The Indiana defense is ready to take a big step in the right direction this season.
The Hoosiers proved that the new system is something to get fans excited about in their opener, defeating Indiana State 28-10 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
With a new 3-4 scheme in place, the defensive unit allowed just 30 rushing yards on 24 attempts and held the Sycamores to 170 total offensive yards, the best mark in the Kevin Wilson era.
“I thought we played really well as a unit,” junior bandit linebacker Nick Mangieri said. “We’d like to get some turnovers or some takeaways. There’s opportunities for more plays, and we had a few mishaps, but if you look at the whole body of work, we played pretty well.”
Missed tackles have been a main point of emphasis this offseason for the defense, and Wilson has used film from last season’s Seattle Seahawks’ Super Bowl defense as a tool to improve the open field tackling ability of a defense that allowed an average of 527.9 yards last season.
“When we go through practice that’s a strong emphasis,” senior linebacker Flo Hardin said. “We study how they (Seattle) tackle, how their defense is so good at making open field tackles and how they use their shoulder pads instead of their helmets, so they’re all legal hits. We carry it over to practice and it carried over to the game field.”
In the opening drive of the game, the Hoosier defense looked like the same old story, missing four tackles out of the gate and allowing Indiana State to drive for 51 yards. But after getting out some of the nerves, they began to dominate defensively, only allowing 119 yards after the first drive.
“We knew that first drive wasn’t us,” senior defensive end Bobby Richardson said. “We gave up too many yards. We don’t want to let them have that many. We got it corrected on the sideline, came out and executed.”
Richardson, a leader among the defensive front, had a big day to start his final season in crimson and cream, sacking the quarterback three times, something he didn’t manage to accomplish once last season while playing on the interior line.
“Bobby is a monster,” Mangieri said. “It was only a matter of time before he went off like that, I expected him to do that every week.”
Mangieri also accounted for a sack, giving the defense a total of four on the day, a good start for a team that struggled getting to the quarterback last season, averaging a mere 1.67 sacks per game. According the Richardson, the key now is continuing to build on this success.
“I’ve been around this team, I know what we’re capable of,” Richardson said. “We showed some of it today, but we need to start showing all of it.”
Coach Wilson was equally optimistic about the performance that the defense put on display against the Sycamores, but there is still more that can be done on that side of the ball.
“Good start, but I think they’re a long way away from what we’re going to see as the year goes on,” coach Wilson said. “I expect them to continue to keep spiking the right way.”