Bloomington, Ind. – What a difference a week makes.
Seven days after the No. 1 offense failed to score a touchdown while struggling badly in the Hoosiers' first spring scrimmage, Saturday's annual Pancakes and Pigskins scrimmage featured a great deal of improvement from Blake Powers and the No. 1 unit.
Powers completed 10-of-13 passes for 111 yards and two touchdowns while guiding the No. 1 offense on touchdown drives on three of the No. 1 offense's seven drives Saturday.
"Last week we weren't fired up," said Powers, who was just 6-of-16 for 37 yards last Saturday. "We put in some new formations (this week) and we played hard. We looked like a completely different offense."
Powers went to work early, leading the No. 1 offense on an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive against the No. 1 defense on the morning's opening possession. The drive's big play was a 36-yard completion to Jahkeen Gilmore on a 3rd-and-5, and Powers capped the series with a six-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy.
Powers also led the No. 1s on a pair of other touchdown marches. With the offense starting at the No. 2 defense's 40-yard line, Powers led the No. 1s on back-to-back touchdown drives, with Demetrius McCray scoring from one-yard out to finish off one drive, followed by a 10-yard Powers' touchdown pass to James Bailey to cap the other.
Powers got all of the work with the No. 1 offense, while Graeme McFarland and Kellen Lewis split time with the No. 2s. McFarland finished 3-of-9 for 52 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown pass to Chris Banks. Lewis, meanwhile, was 2-of-6 for 11 yards with one interception.
While Powers did have a much better day Saturday, the Hoosiers' defense continued to have plenty of highlights as well. One of Powers' two incompletions came when he was hit in the backfield while releasing the ball, resulting in a Jake Powers interception. That was one of two interceptions for the defense on the day, as safety Will Meyers also came away with a pick of a deep ball from Kellen Lewis.
In all, the No. 1 and No. 2 defenses combined to force two turnovers and five more three-and-outs in the day's 17 offensive drives.
It was an exciting day for IU Coach Terry Hoeppner not only because his offense looked better than it has in recent weeks, but also because it was a rare day when his team was able to go all out in a scrimmage setting.
"I remind the team that there are so few times that you get to play full-go football, tackle football," Hoeppner said. "We do so much ‘thud,' we call it, where we're staying up, the linemen aren't cutting, the backs aren't getting tackled. This is one of those days we get to do that, where the primary focus is playing football."
The two-hour scrimmage, which was played in sunny, 45 degree weather at Memorial Stadium, also gave the staff a chance to see how players would respond in a scrimmage setting. There remain a variety of position battles that are being waged, and some other positions that remain question marks, and Saturday's film will help the staff sort out how things will shake out by the time the spring season comes to a close after next week's Cream and Crimson football game.
At running back, the staff is still taking a close look at sophomore Marcus Thigpen and redshirt freshmen Demetrius McCray, Bryan Payton and Justin Carrington. Thigpen (11 carries, 32 yards) and McCray (6 carries, 16 yards) got most of the work with the No. 1 unit, while Payton (3 carries, 15 yards) and Carrington (11 carries, 12 yards) spent their time with the No. 2 offense.
The offensive line, meanwhile, remains the team's biggest concern. Indiana has to replace three starters, and a handful of youngsters are battling for starting spots. While many of the offensive linemen are unproven, Powers says that's a similar situation to what the team was faced with last spring at a couple of other positions.
"Last year quarterback and wide receivers were our biggest concern, and last year they were a strength," Powers said. "Hopefully (the offensive line) will be a strength this fall."
Hoeppner knows there's still plenty to sort out before next fall's season opener, and there are also still plenty of question marks. But he says he remains optimistic about what the team can do this fall.
"To say this guy is definitely a (No.) 1, this guy is definitely a (No.) 2, we really don't have that right now," Hoeppner said. "We have quality depth at a lot of positions. It will be interesting to see…how it works out.
"I said I'm going to be patient with them, because some positions we are very young and or at least inexperienced, which is a good thing because they are eager."
Powers 11-13-1 111, McFarland 3-9-0 52, Lewis 2-6-1 11, Haas 3-7-0 28.
Thigpen 11-32, Burns 6-17, McCray 6-16, Payton 3-15, Carrington 11-12, Powers 5-0, McFarland 1-(-3), Lewis 6-(-11).
Gilmore 2-43, Banks 2-37, Carrington 2-22, Bailey 2-16, Hardy 2-13, O'Neal 1-19, McCray 1-18, Taylor 1-14, Wagner 1-7, Haan 1-7, Burns 1-4, Means 1-3, Thigpen 1-(-1).
Powers Powers No. 1s in Pancakes Scrimmage
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