How many injuries does it take to break an offensive line? The Indiana Hoosiers have yet to find out.
Despite fighting though multiple injuries to the left and right guard positions throughout the season, the Hoosiers added their starting center to the list as Collin Rahrig experienced back issues this past week in practice, leading to him not playing in Saturday's matchup against the University of Illinois. Instead, it was redshirt freshman Wes Rogers who stepped up and earned his first start of his career.
For his first game under the lights of Memorial Stadium, it probably couldn't have gone much better. It's not every day that you provide the blocking and protection for an offense to put up 650 yards of total offense.
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld seemed surprised the attack was that productive.
"Was that our yards today? That's pretty good," he said with a laugh.
As he should, for it wasn't just the center position under question. Left guard Bernard Taylor earned his sixth start of the season after he returned from being injured, and right guard Jacob Bailey got his third straight start after David Kaminski went down against Penn State.
"They are working extremely hard in practice, taking a lot of reps, and they aren't coming in scared," Sudfeld said about the players coming in on short notice. "A lot of them are freshmen or sophomores, young guys. They are just stepping in for the next guy."
A lot of that credit obviously goes to the players themselves, but also to the coaching staff pushing them. Coach Kevin Wilson said this type of performance speaks to the depth his team has on that side of the ball, and he hopes that it will soon transfer to the defensive side as well.
Even without two starters and one of them working through the tail-end of an injury, the offensive line was able to win the battle in the trenches and allow Tevin Coleman to record 215 rushing yards on 15 carries for two touchdowns, allowing him to move past the blown play that cost Indiana a chance at beating Minnesota last Saturday.
To put things in perspective, the last time an Indiana running back rushed for 100 yards in back-to-back games as well as over 200 yards in a game was back in 2003 when BenJarvus Green-Ellis was the one being handed the ball.
"[Ralston Evans] is filling in for Peyton [Eckert], but he's really taken the job over so my hat goes off to him," said running back Stephen Houston, who had 150 rushing yards for two touchdowns of his own. "I'm proud of him and the whole O-line."
Whenever a team has one back go for over 100 yards rushing, that itself is cause for celebration, but to provide the opportunity for two players to post those numbers is telling, even when an offensive line is healthy.
"Yeah, I'm very proud," left tackle Jason Spriggs said about his line's performance. "It's a big thing in the Big Ten and Division I; there are going to be injuries, it's just how football is. The good teams have backups who can come in and play hard and play well, and I think we really have that. I think our team is that good. I'm not going to give credit to one guy or one team; we work successfully as a unit."
So even as the injuries pile up for the Hoosiers on both sides of the ball, the offensive line has yet to be beaten down enough to not be able to provide the protection for one of the most explosive offenses in the college game.
And if this team has any aspirations of going to a bowl game, it will have to continue doing what it has been, and having whatever player is next in line step up to fill the void and hold the line strong.
Follow Will Padgett at Twitter.com/Will_Padgman