James Hardy knows it will be a big challenge to produce big plays in the passing game on Saturday against Iowa.
Indiana's talented 6'7" wide receiver has been a big-play threat in his redshirt freshman season. Of his team-high 34 receptions, eight have been for at least 20 yards, including five of at least 30. Whether it's been going up and over or getting behind opposing corners, Hardy has been a vertical threat for quarterback Blake Powers.
Those big plays, though, won't come as easily on Saturday. That's because the Iowa secondary will spend the majority of the time in zone coverage. It's a scheme Iowa has been using for the majority of Kirk Ferentz's time in Iowa City, one that often allows opposing wide receivers to catch intermediate throws, but prevents them from hitting the home run.
"That's been their focus," said Hardy, who's averaging 15.9 yards per reception. "Their whole mind frame is you have to beat us like this."
A year ago, teams struggled doing that. Iowa gave up only two touchdown passes of more than 25 yards a year ago, with both coming in the season's first month. The longest scoring pass Iowa gave up in the season's final eight games was 23 yards.
Through six games, the Hawkeye secondary hasn't given up a touchdown throw of more than 29 yards, and the longest pass play they've given up is 46 yards. By comparison, Indiana has had three different receivers haul in 46-yard plus receptions this season (Hardy, James Bailey and Marcus Thigpen) and a fourth – Jahkeen Gilmore – who has a 43-yard reception to his credit.
"We have to break it down and take one play at a time," said Hardy. "We might not get the big plays that we usually get, but we just take it one play at a time we should be able to be successful."
To take advantage of what the Iowa secondary does give up, Hardy knows that the IU wideouts will have to be especially precise in their route-running Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
"You just have to learn the perfect depth, the perfect route, and then we need to get the timing down with Blake this week and make sure it's clicking for the game Saturday," said Hardy.
NEWS AND NOTES:
Indiana is expected to have Gilmore back on the field on Saturday. The 6-2, 215-pound junior has dressed for each of the past two games, but has been held out with a hamstring injury.
Gilmore was back on the practice field Tuesday, and IU Coach Terry Hoeppner is optimistic he'll be ready to go in Iowa City.
"We're hopeful," said Hoeppner. "He warmed up last week. I defer to (head trainer) Dean (Kleinschmidt), the training staff and our medical staff, and I think that's pretty common most places. They have final say on who plays and who doesn't.
"The feeling was he would do some damage and then be gone for an extended period of time. He's practicing today, I know that, which is a good sign. We can use him. He's especially good against a press technique corner because he's so physical. He's such a strong athlete, a strong receiver."
Big Plays A Big Challenge
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