Bloomington, Ind. – IU quarterbacks coach Matt Canada is not only getting more out of Blake Powers than he did a year ago, he's expecting more as well.
The 6-4, 220-pound junior quarterback completed 14-of-21 passes for 227 yards and a pair of touchdowns to James Hardy at a public scrimmage in front of a couple of hundred fans Saturday at Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers' 111-play scrimmage capped IU's Fan Appreciation Day, which also featured pictures and autographs for IU fans before the team.
"I'm pleased with where we are," Canada said. "But we have to keep refining things. He had a good day, but had opportunities to have a great day. Blake's level of expectation with me is a lot higher than it was a year ago."
A year ago, the quarterback position was a big question mark as the team went through fall camp. That has since changed, and the Hoosiers' success this fall will rely a great deal on Powers and a loaded group of wide receivers putting plenty of points on the board.
That group produced Saturday. In a scrimmage that generally featured the No. 1 units going up against each other and the No. 2s squaring off as well, Powers spread the ball around to a group of wide receivers that has continued to impress all fall. Hardy led the way with five catches for 110 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown reception on the scrimmage's third play and a 25-yard, one-handed catch in the corner of the end zone later in the afternoon.
"Hardy is unbelievable," said redshirt freshman safety Austin Thomas, who had 3 ½ tackles and a pair of passes broken up. "Blake has been throwing well all camp, and threw well today. That connection is tough to stop."
But it wasn't just Hardy who impressed Saturday. James Bailey added five catches for 81 yards, while Terrance Turner (3 receptions, 37 yards 1 TD), Andrew Means (3 catches, 32 yards) and Chris Banks (2 catches, 14 yards, 1 TD) were among the receivers who also came up with big plays.
The abilities of IU's wideouts is well known by the IU defense and the coaching staff, but it did catch one group by surprise.
"The officials comments, ‘wow, they're an impressive looking group of receivers who can make plays'," IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said afterwards.
While the passing game excelled and the kicking game (4-for-4 on PATs, 2-3 on field goals) was surprisingly solid, there were a slew of penalties and the running game went no where. With potential starter Demetrius McCray unavailable due to an academic issue, Marcus Thigpen carried only three times for zero yards, while Bryan Payton was limited to 11 yards on four carries. In fact, the two leading rushers during the scrimmage were quarterback Kellen Lewis (3 carries, 23 yards), and walk-on Jeremy Miles, whose 20-yard run late helped him finish with a team-best 25 yards on three carries.
Hoeppner said afterwards, though, that he wasn't concerned with the running game's struggles, instead focusing on the passing attack being a little more efficient than it was.
"We threw the ball longer pretty well at times, but you don't want to rely on big plays," Hoeppner said. "I want to be a big-play offense, and we'll be a big-play offense when we get things rolling. But you have to establish that short passing game, the running game, and now the big plays will really happen.
"If you can throw the football, you're never out of a game. We're going to be much better, much more efficient. Our goal is to complete 70 percent of our passes, to not turn the ball over throwing the ball, and to score touchdowns and make big plays."
Saturday's scrimmage not only allowed IU fans to see the Hoosiers for the first time this fall, but it also put the players in a situation that was different from what they've seen during the first two weeks of camp.
"There's nothing scripted – it's real," Canada said. "It's not like we're going to get blitzed for 10 minutes and then we're going to run this for 10. That's what you do in practice to get quality work done, but it's more realistic here.
"That's what was exciting for us. They've seen our plays everyday for 15 practices and all last spring, so to continue to execute like we have, I'm excited about our passing game and where we are."
Canada was pleased with not only Powers, but Kellen Lewis as well. The team's No. 3 quarterback completed 9-of-15 passes for 92 yards and a pair of touchdowns while also rushing for 23 yards on three carries. His play included orchestrating a 60-yard scoring drive for the No. 2 offense against the No. 1 defense, capped by a three-yard touchdown pass to Chris Banks.
"I'm fired up about Kellen Lewis," Canada said. "He runs around and makes plays. He's becoming a better quarterback everyday. It's not ability with Kellen or knowledge, it's experience and decision-making. He had another good day today."
Indiana returns to the practice field Sunday, with one more week remaining before fall camp comes to a close and the team turns its attention to the Sept. 2 opener against Western Michigan.
"We can build on today, and hopefully have a long way to progress yet," Hoeppner said. "There's still a lot of upside with this team. We haven't reached our upper limits. We're not going to set limits on the team, I'm not, and I've asked them not to set limits on themselves as individuals."
James Hardy, 56-yard pass from Blake Powers (Austin Starr kick).
Terrance Turner, 21 yard pass from Kellen Lewis (Starr kick)
Starr 26-yard field goal
Chris Banks, 3-yard pass from Lewis (Kevin Trulock kick)
Hardy, 25-yard pass from Powers (Starr kick)
Starr, 32 yard field goal
Powers 14-21, 227 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
McFarland 5-9, 27 yards, 1 INT
Lewis 9-15, 92 yards, 2 TD
Chappell 5-8, 20 yards
Thigpen 3-0; Sears 2-5; Powers 4-(-18); McFarland 4-0; Payton 4-11; Gilmore 1-(-2); Lewis 3-23; Burns 3-10, Miles 3-25
Gilmore 2-15; Hardy 5-110, 2 TD; Carrington 1-(-1); Skelton 1-6; Means 3-32; Bennett 1-12; Bailey 5-81; Payton 2-18; Polk 2-21; Turner 3-37, 1 TD; Fisher 1-4; Banks 2-14, 1 TD; Sears 1-8; Haan 2-10
Kremer 1.5, Faires 1.0, Patterson 4.0, Kleinsmith 5.0, Bailey 1.5, Kirlew 3.5, Porter 2.0, Thomas 3.5, A. McClurg 5.0, Powers 2.0, Majors 1.5, Newman 1.0, Mayberry 3.5, Brown 2.5, Calhoun 3.5, Hampton 1.0, Johnson 1.0, Owens 1.5, Kinsey 1.0, Council 1.5, Roberts 2.0, Adrian Burks 1.0, Grosfield 1.5, Burrus 1.0, Kendal 0.5, Mosley 1.5, Phillips 0.5, Altman 0.5, Jones 0.5, Price 0.5, Luce 1.0, Middleton 0.5, Nowinski 0.5
Tackles for a loss
Faires 1.0, Kirlew 2.0, Thomas 1.5, McClurg 2.0, Patterson 1.0, Kendal 0.5
Kremer 1.0, Kirlew 1.0
Thomas 2, Jones 1, Bailey 1, Powers 1, Majors 1, Kirlew 1, Hampton 1, Calhoun 1
Powers Powers Hoosiers In Scrimmage
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