Rushing offense – F
The Hoosiers tried four different tailbacks, and made an effort to run between the tackles as well as get it outside. But whoever and however they tried to move the ball on the ground, it was to no avail. As a team, Indiana ran 27 times for zero yards, a low point in a season of struggles trying to develop a consistent ground attack. Marcus Thigpen is a dangerous threat if he can manage to get outside the tackles, but the offensive line has been unable to keep opposing defenses from getting into the IU backfield and tripping him up before he can get turned up field. Other than a 10-yard run in the second quarter, Thigpen's other five carries were for -7, -4, -4, -4 and zero yards. Kellen Lewis had a 22-yard scramble for a first down and Demetrius McCray picked up 18 and a first-down on a 3rd-and-long draw play, but IU continues to get absolutely nothing from its ground game.
Notable: How feeble was IU's ground game? With the Hoosiers trailing by only seven points in the fourth quarter, IU attempted zero rushes in the fourth quarter. On 23 fourth-quarter plays, Blake Powers dropped back to throw every time. In the second half overall, Indiana's tailbacks had only three carries, with those attempts going for a combined -3 yards.
Passing offense – D-
IU rotated Blake Powers and Kellen Lewis at quarterback, but neither had a great of success leading the IU offense. Powers was 14-of-30 for 128 yards and an interception, while Lewis was 6-of-13 for 64 yards and two interceptions. In 16 offensive possessions IU ventured into UConn territory only three times, and two of those trips ended with turnovers. Indiana had eight three-and-outs on the afternoon and another drive that ended on the very first play when Powers threw his interception.
Ultimately, the Hoosier passing game produced zero points and four turnovers, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The conditions were far from ideal for either signal caller considering the rain and the windy conditions, but both were erratic, often overthrowing Hoosier receivers. Lewis sailed a ball over the head of a wide open James Bailey along the sidelines during a first-half possession when he failed to set himself and threw off his back foot. Powers, meanwhile, had a chance to make a big play in the final minutes on a 4th-and-15, but he overthrew Nick Polk who had gotten free behind the UConn secondary for what would have been a game-tying touchdown.
Notable: If you're looking for a silver lining in an otherwise woeful day for the offense, a couple of young wide receivers showed some signs Saturday. Redshirt freshmen Andrew Means, Nick Polk and true freshman Ray Fisher continue to make strides. After not catching any balls in the first three quarters, Means had four catches for a team-high 49 yards in the fourth quarter, including a couple of big plays. On a 4th-and-2 Means hauled in a 23-yard pass from Powers to move the chains. Then, on a 2nd-and-10 in the closing minute, Means caught an underneath pass from Powers and managed to break a tackle and get out-of-bounds – a huge play considering IU had no timeouts left and the game clock had gone under :20. While IU didn't wind up scoring on the drive, Means' heads up play and gutsy effort showed he's someone that will become a bigger part of the IU attack.
Rushing defense – B+
That might seem a gratuitous grade for a unit that surrendered 257 yards on the ground, but those numbers were deceiving. Terry Caulley – who finished with a game-high 152 yards on 31 carries – broke free for a 57-yard run from deep in UConn territory that made an otherwise mediocre afternoon a big one for him statistically. Back-up Huskie tailback Lou Allen, meanwhile, broke free from a Greg Brown tackle at the line of scrimmage for a 35-yard touchdown in the third quarter, the game's only offensive touchdown. Take away those two plays, and Indiana's defense gave up only 165 yards on 51 carries, just a shade over three yards/carry. The Hoosiers were physical up front, a notable change from what IU fans witnessed a week ago in a 244-yard rushing day for I-AA Southern Illinois.
Notable Effort: The Hoosiers' effort was led by defensive tackle Greg Brown. Other than his failure to bring Allen down on his touchdown run, Brown was dominant. He was in the backfield all afternoon, totaling eight tackles (seven solo) – a staggering total for a defensive tackle. It was the sort of effort from Brown that the IU coaching staff has been waiting for, and something to build on.
Passing defense – A
For a second straight week, Indiana played a team that relied heavily on the run and only sprinkled in the pass. Against Southern Illinois, though, Saluki quarterback Nick Hill threw for four touchdowns and came up with big throws just about every time he needed one. UConn quarterback D.J. Hernandez, meanwhile, didn't have that same sort of success. Hernandez was just 5-of-13 for 27 yards, was sacked four times and was picked off twice by Tracy Porter. Hernandez attempted only six passes in the second half and just two in the fourth quarter as Huskie Coach Randy Edsall played field position and allowed his defense to win the game for him. They did just that, but you can't take anything away from a very good day for the IU secondary.
Notable Stat: With his two interceptions Saturday, Tracy Porter now has nine in his career, which ranks seventh in school history. Next up on the IU list are John McDonnell and Eric Allen, both of whom had 10. With two more picks this season Porter could climb into a tie for second on IU's all-time list, where he'd trail only Tim Wilbur, who had 19 from 1978-82. Porter also has 275 career interception return yards, which ranks second in school history to Wilbur's 360.
Special teams – B+
Tyson Beattie has struggled for much of the season, but bounced back with a solid nine-punt, 40.3 yards/kick effort Saturday. Just as important was the fact he didn't allow dangerous UConn return man Larry Taylor to have room for a big return. Taylor entered the contest as one of the country's best with a 27.3 yards/punt return average, but he had only two yards combined on three punt returns Saturday. Indiana also had a couple of other huge plays – IU's only points came on an 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Marcus Thigpen, and a long UConn drive in the second quarter went for naught when Porter blocked a Matt Nuzie 30-yard field goal attempt.
Indiana's special teams has been an issue for most of the season, but they had their best effort of the year Saturday.
Notable Stat: Beattie's first four punts traveled only 37, 35, 29 and 25 yards, but in his defense all those kicks came into a 15-20 mph hour wind. In all, seven of Beattie's nine punts came into the wind, and he averaged 34.6 yards/punt on those efforts. Once he had the wind at his back he produced a 71-yarder and a 50-yard boot in the second quarter.
Overall – C-
There's plenty to build on from Indiana's effort on the defensive side of the ball, and IU's special teams contributed a touchdown, a blocked field goal, and no breakdowns on the kickoff or punt teams. But, Indiana got absolutely nothing from the offense. Admittedly UConn is a very good defense, a unit that has led the Big East in each of the past two seasons in total defense. But that still doesn't make a pair of goose eggs – zero rushing yards and zero points – from the Hoosier offense acceptable. With the Hoosiers now 2-2 heading into the Big Ten, expect to see more younger players in the coming weeks. IU started six redshirt freshmen and one true freshman Saturday, and they also removed the redshirt from true freshman offensive lineman Rodger Saffold as well. With IU's odds of "playing 13" becoming longer each week, more young players will get chances to show what they can do.
Upon Further Review - The UConn Game
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