Bloomington, Ind. – Whatever your sports cliché of choice is, James Hardy and Kellen Lewis are developing it.
The "it" could be labeled as getting on the same page or clicking on all cylinders or developing a repoire or...
"I'm getting into a rhythm, but it's mostly the chemistry between me and Kellen," says Hardy.
Of course, IU Coach Terry Hoeppner isn't a big fan of those sports clichés that get thrown around when a team begins enjoying some success.
"I actually took chemistry, and I've taught chemistry, so I'd really rather not use that word," Hoeppner joked. "Every night I had to go home and study. I'd try to stay one day ahead of the class, teaching chemistry."
Whatever you want to call it, Hardy and Lewis are finally getting it now that the Hoosiers' season has reached the midway point and the team is enjoying some success. That was evident Saturday, when eight of Lewis' 19 completions went Hardy for 104 yards and three touchdowns.
Those are the kind of numbers Hardy put up a year ago as a redshirt freshman when had 61 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns. But his productivity had been down significantly this fall. In his first four games (he missed two games due to suspension) he had just 13 catches for 187 yards and one touchdown, ranking the Big Ten's leader in receptions a year ago fourth on this year's Indiana team in catches.
That all changed Saturday, and Hardy said it can be attributed to the fact he's developing a trust in Lewis – and vice versa.
"I had to prove myself to him first because he's the one that's getting all the pressure trying to get me the ball," Hardy said. "But at the same time, I'm trying to get confidence in him that he's going to put the ball in the right spot and I just have to get there to get it."
A strategic move has also helped in that endeavor. Against the Hawkeyes the IU coaching staff moved Hardy around, lining him up both out wide and in the slot on occasion.
"Moving me inside and out has helped a lot," Hardy said.
Instead of always being matched up against the opponent's No. 1 cornerback, Hardy found himself matched up with others Saturday.
"Going against safeties and linebackers, they don't know where I'm going," Hardy said. "For the most part on the outside they can watch all the film, they know the routes, and if the corner doesn't get it the safety will come and get it. It was hard for me to get open, which is why Kellen couldn't get me the ball.
"Going inside and out, they won't know where I'm at. I think it's an excellent move."
There's also something to be said for Lewis getting more comfortable with each start. He's still only a freshman who only has four starts to his credit, but he's realizing much of the potential the IU staff saw in him when he first arrived in Bloomington last fall.
"He was making a lot of those plays in practice, which is why he's playing," Hoeppner said. "But doing it in a game…can be a canyon of a difference."
Whatever "It" Is...
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