Three Days and Counting...

HoosierNation.com continues its day-by-day preview of the Indiana-Ball State match-up with "Three Days and Counting" - a look at three big concerns for the Hoosiers as they prepare for this weekend's contest...

What is the condition of Blake Powers- This is likely a bigger concern to those outside the program than those on the inside, who have a better feel for how badly the Hoosiers' starting quarterback was hurt in Saturday's win over Western Michigan. But Powers did miss the final 20 minutes of the opener, apparently with leg cramps and another unspecified injury. IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said the injury was a little bit worse than he originally thought, but he expects Powers to be ready to go Saturday.

After a closed practice session Tuesday Powers said he did practice, and it appears the odds are the 6-4, 224-pound junior will be under center against the Cardinals. But whether he'll be 100 percent remains a bit of a mystery. During the second half of the '05 campaign Powers played despite a handful of nagging injuries, and his play dropped off as the Hoosiers dropped their final six games of the regular season.

With the Hoosier running game still trying to find its stride, the Hoosier offense relies a great deal on the quarterback to get the unit going. If Powers struggles or is unavailable, Indiana's challenge in Muncie becomes much more difficult.

Self-Inflicted Injuries - There were plenty of good things to come out of Indiana's 39-20 win over Western Michigan, but there were a handful of ‘self inflicted injuries' that had rankled Hoeppner afterwards.

Among the most notable were 90 yards in penalties (including three holding calls that stymied an IU drive in the closing minute of the first half), a pair of blocked extra points, and a 12-yard punt that gave Western Michigan the ball inside the IU 15-yard line. Indiana was able to limit Western Michigan to a field goal after Tyson Beattie's botched punt, and the Hoosiers didn't have any big plays called back due to penalties. But Hoeppner realizes his team is tempting fate with that many miscues, particularly as they prepare to head on the road for the first time this season.

Some of the mistakes can be attributed to it being the first game of the year along with the fact the Hoosiers are playing so many players who are seeing their first game action at the collegiate level. But if Indiana commits those same sort of mistakes in the same quantity this weekend, they'll have a much more difficult time emerging victorious.

Better Productivity when running on first down-At his weekly press conference Tuesday Hoeppner made the point that he wasn't as concerned about his team's struggles running the ball as the media seemed to be. After all, the point is to avoid getting yourself in 3rd-and-long situations, and the Hoosiers did amass 143 yards on 29 first down plays Saturday, or nearly five yards per attempt.

Hoeppner certainly has a point, but when the Hoosiers do opt to run the ball, they need to be more productive. Indiana ran the ball on first down 15 times against the Broncos, totaling only 43 yards – or less than three yards per carry. Probably more troubling than the final total was the fact that 11 of IU's 15 first-down runs went for three yards or less, leaving them in 2nd and long more often than not when they opted for the run on first down instead of the pass.

The Hoosiers' did have more success late in the game, primarily when they went to power attack that included Josiah Sears and Bryan Payton in the backfield. That's a combination that will likely see even more action this weekend against the Cardinals.

What's coming up:
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday - Four Key Match-ups
On Wednesday – Three Big Concerns
On Thursday – Two Things IU Must Do to Win
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
On Saturday – Hoosier Gameday

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