging 3.8 points per trip inside the 40-yard line this season.

In last week’s 42-16 loss, the Hoosiers equaled the Hawkeyes with six scoring opportunities. While Iowa maximized those chances, producing touchdowns on each trip, Indiana did not.

“We didn’t execute like we need to,” receiver Luke Timian said. “They’re a really, really disciplined football team. Probably the most disciplined team I’ve seen. You’re not gonna trick them. We tried a couple times. They didn’t bite. You just gotta execute. Didn’t really go our way. We’re not happy with how we performed. We’re gonna have to look ourselves in the mirror and decide what we want out of this season.”

Against Iowa, IU managed only a pair of touchdowns, while averaging a season-low 2.83 points per scoring opportunity. The national average this week, per SB Nation, was 4.47 points per opportunity. Iowa, in scoring on each of its scoring opportunities, averaged 7.0 points.

The tone seemed set from Indiana’s opening possession, when the Hoosiers drove 64 yards on 13 plays only to settle for a 29-yard field goal from Logan Justus.

That drive stalled inside the Iowa 15, where a third-and-five run to the outside by Ronnie Walker picked up only three yards.

“We looked at that play and we had one player who didn’t really execute what he should have done,” offensive coordinator Mike DeBord said. “Really, we felt like we could’ve had the first down. It goes back to execution.

“I look at that call, and we’d do it again. The safety was way back. He’s the guy who ended up coming up (for the tackle) but we had one player who just didn’t execute a technique right, and it hurts.”

Indiana also saw quarterback Peyton Ramsey throw a pair of interceptions inside the red zone on Saturday. While Ramsey also accounted for two touchdowns — one through the air and one on the ground — he wasn’t close to his best against the Hawkeyes.

“He has to protect the football,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “It’s part of his job. I don’t think he played very well during the game. We’re not bashful about saying those kind of things. We’ve praised him when he has played well. He didn’t play his best game.”

Granted, both of Ramsey’s interceptions came during the fourth quarter while the game was out of reach. In those moments, Indiana was trying to salvage points wherever it could find them. The first interception, though, came on an RPO where Ramsey misread the play and should’ve handed the ball off, DeBord said.

Those picks — each coming on poor throws — were in tune with the theme of the day. Never mind that IU had 22 first downs (only four fewer than Iowa), it couldn’t score when presented with opportunities to do so.

“That’s kind of been the point of emphasis for us ever since we set out this year, to score touchdowns in the red zone,” Ramsey said. “I think early on we did a decent job of that. We’ve just got to continue to push. Teams get stingier once you get down to the red zone. We have to be equally as tough and gritty and try to put the ball in the end zone.”

The mantra for this IU offense continues to rest on “taking what the defense gives.” While that approach seems reasonable in situations, Indiana seldom seems to make the kinds of explosive plays that could force a defense to adjust or react.

Dictating the tenor of play is not a strong suit for this Indiana offense.

IU has been aggressive in flashes, however, and DeBord points to Ramsey’s 33-yard touchdown pass to Ty Fryfogle in the second quarter as an example of trying to stress and the defense.

“It was against tighter coverage,” DeBord said. “It was a go-route that he kept on. Later in the game, we called the same thing and ended up hitting one of the receivers for a 14- or 15-yard gain, where they pulled up (due to the coverage).

“You’re trying to be aggressive. You’re trying to get the ball down the field. But when the coverage has loosened up, and you can’t get by them, now you have to attack in front of them. You know? I feel like we were aggressive. We played with some five-wide-receiver formations throughout the game, and things like that. I don’t feel we let up, that way. Sometimes it is just what they give you.”

On Saturday, Indiana had its chances.

Finishing in Iowa territory proved too difficult.

“We just didn’t finish or execute when we needed to,” left guard Wes Martin said. “Across the board, there were too many inconsistencies and too many mistakes.”

4 comments

  1. I was at the game and for sure the offense had all of the above problems written in the article, and the defense gave up a lot of big plays and six touchdowns, so write about both side of the ball. Just, because the I U Head Coach is in charge of the defense he shouldn’t get a free pass on the loss. At the start of season the big slogan by the coaches, “We got to finish”, or maybe that was last year’s slogan also. The term “bad pass” to me means a” bad decision”, the interception in the south end zone was a bad decision from my seat in the South End Zone, its a bad decision when its third down and three yards to go for a touchdown and you throw the ball in the middle of the end zone with a crowd of players from both I U’s and Iowa’s defense. At this point of the season, excuses are a poor substitute for wins on the field.

  2. T and IU South are both right about the offense this year. I don’t like the mantra take what the defense gives you. You want to create on offense by getting mismatches, out maneuvering the defense, and striking where they don’t expect. Taking what the defense gives you is like the offense has played this year – good enough but not enough to win. They don’t punish defenses for the way they play.

    IU South no one is giving the defense a pass especially coach Allen which is why he stated the defense was looking at scheme and players to find a way to stop offense the rest of the year. Until Ohio State in the second half, defense has played well enough for IU to win. The 2nd half of Ohio State and the whole Iowa game the defense imploded. Most of us knew defense was going to be a problem but hoped it wouldn’t return to the bad days of stopping no one which it did against Iowa.

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