Upon Further Review - Western Michigan

HoosierNation.com takes a look back at Indiana's 39-20 win over Western Michigan in its season opener, taking a closer look at how the Hoosiers performed on both sides of the ball against its Mid-America Conference foe...

Rushing offense - D
This figured to be a work in progress for Coach Terry Hoeppner, considering the Hoosiers have four tailbacks they are still looking at, and they are running behind an offensive line that returns just two starters from a season ago. With that said, The Hoosiers' 28-carry, 71-yard effort was still well short of what Hoeppner had hoped for. Offensive balance is something the Hoosier coach covets, but during week one it was lacking. Starter Marcus Thigpen totaled only nine yards on five carries and was unable to get outside to spring a big play. Demetrius McCray, meanwhile, didn't get a carry until the fourth quarter, going for 20 yards on three carries.
The tailback who had the most success was Josiah Sears, who finished with a team-high eight carries for 35 yards, including a two-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Afterwards Hoeppner talked about expanding Sears' role in coming weeks, although it's a good bet that Thigpen, McCray and redshirt freshman Bryan Payton will continue to contribute as well.

Notable: Surprisingly, redshirt freshman Bryan Payton was the second tailback the IU staff turned to in this contest. The consensus had been that Thigpen and McCray were battling for the starting job, but Payton was on the field during IU's second possession. Payton and Josiah Sears have proven to be a good combination for IU when it goes to a two-back, power running attack in camp. It's a combination fans might see more as the Hoosiers look for a way to move the chains on the ground.

Passing offense – B-
Blake Powers and Graeme McFarland combined to throw for 252 yards on 20-of-35 passing against the Broncos, but it was a mixed bag for the IU passing attack. The biggest positive was probably the quarterback's ability to spread the ball around to a slew of receivers. Seven different players caught at least two passes, with no one catch more than five. Andrew Means, Nick Polk and Ray Fisher all showed they are capable of being significant contributors this fall. Fisher, who caught three passes for 22 yards, showed he's elusive in the open field, someone who will have a chance to turn some short throws into big gainers. James Hardy had a relatively quiet 4-catch, 86-yard effort, but he did have a big 34-yard gain on the game's opening drive, and Powers looked to him a handful of times on deep throws downfield. Bailey, meanwhile, had a team-high five catches for 51 yards and looks to be a player who can keep teams from focusing their attention on Hardy. While there were good signs, there were a couple reasons for concern. The offensive line gave up three sacks, and IU was flagged for three holding calls on a drive late in the second half that knocked the offense out of scoring position.

Notable Stat: Leading up to the game, Hoeppner talked about using up to 10 wide receivers in this contest. While IU didn't hit double digits on its wideouts, it did have six different wide receivers catch at least two balls. That's a big difference from a year ago, when James Hardy had 61 receptions, nearly double the second-highest total on the team (Marcus Thigpen, 32).

Rushing defense – A-
It's hard to find a great deal of fault with a unit that gave up only 72 yards on 32 carries to the Broncos, a mere 2.2 yards/carry. Western Michigan came to Bloomington with an offensive line that averaged 6-3 and 315 pounds, but that unit had little success opening big holes for the Bronco ground game. IU limited Western Michigan to 23 yards on 16 first-half carries, including -1 yard on five first-quarter totes. The Hoosiers were able to get into the backfield all night, recording 11 tackles for loss. That penetration came from just about everywhere, with the defensive line recording five tackles for loss, the linebackers added three, and the secondary three more.

Notable Stat: Indiana gave up only 72 yards on the ground, the best effort of the Terry Hoeppner era. A year ago Indiana limited only one opponent to less than 100 yards on the ground (Kentucky, 25 carries for 77 yards). The 11 tackles for loss, meanwhile, the second-most recorded by a Hoeppner-coached IU team. Indiana had 12 stops behind the line in last year's loss at Wisconsin.

Passing defense – B+
Western Michigan completed 25-of-34 passes for 217 yards, but it was still a very productive day for the IU pass defense. First of all, IU picked off a pair of Ryan Cubit throws, both leading to touchdowns. Chris Phillips' 66-yard interception return for a score gave IU a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, and Will Meyers' 37-yard return minutes later gave the IU offense the ball inside the WMU 20 and set up Josiah Sears for a TD plunge. Phillips' play in particular was huge – the IU staff has wanted to see the defense produce more big plays, and Phillips read a quick sideline pattern and stepped in front of the ball and raced untouched up the sideline. Not only did the secondary shine, but the pass rush did as well. IU sacked WMU quarterbacks three times, led by Brian Faires' two stops.

Notable Stat: Western Michigan might have completed nearly 3/4 of its passes, but IU did avoid giving up the big play. Only two of WMU's completions went for 15 or more yards - wideout Jamarko Simmons had catches of 20 and 26. That's very positive sign for an IU secondary that was plagued by big plays a year ago.

Special teams – C
Hoeppner still isn't getting a kick out of his kicking game. Austin Starr converted a 27 and a 28-yard field goal, but had a pair of extra points blocked as well. It's also obvious the staff doesn't have a great deal of confidence in the team's ability to kick a long-range field goal. With IU at the WMU 32-yard line with eight seconds remaining in the first half, IU opted to hoist a pair of jump balls into the end zone instead of either attempting a 49-yard field goal, or trying to throw a quick sideline pass to set up a 40-yard attempt. Punter Tyson Beattie, meanwhile, shanked a punt deep inside IU's territory, giving Western Michigan a first-down at the Indiana 13-yard line in the first quarter. Beattie did bounce back to average 44.3 yards on his next three punts, but his miscue could have proven costly had the IU defense not stiffened and limited WMU to a field goal. On the other end of the spectrum, the Hoosiers did get a huge lift from an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown by Tracy Porter early in the third quarter.

Overall – B
Afterwards, Hoeppner talked a great deal about the areas that need to be shored up, most notably the running game and the kicking game. But the fact remains that IU raced to a big lead early and cruised past a MAC foe that was coming off a 7-4 season a year ago. The play of Hoeppner's defense was especially big, as IU produced turnovers and avoided surrendering the big play, a pair of areas that were issues a year ago. New names showed they are capable of being a big part of IU's success this season, most notably defensive end Brian Faires, cornerback Chris Phillips, safety Austin Thomas and wide receivers Andrew Means, Ray Fisher and Nick Polk.


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