The Albers Angle: Where's the passing game?

Indiana won its season opener 28-10 against Indiana State on Saturday.

When quarterback Tre Roberson transferred to Illinois State over the summer, this became Nate Sudfeld's team.

It seemed like a great thing for the Hoosiers at the time. No longer would Sudfeld have to look over his shoulder at Roberson, or wonder if he'd be under center on Indiana's next possession.

Finally, after two years of sharing the quarterback spot with Roberson, it was Sudfeld's job, and only his. Finally, a chance to gain a true rhythm in a game, a chance to make a mistake and rebound from it without being pulled.

That was all great on paper. Even without star receivers Cody Latimer and Kofi Hughes, Sudfeld figures to have a big year this season.

But Saturday's opener against Indiana State wasn't exactly what Sudfeld had in mind as a start to the season.

Indiana ran the ball early and often in a 28-10 win, and the passing game was nowhere to be seen. It was an odd sight from a team that has spent its years under Kevin Wilson playing an uptempo, pass-first style.

The Hoosiers (1-0) ran the ball nine consecutive times on their first possession of the game, and it was successful. The drive covered 76 yards and resulted in a touchdown.

But while Tevin Coleman was marching his way to a career-high 247 yards, Sudfeld had little chance to develop a rhythm. With a group of young receivers, that was important.

"We had a hard time getting Nate going," Wilson said afterward. "They were dropping eight and kind of playing the perimeter. With the line we've got and the running backs, it's one of the reasons the run game was good. We've got to do a better job getting [Sudfeld] in a rhythm to start with young receivers.

"Sometimes the spacing in depth is looking a little funky to him, and I think he had a hard time trusting and cutting it loose on a couple throws."

Sudfeld's final line: 11-of-18, 111 yards, 0 touchdowns, 1 interception. He completed only one pass on four attempts in the first half.

When Wilson did call a passing play, Sudfeld often looked uncomfortable in the pocket and too often scrambled when he had a man open down field. He missed a wide open receiver in the end zone for a sure touchdown, and his interception came deep in Indiana State territory and led to a Sycamore touchdown.

Those are the kinds of mistakes IU won't get away with against better competition.

It wasn't the kind of performance we've come to expect from Sudfeld. Consider this: Only twice last season did Sudfeld throw for less than 111 yards, and that was while sharing the job with Roberson. In one of those two games (Purdue), Sudfeld attempted only one throw.

"They definitely changed most of what they did on film," Sudfeld said of Indiana State. "And we were expecting they might change a lot because we did pretty well against them last year. They were not letting us throw the ball down the field. Obviously I want to play a little better against Bowling Green, but I'm happy with the win.

"We were just doing what was working for us, and that was the run game. This year, I think I'm less worried about myself as opposed to just getting nice team wins. It sounds bad, but it was good for me to kind of swallow my pride and hand things off and not force things."

Sudfeld and his wide receivers said they have developed a good chemistry to this point, but you have to believe there were times Sudfeld simply didn't trust the new guys. Hughes and Latimer aren't out there anymore, and Sudfeld has effectively started from scratch with a new group.

Plus, Indiana played a pretty vanilla game on Saturday with a bye week coming. Wilson doesn't want to give Bowling Green and other teams upcoming on the schedule too much real tape to scout if he doesn't need to.

Sure, Sudfeld needs to play better going forward, but his lackluster opener shouldn't be concerning. He will be OK.

"I was pretty spoiled last year with those guys [Latimer and Hughes}, but I'm just as excited to play with these guys," Sudfeld said. "We have a decent chemistry, but we still have a ways to go. That's why it's good that we have this bye week. We're all kind of figuring each other out, still trying to find ways to get them the ball more effectively, not as many jump balls as last year.

"But we have so much talent, so much raw potential at their with those guys. Once we figure it out, we're gonna be pretty good."


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