The Hoosiers are 2-0 on the 2016 season after a 30-20 win over the Ball State Cardinals in the home opener for the Hoosiers. In the win IU got strong performances from both their offense in the first half, but in the second half it was a different story as the IU offense bogged down. The Indiana defense put together a solid performance for three quarters against the Cardinals before appearing giving up a late touchdown. Special teams had a miscue for the second week in a row as the punt team had a punt blocked that Ball State took in for a touchdown. Peegs.com takes a look back at the game and examines each unit on the Indiana team.
Indiana Passing Game
It was a tale of two halves against Ball State for the Indiana passing attack. In the first half QB Richard Lagow was 14-of-19 for 168 yards and two touchdowns. In the second half Lagow was 3-of-8 for 98 yards and one touchdown. Take out the bubble screen pass to WR Nick Westbrook that went 79 yards for a score and Lagow was 2-of-7 for 19 yards in the third and fourth quarters. In fairness to Lagow the play-calling in the second half was extremely conservative. Westbrook had another big game at wideout with three receptions for 133 yards and two touchdowns. WR Mitchell Paige led IU players with six receptions, and he was second on the team in receiving yards with 76. Fellow wideout Luke Timian hauled in his second career touchdown as he finished the game with three receptions for 25 yards. The one bewildering part of the IU passing game after two games is the almost total absence of Ricky Jones. The fifth year senior was the second leading receiver for IU last fall, but so far in two games he has only had three receptions for 18 yards. With Simmie Cobbs out for an indefinite period of time after suffering an ankle injury that will require surgery, the Hoosiers really need Jones to play like he did in 2015 when he hauled in 54 passes for 905 yards and five scores. Ball State was also able to record four sacks for 21 yards which has to get cleaned up as IU starts playing better competition.
Indiana Running Game
Much like the passing game the Indiana rushing attack was much more productive the first half against Ball State than it was in half two. In the first two quarters the Hoosiers rushed for 115 yards on 19 carries, which comes out to over 6 yards per carry. In the third and fourth quarters they ran for 92 yards on 26 carries, which comes out to only 3.5 yards per carry. The official total was 72 yards rushing but the Hoosiers lost 20 yards off their rushing total with the yards that Lagow lost when he was sacked. The conservative approach in the second half certainly did not help, but the Hoosiers still struggled to get anything going on the ground in the second half until very late in the game when they were trying to run the clock out. Devine Redding was the leading rusher for the Hoosiers for the second week in a row as he finished with 110 yards on 26 carries. Sophomore Mike Majette had a solid game as he finished with 57 yards on six carries, including a game long run of 48 yards. Redshirt freshman Devonte Williams looked more comfortable this week as he had 32 yards rushing on seven carries. True freshman Cole Gest only carried the ball one time and he picked up eight yards on that run. The Hoosiers have a bye week to clean up some of the issues in the run game that is keeping them from being as productive as they want to be. It’s not like they aren’t running the ball well, they are just not as consistent as you would like to see.
Indiana Pass Defense
The Hoosiers did a pretty solid job defending the Ball State passing attack. Cardinals’ QB Riley Neal only completed 50 percent of his passes for 231 yards with one touchdown and one interception. In the first half he only had 81 yards passing and most of his second half passing yardage came late when the outcome was pretty much decided. True freshman Marcelino Ball recorded his first career interception when he did a good job of reading the route and breaking on a deep ball and making the pick. The Hoosiers also had five pass break-ups with Rashard Fant recording three of those and safety Tony Fields accounting for the other two. IU also seemed to improve from the first game against FIU to this one against Ball State when it comes to not letting receivers get behind the secondary. The Cardinals had a pass play that went for 43 yards but for the most part the IU defensive backs appeared to clean up the breakdowns they had in game one with opposing receivers getting behind them. The one area where IU needs to improve against the pass is getting more pressure on the QB. Whenever the Hoosiers only rushed four guys they really struggled to get after Neal and he had a good deal of time to scan the field and look for an open receiver. Because of that the Hoosiers were forced to blitz to get pressure and they were able to disrupt Neal by doing that, but against better teams blitzing could lead to some big plays if it doesn’t work.
Indiana Run Defense
Indiana wasn’t as stout against the run this week versus Ball State as they were in game one at FIU, but they still did a pretty solid job. The Cardinals ended up with 140 yards on 38 carries, which is less than four yards per carry. Even if you add in the yards that QB Riley Neal lost on sacks Ball State still only had 156 yards on 38 carries, which is just over four yards per carry. The Cardinals rushed for over 300 yards in their season opening win against Georgia State so to hold them to less than half of that is pretty good for the IU defense. And a good number of the yards for Ball State came late in the game when IU was playing more of a prevent defense and not being as aggressive as they were in the early part of the game. The defense also gets a bit of pass for those late yards because the offense did not do a lot to help them out in the second half so they were on the field quite a bit in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Marcus Oliver and defensive back Marcelino Ball tied for the team lead in tackles as they both recorded eight stops. In his first action of the season safety Chase Dutra recorded six tackles, which was the third best total on Saturday against the Cardinals. Defensive lineman Ralph Green also made his first appearance of the 2016 season for the Indiana defense and he made his presence felt with three tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and one sack.
Indiana Special Teams
The Indiana special teams had their second big miscue of the season against Ball State. A week after a botched snap and hold on a field goal try cost them a chance at points, the Hoosiers had a punt blocked that was recovered for a touchdown. After the game head coach Kevin Wilson said the issue was not having enough blockers on the side where the rush came from. He said taking too much time was not a problem as the coaches timed the punt from snap to the ball being kicked in 1.85 seconds which should’ve been quick enough to not get blocked. The cheap points IU gave up on special teams did not come back to haunt them against Ball State, but later in the season when they play much better competition mistakes like this could cost them wins. The Hoosiers special teams units have been solid for the most part through the first two games, but all it takes is one big mistake and a game can be lost. On the positive side of things field goal kicker Griffin Oakes was very good as he made all three of his attempts with two coming from over 40 yards on a day when wind was a factor. The coverage and return teams were solid for the most part. True freshman RB Cole Gest did look pretty good as a kick returner as he returned three kick-offs for 68 yards.