Bloomington, Ind. – While the attention surrounding IU football has turned to the health of IU Coach Terry Hoeppner, his staff knows there's a matter to sort out with the quarterback position as well.
As the Hoosiers began preparation for Saturday's 4 p.m. match-up with I-AA Southern Illinois Tuesday afternoon, there was a battle brewing for the starting quarterback job between junior Blake Powers and redshirt freshman Kellen Lewis.
"It will be an interesting week," Hoeppner said Tuesday.
While Powers has 12 career starts and had an IU-record 22 touchdown passes a year ago, Lewis made his own pitch for the starting job with his relief effort in IU's 24-23 come-from-behind win at Ball State Saturday. Lewis entered in the game's third series and wound up throwing for 228 yards and a score on 15-of-28 passing while also rushing 12 times for a team-high 88 yards and a touchdown.
Powers could have played in the Ball State game, but Hoeppner said the junior wasn't 100 percent and the staff decided to hold him out. Now, he'll spend the next couple of days competing with Lewis for the starting nod against Southern Illinois.
Hoeppner made it clear Tuesday the job is open.
"What we released to Southern Illinois (is) that it will be Powers or Lewis at quarterback," Hoeppner said. "And right now, as a staff, that's what we've talked about. We'll see.
"I think it will sort itself out as we go through the week."
Lewis single-handed threw the quarterback job into limbo with his 306-yard effort against the Cardinals. Not only did he put up big numbers, but he didn't commit any turnovers, he drew Ball State off-sides on a decisive 4th-and-1 in the closing minutes of the game, and he showed a level of poise that's uncommon for a player making his collegiate debut.
"I was most proud that in a pressure-packed situation, a game we're supposed to win…for him to manage the game the way he did…the way he managed the clock," Hoeppner said. "Combine that with three of the best throws I've seen a quarterback make in awhile under the circumstances."
Hoeppner was referring to a pair of big 30-plus yard passes to Nick Polk and Andrew Means in the second half, and then Lewis' 12-yard touchdown strike to James Hardy where he was forced to scramble before finding Hardy open in the end zone. Those throws, coupled with the aforementioned composure, showed Hoeppner that Lewis was ready if called upon.
"I've seen him do these things," Hoeppner said. "I've seen him throw the ball much better as we've gone through camp, and we knew he could run it. But can he do it in a game? Let's find out."
Hoeppner and interim head coach Bill Lynch found out that Lewis could do it in a game, and now the IU staff will have to decide if he'll get his second opportunity to lead the IU offense when Saturday's contest kicks off, or if it's still somewhere down the road.
While it creates a dilemma about which one to start, it's a good problem to have, according to Hoeppner.
"We're trying to develop quality depth at every position, and the fact we have another quarterback who can play in a game and as well as he played – that's not a problem," Hoeppner said.
Hoosier QB Job Open
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