Every Monday at 9 a.m., following an Indiana football game, we will have a feature at AllHoosiers.com that we call Monday Morning Quarterback.
In it, AllHoosiers.com site publisher Terry Hutchens will look back at some of the in-game coaching decisions that worked well or maybe fell a little bit short in that particular game.
Here is the first installment following Saturday’s 28-10 victory over Indiana State.
1. WHY DID IU NOT DO A BETTER JOB OF ESTABLISHING THE PASSING GAME WITH Nate Sudfeld?
I’ve heard this criticism from people in the last 48 hours and I’m afraid this will be one of those times where I jump firmly behind the coaching staff in my support. The numbers look extremely weighted toward the running game. No doubt about it. IU had 87 plays and ran the ball 69 times while passing it just 18.
But a couple of things need to be pointed out here. Number one, there were at least eight or nine other play that began as passes but turned into runs where Sudfeld was either sacked or ran the ball. He had 10 rushes for 32 yards which include the two sacks. Number two, though, is that Indiana fans had the entire 2013 season to get confident with the fact that Sudfeld will be fine in the passing game. Yes, it’s different personnel and IU lost a lot of players at the wide receiver position, but there shouldn’t be a concern in my opinion that Sudfeld will be able to get it done as the season progresses.
The biggest factor, however, is simply that Indiana State couldn’t stop the run and when the opponent can’t stop something you keep going to the well over and over again. Indiana gained 455 yards on the ground. How many times in recent years have we thought just the opposite? We’ve wondered why IU couldn’t do a better job establishing the run? Well, this time the shoe was on the other foot. And game plan’s change when an opponent can’t stop you in a certain phase. Sudfeld will be fine at quarterback, especially if teams don’t drop eight into coverage and dare you to run the ball. If they do, my guess is that Tevin Coleman and company will have another big day running the football.
2. EXPLAIN THAT FOURTH-AND-ONE CALL ON IU’S FINAL PLAY OF THE THIRD QUARTER.
OK, this one left me scratching my head, too. Indiana faced a third-and-15 call at the Indiana State 43, leading 21-10 late in the third quarter.
Sudfeld tossed a little screen pass into the flat for Devine Redding and the true freshman had a nice individual effort as he picked up 14 yards to set up fourth-and-one at the 29. The offense looked to the sideline and there appeared to be no question that Kevin Wilson and his staff was going to go for it. I have no problem going for it in that situation. If you kick it you’re looking at a 46 or 47 yard field goal into the wind into the south end zone of Memorial Stadium. You have been able to gain yards at will all day long against the Sycamores so picking up a yard here would not seem to be a problem.
No, it wasn’t the fact that Indiana went for it, it was the play they ran to try to get it. Tevin Coleman already had over 200 yards rushing. On the first three plays of this particular drive, he had gained 8, 12 and 16 yards. D’Angelo Roberts had proven himself throughout the day as a capable back against Indiana State, too. So, IU opts to hand the ball off to Redding – on a sweep to the left – and he loses his footing and gets trapped and manages to just get back to the line of scrimmage.
Again, I have no problem going for it there but there just seemed to be 10 other plays in the playbook that would have made more sense than that call. Hindsight is always going to be 20-20 but that call just came out of left field for me. At that point, get one of your horses in there and pick up the first down and do it running north and south. If not, just let Sudfeld sneak it behind a big offensive line that had worn Indiana State down to that point.
3. DON’T STOP DOING WHAT IS WORKING
This is kind of a piggyback off of the first one but there was the first offensive series in the second quarter that had me wondering what Indiana was doing.
In the first quarter, IU had gained 159 yards – all on the ground – and was leading 14-3. On the first offensive possession of the second quarter, IU got the ball at its own 35.
The first play was a handoff to Coleman and he got stuffed at the line for a one-yard loss. The second play, Sudfeld completed his first pass of the day Ricky Jones made the catch and got 13 yards. Sudfeld tried to go over the top and hit Simmie Cobbs but it was incomplete on first down. Over the next four plays, IU had three designed runs and on a fourth play Sudfeld managed to pick up 6 yards on a pass play where nothing was open.
This left IU with a first down at the Indiana State 30. But instead of continuing the pound the ball with the run, IU tried three pass plays. On all three, Sudfeld tried to pass, didn’t look comfortable and ended up with the ball in his hands. The first play went for no gain and the other two were his only two sacks of the day.
My point continues to be that when a team can’t stop you running the ball, especially as the field is getting shorter down toward the other goal line, you should pound the ball in while you can. I think the next 10 play calls after IU was forced to punt in that situation were all runs but it just seemed that the run would have been a better option on that previous drive, too.
Check back every Monday at 9 a.m. for our Monday Morning Quarterback feature. Obviously, there won’t be one next Monday though as IU doesn’t play this weekend. Also stop by tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. for our On the Mend report as we look at IU’s current injury situation.