Absence of Sudfeld proves key factor in loss

Indiana's offense struggled to create in last Saturday's 29-7 road loss against the Penn State Nittany Lions. However, it has an opportunity to regain its form this Saturday against Rutgers.

The Hoosiers traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, last Saturday looking to avoid their first losing streak of the season and remain undefeated on the road.

Without their offensive leaders Nate Sudfeld and Jordan Howard, Indiana struggled to create scoring opportunities, losing the game 29-7 to fall to 4-2 on the season and 0-2 in the Big Ten.

Zander Diamont, who replaced Sudfeld when he injured his ankle vs. Ohio State, got the start on Saturday against the Nittany Lions. He was able to tie the game at 7-7 on a 12-yard touchdown run with four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Hoosiers' only points in the game.

Diamont has been productive in the short time he has played this season, particularly on the ground where he’s averaging over seven yards per carry. But he was unable to finish Saturday’s game after injuring his throwing shoulder in the third quarter.

Danny Cameron, son of former Hoosier coach Cam Cameron, came into the game for Diamont, and could be the starter for the time being if Sudfeld and Diamont’s injuries keep them off the field for a prolonged amount of time.

Over the past two years the team hasn’t fared well when quarterback Nate Sudfeld has been unable to play. Indiana is a combined 1-7 in the eight games that he was not the starter, with only one passing touchdown over that span and an average of 84 passing yards per game by the quarterbacks that have stepped in.

In contrast, Indiana is 7-2 over the last two years in games that Sudfeld was able to start and finish. In those games he threw a total of 12 touchdowns with an average of 245 yards per game through the air.

His presence is not just felt in the passing offense, but also when the Hoosiers run the ball. The team has rushed for over 200 yards in every game that he has started over the last two years. His ability to hurt defenses through the air takes away the option for teams to load the box and focus on stopping the run.

Sudfeld was cleared to play against Penn State, but was ultimately held out of the action. It is unclear again whether or not he’ll be able to play in the team’s homecoming game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.

“As we go through this week, we’ll see,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. “He did more last night at practice than any day last week.”

If the Hoosiers are able to take advantage of the Rutgers pass defense that is allowing over 290 yards, it is key that Sudfeld is able to play. The offense hasn’t thrown for more than 155 yards with him not starting.

“We feel that we’re armed to handle whatever comes up.,” offensive coordinator Kevin Johns said. “Whether it’s with Diamont, Sudfeld or Danny Cameron.”

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