Hoosiers looking for Ball on the rebound

First went the helmet.

Then the gloves, then the mouthguard. Marcelino Ball’s equipment took the brunt of his annoyance.

Walking to the sideline early in Saturday’s second quarter, a furious Ball tossed each article out of his way. The Indiana defender had just missed an opportunity for a sack that turned into a 12-yard touchdown pass for Iowa’s Nate Stanley, a frustrating moment in an afternoon full of them for Ball and the Indiana defense.

On the bench, Ball’s position coach, Kane Wommack, went to reassure the redshirt sophomore. Tough breaks happen, Wommack reminded him, but how do you rebound?

This week against No. 18 Penn State, IU is looking for that convincing response from Ball and the defense.

“Lino is probably harder on himself than anybody else,” Wommack said. “Sometimes, he puts a great deal of pressure on himself. The thing that we just reiterate — and I think he would say the same thing — is you can’t play with that fear of failure. You can’t play with that pressure on you all day long. You gotta be tough on yourself and you gotta challenge yourself. Ultimately, when you do give up a play, you’ve got to be able to go to the next one.”

Saturday was a rough day all around for the Hoosiers. Ball seemed to take his performance, which included some missed tackles and a costly first-quarter holding penalty, personally.

In the postgame locker room, Ball was still frustrated. He approached Wommack dissatisfied that he didn’t play better. The two agreed to chat later. That led to an hour-long Facetime connection on Saturday night that Wommack called the best conversation he and Ball have shared in their first year working together.

“(We were) just kind of talking through, ‘Hey, what are you feeling on game day? How are you perceiving giving up a play and what’s the mindset you need to take moving forward?'” Wommack said. “I was really pleased and impressed with the way he responded after the game about what he needed to do moving forward. I expect to see him handle those situations better moving forward.”

Even so, the missed tackle on Stanley was an understandably tough sequence for Ball to stomach. Ball lunged at the bulky 6-foot-4, 242-pound quarterback’s gut — not too high, not too low — but couldn’t wrap him down to the ground. It was a play that Indiana needed to make, yet one where Stanley also proved he was better.

For an Indiana defense playing several newcomers, the Hoosiers are trying to lean on veterans such as Ball to play at a consistently high level against Big Ten competition. When they’re not, results like Saturday’s against Iowa are possible — if not likely.

This week, Wommack wants to see a more even-keeled version of Ball. Responding to the tough breaks and creating moments that help IU’s defense prevail is the challenge.

“Lino is a very talented individual and he’s made a lot of plays in our defense and will continue to make plays in our defense,” Wommack said. “But when a play isn’t made, or when you give up a play, how you respond in that adversity is the next step that we need to see him take.”

One comment

  1. I liked what I saw when Ball came to the sideline after that play. He shows he cares very much about how well he plays. I wonder if coach Allen isn’t putting too much on his shoulders wanting him to be a tough run stopper and blitzer yet still needing to cover deep against some very good recievers. I hope the look at schemes and players coach talked about brings about realistic expectations about what players can do. It may take simplifying the defense to get better play from the defense.

    I hope Ball and all the defensive players rebound this game and have their best game of the year against PSU.

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