IU’s Ramsey still ready, if called upon

To offer a glimpse into Peyton Ramsey’s uncanny focus, Indiana offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer recalls a cold, hard fact.

It was the Rutgers week. Michael Penix Jr. was healthy and there was no reason to think the Hoosiers would need Ramsey, the backup quarterback, for meaningful snaps. If he were less into the details, Ramsey could have slacked.

But that week, the redshirt junior was extraordinarily efficient. Whether it was versus air, in one-on-ones, or full team drills, Ramsey’s throws rarely touched the ground.

That week, Ramsey completed 95 percent of his passes.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen a completion percentage as high as his was in the Rutgers week, and it was extremely high last week,” DeBoer said. “He’s just locked in.”

There is a good chance the Hoosiers, again, won’t need Ramsey. Penix is a game-time decision but has been able to practice this week after being pulled from a win over Maryland with an undisclosed injury.

But the week leading into the Rutgers game, and then Maryland, and then the Maryland win itself, has offered DeBoer and the coaching staff reminders of the privileged position they find themselves in.

They not only have a talented starter but a laser-focused backup. That backup is last year’s starter, who, if he thought like many other college quarterbacks, slighted by a camp competition, could have packed his bags and left.

But as painful as it may be to watch every second of film, complete almost every throw, and not play a down on Saturday, Ramsey didn’t leave. The son of a high school football coach decided to meet his circumstances head-on.

“I told myself I wasn’t going to run from it and I told myself at the beginning of the year, I didn’t know when my number would be called, but I had a feeling that, at some point, this team was going to need me,” Ramsey said. “It really has to do with the people here and the guys in the locker room.

“So many good relationships that I’m not just going to walk away from.”

There was more than a hint of emotion in IU coach Tom Allen’s voice after Ramsey helped the Hoosiers to a win at Maryland, completing 20-of-27 for 193 yards and a critical first-half touchdown. Ramsey had worked his whole life to be a starting quarterback, Allen said, and that had been taken away from him in fall camp.

A young man named after Peyton Manning — while his brothers’ names are an homage to Joe Montana and Drew Bledsoe — could have been disappointed by life’s latest turn. But on each day, leading up to each game, Ramsey has been a picture of consistency.

In today’s college football, Allen figures that is what every team needs. Quarterbacks are going to get hurt.

“I just think that’s part of the nature of where we are at as a game. A lot of teams, when you spread people out, those quarterbacks take a little more contact,” Allen said. “When you are running the football, that’s one of the results of that style of offense.”

IU will hope that Penix, who has missed parts of three games this season, will stay healthy and available, starting with the opening snap of Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. road contest.

Even if that’s the case, Ramsey still has a role to play.

“All week long, I still try to be that same leader, the same guy that’s pushing everybody,” Ramsey said. “They look to me during the week to get things going, to get the tempo in practice going.

“I’m that same way on the sideline, at least I try to be, when Mike or anybody, or even receivers, running backs come to the sideline, I try to be that guy that they can look to. I would say there wasn’t a whole lot of change there.”

DeBoer, who came over from Fresno State this offseason, didn’t see Ramsey prepare from week-to-week in 2018. But he can’t imagine it was much different.

“What a pleasure to coach him each and every day,” DeBoer said. “I know that he’s going to be ready to go. There’s no doubt about it in my mind.

“I was happy with both quarterbacks (at Maryland), how completely locked in they were, knowing exactly what to do, knowing where to go, knowing where their matchups were. It showed. There were very few wasted plays.”

The play of DeBoer’s quarterbacks, along with a reliable complement of receivers, has kept the offense on track. IU is one of six Big Ten teams averaging more than 30 points per contest (33.4).

There is a reason Penix remains the starter. The zip on his passes is just different. It’s an element Ramsey can’t quite match.

But the veteran has proven to be a special person in the Hoosiers’ quarterback room, nonetheless.

“We went through the game film (Monday) and it was hard for me to find mistakes they made that were mental. It was almost impossible to find,” DeBoer said. “I was really happy with Peyton. It’s a huge tribute to him, being ready to go, because that’s a hard deal.”

4 STORYLINES

1. Who are the quarterbacks?

For both teams, there is some uncertainty about who will line up behind center. IU has deemed Michael Penix Jr. a game-time decision after an undisclosed injury in the Maryland game, and Nebraska coach Scott Frost said it was “hard to say” whether Adrian Martinez would suit up. If neither team has their starter, the Hoosiers have the upper hand as far as a veteran backup Peyton Ramsey. The Cornhuskers would turn to sophomore Noah Vedral, who logged his first career start in a 34-7 loss to Minnesota. Either way, Nebraska’s QB will run. Vedral was 13-of-24 passing but also kept it 15 times for 49 yards versus the Gophers. Martinez could give Nebraska’s offense another gear, though it’s been hard for the Huskers to find it. They are averaging 9 points per game in their last three.

2. Keep it on the ground?

For much of the season, the Hoosiers have leaned toward the pass. Only versus struggling run defenses like UConn (104th nationally) and Rutgers (113th) have the Hoosiers opted to run more times than pass. Nebraska (95th) could be another team the Hoosiers look to pound it on. The Cornhuskers are surrendering 188 ground yards per contest, and the Hoosiers should have senior center Hunter Littlejohn back in the lineup. Do the Hoosiers stick with it on the ground? IU had a lot of success in the second half versus Maryland, getting running back Stevie Scott rolling for another 96 yards on 11 carries.

3. Accepting the noise.

Tom Allen brought noise machines to the Hoosiers’ first team meeting of the week — and it was indoors. He just wanted his team to feel the power of 90,000 screaming fans bearing down on them. It’s hard to simulate, even with noise machines, but it’s an element the Hoosiers are going to have to handle. Can they get plays relayed? Can the offense make adjustments on third down? These may seem like small things, but a lack of execution in this department can have big consequences. It may be hard to hear, but the Hoosiers can’t be screamed off track.

4. Getting win No. 6.

IU hasn’t claimed a sixth win before the end of October since 1993 when the Hoosiers under Bill Mallory finished the regular season 8-3 and went to the Independence Bowl. It’s been a long time since IU football has had this level of success. It’s been even longer, 1959, since the Hoosiers claimed a win over Nebraska. IU’s players and coaches insist the topic of win No. 6 — the one that secures bowl eligibility — isn’t a topic of discussion within the program. But however you frame it, this would be a big win. And a third win in a row in the conference — a feat that also hasn’t been accomplished since ‘93 — would give IU momentum heading into a 7 p.m. home contest with Northwestern.

By the numbers

6: Games of 30-plus points for the Hoosiers this season. One more and offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer earns a $25,000 bonus.

6.3: Yards per carry for Stevie Scott the last four weeks. Scott averaged 3.2 yards per rush attempt in his first three games.

9: Sacks allowed by IU’s offensive line this season, tops in the Big Ten conference.

29.8: Opponents’ third-down conversion rate versus IU, ranking 10th in the country, third in the conference.

60: Years since the Hoosiers’ last win over Nebraska in 1959. IU hasn’t visited Lincoln since 1977.

20 comments

  1. To me this is the best role for PR and he plays it as well as anyone. This situation fits him well because of his attitude and abilities.
    TA and staff (this year) have done a good job of using PR in his role and protecting MP health from (dents, dings, and injuries) while allowing him to play as number 1 qb but immediately pulling him for PR if something is amiss by not forcing the issue with MP and keeping him able to play for the whole year thus far with what I would call a major assist from PR.

  2. Tom Allen hasn’t won as an underdog. It’s time. So far, IU has won the games they were expected to win and have lost the games they were expected to lose. Experts say IU is a 2.5 point underdog. Time for an upset victory. If IU is better, this is the type of game to prove it.

  3. Well, where is the Indiana defense at?? Can the Indiana offense stay up?? Not looking very good at the moment.

  4. IU is improving but at a snails pace. We will make Nebraska look better than they are. IU isn’t disciplined enough to win as a road underdog. Maybe in another couple of years but not today. It will come down to Northwestern game or Purdue. We should have hired a coach like Minny did. He is a cheerleader like TA but Pj Fleck has more behind it.

    1. Nebraska did what I have seen IU do many times over the years. While going in for TD Nebraska fumbles and ball goes the other. IU actually doesn’t mess around and scores td.

      IU can win this game if they can get settled in and not make such costly penalties when they have Nebraska stopped though Nebraska stops themselves vs Nebraska getting settled in.

  5. If Indiana is to win, they have to stop the terrible penalties and stop having any turnovers (of any kind). Peyton looks very good (serviceable) in this game….Good enough today to “BEAT” and under-man Nebraska team…..This is the kind of game where Indiana needs and must win. The defense must really step up their game…..you cannot let a true freshman (3rd string) quarterback beat you. Is Peyton Hendershot (TE) playing in this game?? The offense is moving the football just need to score touchdowns and not have any turnovers……”GO HOOSIER” you can win this game!!!!!!

  6. So undisciplined. It is amazing the stupidity of this team. They constantly shoot selves in foot. Just sad

  7. With under 2 min in the half, ball inside their 20 you don’t get cute and flip-pass,…interception,….you run the ball. That DeBoar ‘genious’ strategy caused a needless 14 point turnaround. Ground and pound!

    1. t: Yep. Out of position,…unheard of 30 yard penalties and too slow. Neb last 4 games they didn’t score over 13 points. If defensive players are too slow then Wommack needs to set guys on corners not go rabbit hunting.

  8. what is it with all the penalties??? It’s the third string quarterback, what has he attempted six passes…the defense has no “DISCIPLINE”….maybe it is the whole team….Is Indiana becoming the Miami of the midwest.

  9. Nebraska crowd has been good hosts to IU. Emotion is good in football but IU’s staff on DEFENSE and offense also need to get control of players emotionally. Team meeting/s needed.

Comments are closed.