BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Saturday's scrimmage was the seventh practice of the Hoosiers' spring practice season, but that wasn't a lucky number for the IU offense.
In a 100-play scrimmage at Memorial Stadium the No. 1 offense failed to score a touchdown, the field goal unit had back-to-back field goals blocked, and the special teams units surrendered back-to-back kickoff return for touchdowns as IU Coach Terry Hoeppner saw his team reach the halfway point of the spring season.
Saturday's effort left a foul taste in Hoeppner's mouth.
"We took a big step backward today from where we thought we were," Hoeppner said.
Blake Powers, who had been enjoying a very solid spring season leading up to Saturday, struggled. The No. 1 offense was 0-for-8 in putting points on the board during Powers' eight drives, as the junior-to-be unofficially completed 6-of-16 passes for 37 yards. There wasn't much help from the running game either, as Marcus Thigpen (five carries, two yards with the No. 1s), and Demetrius McCray (three carries, six yards) couldn't get things going on the ground.
"We have too much talent on that offensive side of the ball to not make any plays, and we made very, very few," Hoeppner said.
The offensive highlights on the day came primarily from the No. 2 unit, and most specifically from Kellen Lewis. The No. 2 offense accounted for three scoring drives, one under the leadership of Graeme McFarland and two under the direction of Lewis. In Lewis' first scrimmage play he hooked up with James Bailey for a 40-yard touchdown play. Soon afterwards he broke free for a 63-yard scramble that set up a five-yard touchdown run for Thigpen.
Lewis completed 2-of-5 passes for 47 yards and an interception Saturday while also carrying the ball four times for 70 yards.
"Kellen played well today," quarterbacks coach Matt Canada said. "He really hasn't had a very good spring as far as understanding things, but he was very solid today."
McFarland, meanwhile, was 6-of-13 for 65 yards with one interception.
"Graeme was solid as he always is," Canada said. "He missed a couple of throws but did a good job."
The offense's performance soured Hoeppner to the point that he didn't allow the players to talk to the media afterwards, a decision that he jokingly said he should have reconsidered.
"I probably should have qualified it and said you can talk to the defense, you just can't talk to the offense because anything they say can and will be used against them in a court of law," Hoeppner said.
Powers' struggles were not only a disappointment, but also a bit of a surprise to Canada.
"Blake has had a really, really good spring until today, and just didn't perform as well as we hoped," Canada said. "A lot goes into that, we're live, we have to block, we have to run routes, we have to catch. But we had guys open at times and didn't get the ball to them."
Some of the problems for the offense was certainly the result of the defense. The front four was consistently putting pressure on the quarterbacks, and Chris Phillips had a pair of interceptions. The offense had a very difficult time stringing together first downs, doing most of their damage as a result of a couple of big plays from Lewis.
While Hoeppner was frustrated, he said he's going to be patient with the offense.
"It's not the first time I've been a part of a one-sided scrimmage in the spring," Hoeppner said. "Part of it is I really like the way our defense is playing. I like some of the adjustments and things we've done.
"But I don't want to give them too much credit either, because part of it was the total ineffectiveness of the offense."
The special teams also had a couple of breakdowns, as a pair of 34-yard field goals were blocked. One of those blocks was by Joe Kleinsmith, who came off the edge to bat down one attempt.
On kickoff returns, Lance Bennett drew Hoeppner's ire for not coming up to catch a kick and instead allowing it to bounce into the end zone for a touchback. Bennett responded by catching the next one and returning it the distance for a score. Then, on the next kick, Marcus Thigpen did the same, fielding the kick around the goal line, heading up field and then bouncing it outside for a second kickoff return touchdown.
The two-hour practice ended with Hoeppner frustrated but also preaching patient with an eye toward getting better by the next time the team takes the field.
"We'll watch the tape, we'll learn from it, and like I told them, I hold one person responsible right now for the performance, and that's me," Hoeppner said.
Offense A Bit Offensive During Scrimmage
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