Indiana’s defense is better in part thanks to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Well, maybe not because of them, but they were a fun reward during fall camp for a drill that helped instill a certain mindset that has played out in Indiana’s 2-0 start.
The Hoosiers, who had 22 takeaways in 13 games last year, have six takeaways already this season, including three in Saturday’s 30-20 win over Ball State in their home opener at Memorial Stadium.
The approach of aggressively pursuing takeaways comes from new defensive coordinator Tom Allen, an attitude he cultivated in fall camp with various competitions.
And there were rewards.
“I think we got some candy,” said linebacker Marcus Oliver, who had a team-high tying eight tackles and one of IU’s three forced fumbles against Ball State.
“I like Reese’s Cups, so that’s big to me.”
It fit the aggressive personality of freshman linebacker — “husky” in IU’s scheme — Marcelino Ball.
“I won a few of those,” said Ball, who has 13 tackles in his first two college games. “I don’t eat candy, though, so I had to give them away.
During fall camp, the goal was for the defense to get at least five takeaways per practice.
“If we didn’t hit it, we ran,” said safety Jonathan Crawford, who had five tackles and two fumble recoveries on Saturday. “Most of the time we hit it.”
IU tracks who has the most takeaways during practice in season as well.
So who’s winning that?
“It’s me,” Crawford said with a smile.
“During the season, we focus on takeaways and have a little competition with the whole defense, who can get the most.”
Against Ball State on Saturday, freshman Marcelino Ball tied Oliver with eight tackles and had an interception, Crawford recovered two fumbles, and Oliver, A’Shon Riggins and Tegray Scales each forced a fumble.
All of that helped Indiana jump out to a 30-0 lead in front of a crowd of 41,374.
Indiana recovered a fumble at the Ball State 26, at the Indiana 3 and had its interception at the Ball State 25.
Indiana has scored 20 of its 64 points on the season off takeaways.
“As the offense continues to click and the defense continues to do what it’s doing, as bigger games come, this is what we need to do to make sure we get where we need to go.”
Ball’s eight solo tackles led Indiana, and he had IU’s fourth interception of the season when he read receiver Corey Lacanaria’s pattern.
“I knew they were going to do it again because it was No. 5 (Lacanaria). The first time, I’m not going to lie, I was high (in my stance). That’s dumb for a DB. I didn’t think they were actually going to throw the post,” he said.
“I thought he was going to hit the corner. The second time, I read his hips. I stayed low. When he went out for a post, I just weaved, and when he came back in, I was like, OK, stay over the top.
“The ball was overthrown so that was even more beautiful for me to keep running for the ball.”
It would have earned him candy, if he ate it.
He can donate the Reese’s Cups to Oliver.