With every game that Indiana plays this season, we'll take a pregame look at five keys that the Hoosiers will need to be successful.
Here's the five keys for tonight's game with Missouri.
1. SLOW DOWN James Franklin The Missouri quarterback has thrown for 530 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games and he also ran for 121 yards on 23 carries. A big key for the Hoosiers will be getting off the field on third down and not allowing the Tigers quarterback to be too comfortable out there. If Franklin is able to pick apart the IU defense, the game will turn into a major shootout between two explosive offenses.
2.ESTABLISH THE RUN The Navy and Bowling Green games in particular were night and day because of one obvious offensive statistic for IU. In both games IU was able to throw the ball and get good yards. But against Navy, the Hoosiers managed just 118 yards on 26 carries. Against Bowling Green that number was 266 yards on 48 carries. Both running backs Tevin Coleman and Stephen Houston ran for over 129 yards against Bowling Green. If IU can establish the run early, it just makes Nate Sudfeld that much more dangerous as IU's quarterback.
3. OFFENSE NEEDS TO GET OFF TO A QUICK START In the first quarter of the first three games Indiana and its opponents have tied 28-all. After that first quarter, IU has outscored its opponents 122-58. The 28 points in the first quarter is IU's lowest scoring quarter. It's important that the Hoosiers not only get deep in the red zone like they did against Bowling Green early but that they come away with points on the scoreboard. Missouri will be too good of a team to let off the hook with empty scoring possessions.
4. SPECIAL TEAMS MUST IMPROVE QUICKLY Whether it was the punt blocking against Bowling Green of fumbled returns in each of the last two games, these are simply mistakes the Indiana special teams unit cannot afford to make. Kick and punt coverage have been OK. With the kickoffs it certainly hasn't hurt that Mitch Ewald is averaging 64.6 yards per kick and has 14 touchbacks in 22 kickoffs this season. Erich Toth has only had to punt four times in the first three games so we really haven't gotten a good feel for how good he can be this season. Three of those four punts, however, landed inside the opponents' 20-yard line.
5. GET EWALD INVOLVEDThis doesn't mean that Indiana should be settling for field goals but also let's don't forget how big of a weapon IU has as its disposal there. Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has played the gambler several times this season and come away without points. The Hoosiers have only attempted one field goal this season and Ewald made it, a 26-yarder against Indiana State. If the opportunity arises, IU needs to let Ewald show why he's the most accurate kicker in IU history.
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