Wrapping up the nonconference slate will be no easy task for Indiana as it wraps up that part of its schedule this Saturday at 12:30 at Wake Forest. The Hoosiers are 3-0 but played at home the first three weeks.
At stake: going 4-0 for the first time to start a season since 1990.
“This will be our first of five road games,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. “Playing on the road each year is always different and how your team embraces that challenge. And they make it bigger than it is; can they create their own energy and synergy to play?
Indiana should have enough energy after a come-from-behind home win last weekend against Western Kentucky and sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty.
But as confident as the Hoosiers feel following that performance, this week’s game against the Demon Deacons won’t be as easy to prepare for as last week’s game was.
While the Hoosiers knew they’d be going up against Doughty last week, that same level of certainty doesn’t exist this week. Wake Forest sophomore starting quarterback John Wolford re-aggravated an ankle injury last week in the Demon Deacons’ 17-14 victory over Army.
As a result, it’s possible that freshman quarterback Kendall Hinton will suit up against the Hoosiers and start. The uncertainty – both were listed as starters on this week’s depth chart by Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson – means Indiana has had to prepare for potentially facing two quarterbacks Saturday.
“They have two big quarterbacks, and both of them can run,” Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said. “We’ve got to be conscious of that.”
The Hoosiers also have to be conscious of takeaways, which in the last two weeks have had a direct impact on their success.
Freshman defensive back Jonathan Crawford had interceptions on back-to-back defensive series for the Hoosiers against Western Kentucky which led to 14 points in a come-from-behind win. In Indiana’s week two win over Florida International, it was senior defensive end Nick Mangieri’s forced fumble and fumble recovery that set up two scoring drives for the offense in a 36-22 win.
However, the secondary has had to come up with most of the takeaways as a result of the lack of a pass rush from the front seven, especially the defensive line. That will be critical especially if the Hoosiers end up facing Hinton, a mobile quarterback, on Saturday.
Knorr complimented the activity of defensive linemen Mangieri, Ralph Green and Darius Latham, but said he was disappointed the team hasn’t recorded more sacks.
“That’s something we need to work on,” Knorr said. “The quarterback has been getting the ball out quicker. We’ve done a decent job of batting the ball down, but… really need to improve on finishing off and getting more sacks.”
Even with having to prepare to possibly face two different quarterbacks this week, Indiana’s defense faced arguably its toughest challenge last week against Doughty and Western Kentucky.
This week, that will be the case for Indiana’s offense which averages a Big Ten-leading 40.7 points per game. Wake Forest ranks ninth in the country in total defense and seventh in the country in passing defense.
It’s another opportunity for growth as the Hoosiers conclude non-conference play.
“Good challenge on the road, very good opponent. BCS team,” Wilson said. “We are looking again for us, we have got to continue to get better. We need another good week.”