Their styles could not be any different.
Former IU running back Tevin Coleman had big play ability last season, while current IU running back Jordan Howard grinds his way to five or six yards per carry this season.
And as successful as Coleman was in sparking Indiana’s offense last season, Howard’s consistency has proven to be an even better fit for the Hoosiers this season. That was especially true in Saturday night's 38-35 win over Western Kentucky, when Howard’s game-high 31 carries for 203 yards paced the Hoosiers.
“Obviously Tevin was awesome,” IU senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. “But Jordan Howard fits our offense so well.”
Saturday’s performance marked Howard’s second-career 200-yard rushing game. He also had three catches for 38 yards, bringing his collective output to 241 total yards. He didn’t reach the end zone against the Hilltoppers but broke countless tackles on his way to that 6.5 yard-per-carry average. Howard has seven straight 100-yard games.
The UAB transfer’s yardage and powerful running style proved critically important late in the fourth quarter.
Indiana started its final drive at the Western Kentucky 21 holding onto a three-point lead. After a crucial 14-yard reception by sophomore wide receiver Simmie Cobbs to convert on third and nine, Howard carried the ball eight yards to set up 2nd and 2. He followed that run with a nine-yard burst up the middle for another first down to keep the drive alive.
As the Hoosiers made their way into Hilltopper territory, time began running off the clock. Faced with a 2nd and 12 at the Western Kentucky 16, it was Howard, whose two consecutive carries of six and eight yards, that put the game on ice for Indiana.
Howard’s physical style was most effective in the second half as a whole as he rushed for 155 of his 203 yards in that half. Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson credited the blocking of the offensive line and tight ends as a big reason for Howard’s success.
“Jordan’s strong, he’s matured, and he gets stronger as he goes,” Wilson said. “That’s kind of how he played last year. He’s a guy that gets stronger as he goes.”
"He runs so hard, I sure wouldn't want to tackle him," redshirt junior receiver Mitchell Paige said. "He lowers his pads, he's always getting yards he shouldn't get. He hasn't really gotten those 80-yard touchdown runs that Tevin used to get, but he gets 4, 5, 6 every time."
The reason Howard gets tougher the longer he plays is simple.
”I guess the defense just gets tired of tackling me because of the pounding I’m giving them,” Howard said. “And I just love doing it.”
At UAB last season, Howard ranked seventh in the country with 132.3 rushing yards per game. Through three games this season, he’s averaged 169. His yard-per-carry average through the first three games of this season exceeds his average of 5.2 last season.
Safe to say the transition hasn’t been too difficult for the first-year Hoosier.
“I feel like I adjusted very well,” Howard said. “They brought me in, the offense, as part of the family and stuff, and then just taught me the playbook and everything. We just get along very well.”
Howard’s cohesiveness with the Hoosiers allowed them to control the ball at a slower tempo than they are normally used to. Sudfeld said being able to have the kind of ball control ability is huge.
“He wears on defenses, gets the offense into third and manageable,” Sudfeld said. “He has really opened up our playbook and given us good opportunities.”