Rushing offense - A-
Chris Taylor is finally looking like the sort of playmaker the IU coaching staff expected he would be this fall. Taylor ran for 132 yards on just 18 carries, with 58 of those yards coming in the decisive fourth quarter. His 27-yard run the fourth quarter included a big-time move on Illini linebacker Anthony Thornhill, where he hit the hole and bounced to the outside, leaving Thornhill in his tracks. Blake Powers, meanwhile, continues to be a valuable part of the IU running attack. Take away his two sacks and Powers ran for another 30 yards. He continues to be a threat on the option play IU likes to sprinkle in, and at 6-4, 235, he's a load for defenses to bring down. Yamar Washington had a modest 47 yards on 15 carries, but had a big seven-yard run on IU's second touchdown drive where he dragged a couple defenders to the Illinois 1, setting up Powers' one-yard TD throw to Nick Sexton. The only negative for the ground game was a fumble by Josiah Sears at the Illinois 1 late in the fourth quarter with the game out of reach. That miscue, though, did continue a disturbing trend for the Hoosiers – Indiana has attempted eight rushes this season from either the opponents' one or two-yard line and its been able to punch it in only once. Indiana was 0-for-1 in goal line rushes against Central Michigan; 0-0 against Nicholls State; 1-4 vs. Kentucky; and 0-3 against Illinois.
Notable Stat: Chris Taylor ranks seventh in the Big Ten in rushing, averaging 84.2 yards/game. He's also averaging an eye-opening 5.8 yards/carry, which is better than a pair of the Big Ten's marquee tailbacks – Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun (4.8/carry) and Minnesota's Laurence Maroney (5.3/carry).
Passing offense – A-
It was another efficient day for Blake Powers, who completed 22-of-35 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns. He did throw one interception late in the first quarter, but even that throw was on target and Illinois cornerback Alan Ball made a great play to get a hand in on the IU receiver, and then made a second great play by finding the ball in the air and coming down with the interception. James Hardy continues to look like one of the best wideouts in the Big Ten, hauling in a career-high 10 passes for 118 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Hardy has been able to make the acrobatic play (such as his one-handed catch in the end zone to put IU up 21-10), but is also able to make the tough catch over the middle. While Hardy is undoubtedly Powers' favorite target, eight different players caught at least one pass Saturday. Indiana continued to have success despite the absence of Jahkeen Gilmore, who missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury.
Notable Stat: Powers was most efficient when it mattered most – on 3rd downs. On 3rd down plays, Powers was 8-for-11 for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he turned six of those 11 3rd down plays into first downs, and those numbers could have been even better - one of his incompletions was a drop by Ryan Skelton that would have been good for a first down, and another unsuccessful third down conversion was a result of Hardy trying to get extra yards instead of settling for a first down on a 3rd-and-5 play.
Rushing defense – B+
The Hoosiers did a solid job controlling Illini tailbacks Pierre Thomas (11 carries, 46 yards) and E.B. Halsey (4 carries, 18 yards), and they were able to do the job without committing an extra man to stopping the run like they did a week ago in Madison. The runner that gave the Indiana defense the most fits was quarterback Tim Brasic, who wound up with 34 net yards and 44 if you take away his one sack for a ten-yard loss. Brasic was able to hurt IU on the option as well as on the occasional quarterback draw. But Indiana limited the Illini to 113 yards on the ground and surrendered only 3.2 yards/carry and didn't give up a run of more than 16 yards all afternoon. Two of the stars in stopping the run were senior linebacker John Pannozzo (seven tackles, one tackle for loss) and junior safety Troy Grosfield. Grosfield continues to impress, making a couple of tackles in the open field to prevent minimal gains from turning into big plays.
Notable Stat: Indiana ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rushing defense, surrendering 173.6 yards/game. In Big Ten games only, though, IU is giving up only 108.0 yards/game on the ground which ranks second in the conference to Ohio State's 54.0/game. Take away Nicholls State's 408-yard afternoon against the Hoosiers and the IU rush defense has given up an average of only 115 yards rushing in the other four contests.
Passing defense – B-
Illinois managed only 13 points in this contest, but Tim Brasic had a productive day against the IU pass defense, throwing for 230 yards while completing 22-of-39 passes and a touchdown. Those numbers could have been even bigger had Illini wideouts not had a couple of drops, and if Derrick McPhearson wouldn't have stepped out of bounds on an apparent 51-yard scoring play in the third quarter that was brought back after replay officials determined McPhearson had stepped out of bounds after an 18-yard gain. Indiana was also unable to bring Brasic down for sacks on numerous occasions, and wound up with only one sacks on the day. Victor Adeyanju had a couple of near misses on potential sacks, and Brasic was consistently able to slip a would-be Hoosier tackler and either get his throw away or head up field for positive yardage on a scramble. One player who shined, though, was safety Aaron Mitchell, who had six tackles and a couple of passes broken up. He made one diving play to tip a Brasic pass away, and then delivered a big blow on a would-be Illini receiver to force another incompletion.
Notable Stat: With two interceptions in the last two weeks, Indiana's Tracy Porter shares the Big Ten lead for interceptions…Indiana ranks ninth in the Big Ten in sacks with eight in five games – that total leads only Illinois and Northwestern, both of whom have five sacks in their five games.
Special teams – C
There was both good and bad from Indiana's special teams. On a positive note, punter Tyson Beattie had a huge game, averaging 45.8 yards on his six punts. He had two 50-yard plus boots, and Illinois averaged only 1.5 yards on two returns. Beattie did have two punts that went for touchbacks, but both came on 50-yard plus kicks, and one was nearly downed at the one-yard line by Leslie Majors. Beattie's best kick was likely a 43-yarder in the second quarter that he blasted into a 15-20 mile/hour wind. While Beattie had a big afternoon, there were issues on the other special teams units. Indiana was nearly the victim of a surprise Illinois on-side kick early in the second quarter – Illinois recovered the kick but Illini kicker Steve Weatherford touched the ball before it went 10 yards, giving IU the ball at the Illinois 40. Joe Kleinsmith had an inconsequential extra point blocked late in the game, the second extra point he's had blocked this season. It ended a streak of 17 straight extra points for the freshman kicker, which dates back to the Central Michigan season opener.
Notable Stat: Troy Grosfield averaged 8.5 yards/punt return, which comes on the heels of the Wisconsin game where he averaged 17.0 yards on his two punt returns. Grosfield has supplanted Lance Bennett as IU's punt returner ever since Bennett had a costly fumble on a punt return in IU's 35-31 win over Nicholls State.
Overall – B+
It's hard to find fault with an IU offense that totaled 403 yards and was balanced in both yardage (205 rushing yards, 198 passing yards) and play selection (47 rushes, 35 passes). Indiana was also a very solid 9-of-18 on 3rd down conversions, and held a four-minute edge in time of possession. Three turnovers, a near special teams gaffe on the onside kick and the inability to bring down Illini quarterback Tim Brasic in the backfield is a concern, but all-in-all it was a solid afternoon for the Hoosiers, who improved to 4-1 for the first time since 1994.
Illinois Report Card
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