Upon Further Review: The Ball State Game

Kellen Lewis shined in his debut in an IU uniform, and the IU defense bounced back from a miserable first half to keep Ball State off the scoreboard in the second half. HoosierNation.com takes an in-depth look at how each of IU's units performed Saturday in Muncie...

Rushing offense - C+
On paper, Indiana's 29-carry, 147-yard effort on the ground looks like a huge improvement from last week's performance against Western Michigan. But 88 of those yards came from Kellen Lewis, with a good portion of those coming when pressure forced the redshirt freshman to scramble. The rest of the team, meanwhile, totaled just 59 yards on 17 carries, or 3.5 yards per carry. There was one huge highlight for the IU ground game, though – with the Hoosiers backed up to its own one-yard line with four minutes left, an eight-yard Demetrius McCray run moved the chains and got IU out of the shadows of its own end zone, and then Josiah Sears burst through a hole for a 25-yard gain for another first down. IU would eventually need a hard count from Lewis on 4th-and-1 to draw Ball State off sides and put the game away, but when the Hoosiers needed some positive yards on the ground the most, McCray, Sears and the offensive line responded.

Notable: No Hoosier tailback had more than four carries. Four IU tailbacks combined for 13 carries for 66 yards, with Sears and McCray each getting a tailback-high four carries. In two games, IU has continued to give McCray, Sears, Bryan Payton and Marcus Thigpen opportunities to show what they can do. At a position where Terry Hoeppner admits the player needs to get into a rhythm as the game wears on, the Hoosier head coach will likely have to settle on one or two primary ball carriers in the next couple of weeks.

Passing offense – B+
Kellen Lewis showed what IU quarterbacks coach Matt Canada meant when he said the redshirt freshman is a quarterback who happens to be a great athlete and not vice versa. Lewis completed 15-of-28 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown, and nearly half of his rushing yards came when he couldn't find anyone open downfield and instead opted to tuck the ball and scramble. Probably just as impressive as Lewis' numbers in his collegiate debut was the fact he didn't have any turnovers. There's never been a question about Lewis' tools, only his decision-making and game-management skills. On Saturday in Muncie, he was as good in those areas as anything else.

Lewis also spread the ball around to nine different receivers, with no one catching more than four passes. James Bailey led the team with four catches while James Hardy had the team's one touchdown reception, but a couple of the game's biggest plays came from the less heralded IU wideouts. There was a clutch 32-yard reception by Andrew Means in the fourth quarter where he was drilled by Ball State safety Marcus McClure, which added another 15 yards for a personal foul. Nick Polk also had a 39-yard reception on a 3rd-and-20 on IU's first second-half drive that resulted in points, and Ray Fisher made some Cardinals miss on his own 32-yard gain.

Notable Stat: In two games, the Hoosiers have six different players that have had receptions for 30 or more yards, including four against Ball State. Ray Fisher, Andrew Means, Nick Polk and Jahkeen Gilmore all had 30-yard plus receptions Saturday. In last week's 39-20 win over Western Michigan, James Hardy and Marcus Thigpen had 30-yard gainers.

Rushing defense – A
For the second straight game, IU didn't give up anything on the ground. After giving up only 72 yards on 32 carries (2.2 average) against Western Michigan, the Hoosiers were even better against Ball State, limiting the Cardinals to 41 yards on 22 carries (1.9 average). In the first half Ball State did little on the ground because quarterback Joey Lynch was picking the IU pass defense apart, and in the second half the Cardinals were still relying primarily on the pass. But Ball State did run the ball 13 times on first down and managed only 31 yards on those attempts, generally leaving them in 2nd-and-long as a result.

Two of the biggest factors in IU's rushing defense were linebacker Adam McClurg and safety Austin Thomas. McClurg finished with a team-high eight tackles, matching the total for Thomas. The IU coaching staff has talked about Thomas' ability to step up from his safety position and be a big part of an improved run defense, and five of his eight tackles were against the run Saturday.

Notable Stat: Through two games, Indiana ranks third in the Big Ten and 19th nationally in rushing defense, yielding only 56.5 yards/game. Michigan leads the Big Ten and ranks fourth nationally with 29.0 yards/game, while Iowa is eighth at 40.0 yards/contest. Last season, Indiana gave up 215.2 yards/game rushing, a total that ranked 110th out of 117 Division I-A programs.

Passing defense – D+
After the game IU Coach Terry Hoeppner said Joey Lynch's first-half effort was as good a performance as he could remember recently from a quarterback, but the Hoosiers' secondary certainly played a part. Lynch was 12-of-16 for 202 yards and three touchdowns, and on a couple of occasions had players completely wide open thanks to breakdowns in the IU secondary. The one big play IU turned in – an interception by Tracy Porter – had a chance to be a tide-turner early on, but it went for naught thanks to a missed 25-yard field goal by Austin Starr. The Hoosiers turned its fortunes around in the second half and limited Lynch to a 3-for-8, 44-yard effort in the game's final 30 minutes, and when it mattered most, IU was a perfect 3-for-3 in preventing Lynch from moving the chains through the air on 3rd downs in the fourth quarter. But Indiana did allow Ball State to complete 21-of-30 passes for 289 yards on the evening, and were also flagged for pass interference twice (Chris Phillips, Leslie Majors).

Notable Stat: Indiana is ranked 97th nationally against the pass, yielding 252 yards/game during the first two weeks. The only Big Ten team to give up more yards through the air is Purdue, which is giving up 310.5 yards/game. Western Michigan and Ball State have combined to complete 68.6 percent of their passes, averaging 11.0 yards/completion and 7.6 yards/attempt.

Special teams – C
For a second straight week, it was all about peaks and valleys for the Hoosier special teams. It's hard to imagine a "C" grade for a unit when the Hoosiers had a school-record 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as well as a 35-yard field goal that ultimately proved to be the game-winner, but there was still plenty that went wrong with the Hoosier special teams units. Austin Starr's 35-yard field goal with 11:00 left in the game proved to be the game-winner, but he missed a 25-yard chip shot in the first half that nullified any IU momentum following Tracy Porter's interception deep in IU territory. IU punter Tyson Beattie averaged only 37.2 yards on his four punts, and his most important punt – midway through the fourth quarter with IU leading 24-23 – traveled only 30 yards, giving Ball State the ball near midfield.

Overall – C+
Kellen Lewis turned in an eye-opening debut in relief of Blake Powers and Graeme McFarland, and the Hoosier defense bounced back from a miserable first-half to throw a shutout in the game's final 30 minutes. In addition, Hoeppner's team picked itself up off the mat at halftime in a hostile environment and found a way to beat an inspired Ball State team that owned the game's momentum early on. Those were all positive signs and things to build on, but it's also clear IU will need to play better as the competition gets better in the coming weeks. Indiana was very good for stretches Saturday on both sides of the ball, but IU will have to eliminate some of the penalties (9 for 74) and the special teams mistakes that have been prevalent the first two weeks.

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