There was no doubt in the mind of Hoosier quarterbacks coach/passing game coordinator Matt Canada that his quarterbacks earned a passing grade during Saturday's scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
Blake Powers, Graeme McFarland and Kellen Lewis each had opportunities to lead both the No. 1 and No. 2 offenses during the day, and each orchestrated at least two scoring drives. The trio combined to go 23-of-44 for 421 yards and six touchdowns.
"I was happy," said Canada. "They all threw the ball well."
The only drawback was a combined four interceptions, with two for Lewis and one each for McFarland and Powers. Both Powers and McFarland threw interceptions on their opening drives with the No. 1 unit before bouncing back to lead touchdown marches for the No. 2 units.
Powers, the odds-on favorite to start the Sept. 2 season opener at Central Michigan, finished 7-of-10 for 96 yards, including a 32-yard touchdown pass to James Bailey.
"Blake played well," said Canada. "He underthrew the one deep ball. He waited (too long), and it was very clear what happened. We were wide open. But it was a very correctable mistake."
Canada felt the same way about McFarland's interception, which was a ball that was a little bit behind Jahkeen Gilmore, and cornerback Tracy Porter came away with the interception.
While Canada wasn't pleased with the interceptions from the two veteran quarterbacks, he was pleased that in both situations they made the right reads and threw to open receivers.
"They weren't bad decisions," said Canada. "In Blake's case, Marcus was open. With Graeme, Tracy made a nice play on a ball that was a little bit behind Jahkeen. But that's a correctable mistake as well."
Decision-making has been an issue at times, but it was much better for both McFarland and Powers on Saturday.
"We are so much better than we were in the spring," said head coach Terry Hoeppner after the scrimmage. "With Blake and Graeme, their grasp of the offense, and their total understanding of the little things (is so much better)."
McFarland bounced back from a 3-for-11 start to finish 8-of-16 for 199 yards and four touchdowns. McFarland completed his final five passes on the afternoon for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
"Graeme played well," said Canada. "He came back and threw a couple good balls at the end."
McFarland's late touchdowns included an out to Lance Bennett, where the junior spun on cornerback Buster Larkins and then raced untouched into the end zone. He then went deep to Gilmore for a 60-yard touchdown strike against the No. 3 defense, and finally threaded a 30-yard strike between two defenders to Gilmore for his final touchdown.
While Kellen Lewis' numbers – 7-of-18 for 126 yards and two interceptions – don't jump out on paper, the true freshman was also impressive Saturday. Lewis displayed a strong arm and a maturity beyond his years in the huddle. He was also hurt by a couple of drops, including a deep throw to Lance Bennett that was dropped and likely would have gone for a touchdown.
After his first two drives with the No. 1 unit ended before they could get started as Yamar Washington fumbled on each drive's opening play, Lewis then went 3-for-3 for 67 yards on his third series with the No. 1s, capped by a 20-yard touchdown strike to Thigpen.
"Obviously, Kellen Lewis is a talent," said Hoeppner. "He doesn't know what he doesn't know, which is good at this point, but he's a talent and truly amazing how he has picked up on things, in just his 15th or 16th practice. For a true freshman playing that position, he's done a nice job."
Lewis did struggle a bit with decision-making, which is to be expected, according to Canada, with someone who's just now learning the intricacies of the offense.
"Kellen, boy, he's electric," said Canada. "He went out there and did some great things. But he had a couple of bad decisions - his picks were probably more in the decision area."
For a position that had been under the microscope this fall, though, Canada and Hoeppner were pleased to see a lot more good than bad from all three on Saturday.
"As a whole, first day, I'm very pleased with how they played," said Canada. "I thought they handled things well, and again, with signals and communication and getting in and off the field, I thought it was real good."
QBs Earn Passing Grade
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