Rushing offense – A-
Everyone has been clamoring for the promising career of Darius Willis to taken center stage, but fifth-year senior Demetrius McCray showed why he was named the team's starter coming out of fall camp. McCray eclipsed his three-year-old career high rushing total with a 17-carry, 134-yard effort Saturday that was highlighted by a 59-yard touchdown run. His performance led an IU rushing attack that piled up 187 yards on 33 carries overall, and IU's ground game would have produced more than 200 yards as a team if it weren't for the -17 yards it had on the intentional fourth quarter safety. Indiana's ground attack also got a boost from the return of left guard Justin Pagan to the lineup and the use of the Mitchell Evans-led Wildcat formation. Pagan made the key block on McCray's big touchdown run, and Evans added 35 yards rushing on six carries. McCray's performance and IU's success on the ground was probably the most pleasant development from Saturday's game.
Notable: A week ago, 68% of IU's rushing attempts went for two yards or less (21-of-31), but the Hoosiers flipped that stat this weekend. Against the Broncos, 67% of the Hoosiers' attempts went for three yards or more (22-of-33), and nearly half of Indiana's attempts went for at least five yards (15-of-33).
Passing offense – C+
Ben Chappell was solid, but not spectacular. He completed 18-of-28 throws for 185 yards, with Tandon Doss (6 receptions, 85 yards) serving as his top target. After throwing two interceptions a week ago he didn't have any turnovers Saturday, although one late second quarter throw in the direction of Tandon Doss was dangerously close to being picked off by David Lewis along the sidelines with no one standing between him and the end zone. Chappell also had a couple of overthrows that might have gone for scores – the first was on a 3rd-and-10 at the WMU 15-yard line when he sailed a pass over a wide open Matt Ernest's head. The second came late in the third quarter when IU gambled on a 3rd-and-1 from its own 24 and went deep to Doss. Doss had some separation, but Chappell's deep ball sailed too long and a potential game-changing play fell incomplete. One of the best things Chappell did was complete four of his first five throws on IU's opening drive that resulted in a field goal. Instead of trying to hammer away with the run early, Indiana instead had success throwing in the first quarter, which in turn prevented the Broncos from loading up against the run. That set the stage for a great day for McCray.
Notable: After catching eight balls in the opening week, Tandon Doss added another six on Saturday. With seven catches/game in the opening two weeks, Doss is on a pace that would result in one of the most prolific pass-catching seasons in IU football history. Only one player in school history has caught at least 70 passes in a season (James Hardy, 79 in 2007) and Doss is on a pace that would result in 84 catches during the 12-game regular season. He's also averaging 105.0 yards/game, and IU has had only one receiver to average 100 yards/game – Ernie Jones, who averaged 105.5 during his Big Ten MVP season in 1987.
Rushing defense – A
As concerned as IU was about quarterback Tim Hiller, the bigger concern was probably allowing Bronco tailback Brandon West to get untracked and then having to deal with a balanced Western Michigan offensive attack. But the Hoosiers shut West down (15 carries, 36 yards) and did the same to his back-up Anthony Winchester (8 carries, 21 yards). Only one of WMU's 29 rushing attempts went for 10 yards or more (a 13-yard run by West in the second quarter). It was also the rush defense that turned in the game's biggest play when Greg Middleton forced a Winchester fumble inside the IU 10-yard line late in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers surrendered only 22 yards rushing on 29 carries, the best single-game rushing defensive performance since 2002 when IU held William & Mary to -32.
Notable: Two weeks into the season, Indiana ranks second in the Big Ten and 21st nationally in run defense with 61.0 yards/game. Only Penn State (46.5 yards, 10th nationally) has been better against the run in the Big Ten.
Passing defense – A-
Statistically speaking Tim Hiller had a good afternoon. He threw for 266 yards, including 179 in the second half. But there wasn't much more that IU's defensive coaches could have asked for from its secondary. Other than a 3-for-3, 62-yard effort on Western Michigan's second-half opening drive IU's defense made things difficult on one of the best quarterbacks the Mid-America Conference has ever produced. He capped that early third quarter drive with a 41-yard touchdown pass to Robert Arnheim, but that was the only one of Hiller's 28 completions that went for more than 20 yards. As was the case with the rush defense, it was a much-improved effort by the IU pass defense as well.
Notable: Indiana went without an interception Saturday, marking the third straight game dating back to last season that IU hasn't picked off a pass. The last IU interception came courtesy Brandon Mosley, who picked off a pass by Penn State's Darryl Clark last November. Since then, opponents have thrown 134 passes without having one picked off.
Special teams – B+
Nick Freeland missed out on an opportunity to put away the game when he had a late 22-yard field goal blocked, but he deserves a lot of credit for his other three field goals he converted. Most notable of those was the 38-yarder midway through the fourth quarter that extended IU's lead to six, 23-17. His kick came immediately after a Ben Chappell-to-Damarlo Belcher 3rd down pass completion at the WMU nine-yard line had been overturned on review. Had Freeland missed that attempt, the momentum would have clearly swung in the Broncos favor and they would have needed only a field goal to tie the contest. Chris Hagerup was solid on punts, averaging 42.4 yards per kick while utlizing a rugby-style approach that allowed only 12 total punt return yards on his four kicks. Ray Fisher didn't have any big returns on either kickoffs or punts, but he did make better decisions as far as making a couple of fair catches.
Notable Stat: Two games into his career, Nick Freeland has already put himself into the IU record books. His three field goals in a game ties him for fifth in school history. Only three IU kickers have ever kicked four in a game – Austin Starr (once), Andy Payne (twice) and Chris Gartner (twice).
Overall – A-
The 13 penalties for 106 yards is a concern for the Hoosiers, but there was a lot more to be happy about than concerned about Saturday afternoon. Indiana ran the ball on offense, stopped the run on defense, and largely eliminated the big play from Western Michigan's arsenal. Indiana also came up with a huge play defensively in the fourth quarter to preserve the win, which is huge for the Hoosiers moving forward. After all, Indiana doesn't figure to be blowing out too many teams as the schedule gets more difficult. When one looks at the fact that Central Michigan beat Michigan State Saturday and Eastern Michigan took Northwestern to the final gun as well, any win against a quality Mid-America Conference team should be reviewed as an excellent performance. That's what Indiana turned in during its 23-19 victory.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: W. Michigan
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