It was Buster Larkins who went down with an injury last month, but it was the IU secondary that was feeling the pain of his absence last weekend.
With the fifth-year senior Larkins sidelined for the year with an Achilles injury, John Stocco and the Wisconsin Badgers picked apart the Hoosiers with the passing game in Madison. The Achilles injury that ended his season may prove to be the Achilles of the Hoosier defense.
"We're all trying to rally around each other with the loss of our captain at our position," said sophomore Tracy Porter. "We have to pick each other up and learn the ropes together with the examples that Buster set for us."
Wisconsin passed for 274 yards and three touchdowns against the Hoosiers in its 41-24 victory at Camp Randall Stadium. With Indiana attempting to try to take away Wisconsin's rushing attack, the cornerbacks were forced into man coverage most of the game, freeing up Stocco and Badger receivers Brandon Williams and Jonathan Orr for big days.
The loss of Larkins leaves the Hoosiers with just two experienced corners in Porter and fellow sophomore Leslie Majors. Rounding out the two-deep are redshirt freshman Chris Phillips and senior Courtney Clency who has three years of experience in the secondary but was switched to the offense side of the ball at the beginning of the season.
"It's kind of tough because we look at (Larkins) as our leader," said Porter. "He's the one who shows us the ropes. It's a pretty tough blow for him to be hurt and out for the season.
"We're making adjustments, trying different things. It's going to be pretty tough to stay fresh now that we lost Buster, but we know we have the guys to do it."
Larkins started all 11 games at the cornerback position for the Hoosiers in 2004 and the first three games this season. He finished first on the team with nine pass breakups, second with two interceptions and fourth with 45 tackles as a junior. He had three tackles this season when he went down with the injury.
"It was unfortunate for us to lose a veteran like that with all his knowledge," said Majors. "But that's part of the game. That's why you have more than two corners on a team."
Porter and Majors both have experience after playing as true freshmen in 2004. Porter started the first seven games of the year before a shoulder injury ended his season early. Majors stepped in at corner when Porter was injured at Ohio State and stayed in the lineup to start the final four games in Porter's absence.
The experience has showed already this season. Majors is fourth on the team in tackles through four games with 18 tackles and Porter is just three behind at 15. Porter has one of the team's two interceptions after picking off Stocco in the third quarter against Wisconsin.
Porter also had the play that may have saved the Hoosiers' season. With less than four minutes to go and Indiana trailing Nicholls State, Porter ripped the ball out the hands of the Nicholls State running back Anthony Harris setting up the drive that led to the game winning touchdown.
"It good that me and Tracy have that experience," said Majors. "Buster is still give us pointers, but at least we both have the game experience to draw from. It's not like we're throwing someone entirely new in the starting lineup. Just last night Buster came over to my house and was telling me things I could have done different in the Wisconsin game. He's watching and he's still always around trying to help us out."
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