BLOOMINGTON-Terry Hoeppner isn't shy about pointing a finger when it comes to Indiana's recent struggles with the running game.
"I'll point a thumb, right here," said Hoeppner, pointing at himself.
The Hoosiers' first-year head coach knows that as good as his passing attack has been in the season's opening two weeks, the running game has been just the opposite. While the Blake Powers-led aerial game ranks second in the Big Ten with 291.5 yards/game, Indiana is averaging just 111.5 yards/game on the ground and 2.8 yards/carry, which both rank last in the Big Ten.
Starter Chris Taylor has managed just 78 yards on 28 carries in two games and has scored IU's lone rushing touchdown on the season. Yamar Washington, meanwhile, followed up his 108-yard effort against Central Michigan with just 30 on Saturday in IU's 35-31 win over Nicholls State.
While the passing attack has had just enough to offset those struggles in the two openers, Hoeppner knows that it will be harder and harder for the offense to enjoy success if it can't manage to put up better numbers on the ground.
"I need to coach better, we need to coach better, and they need to play better, period," said Hoeppner about the running game. "Part of it has been the opponent, and part of it has been us. We're just not consistent running it well enough."
Part of Hoeppner's frustration is the fact that the offensive line and the Hoosier tailbacks were supposed to be a strength this season. Indiana returns five players with starting experience on the offensive line, which both Taylor and Washington looked strong in both spring practice and during fall camp. But that's yet to result in a consistent ground game when it matters most.
Hoeppner said there will be some subtle changes in terms of playing time this weekend, although it doesn't appear there will be any changes in the starting lineup.
"We've made some adjustments and we've made some changes, but no personnel changes," said Hoeppner. "You'll see some people on the field, though, that maybe haven't been on there, and maybe some others won't be on there as much."
The biggest changes might simply be a matter of scheming as opposed to personnel.
"We're figuring out what our offensive line does best," said Hoepper. "(For example) if we're having a problem with this guy pulling and getting this block, then let's quit doing it. Quit trying to say, ‘well, that's really the best way to block this play.
"If we don't have the guy playing there right now who can do that, then let's not do that. Let's find another way to get it done, to get him blocked. There are other ways."
If the Hoosiers can do that, the offense figures to become even more dangerous than it's already been. Indiana heads into its 5:45 p.m. matchup on Saturday against Kentucky averaging 403.0 yards/game, which ranks seventh in the Big Ten.
"I think our passing game will continue to grow, and if all of a sudden that running game picks up a couple of notches…then look out," said Hoeppner. "That changes everything."
Hoeppner Not Running Away From Problem
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