NOTEBOOK: Kick Game Needs Kick Start

Bloomington – Bill Lynch wants to see some improvements in the punting game. There were a lot of things that didn't go well in Saturday's 33-14 loss to Ohio State, and one of them was some squanders opportunities in the punt game...

Bloomington – Bill Lynch wants to see some improvements in the punting game.

There were a lot of things that didn't go well in Saturday's 33-14 loss to Ohio State, and one of them was some squanders opportunities in the punt game. Not only did Indiana surrender a safety as result of a bad snap near its own end zone, but Chris Hagerup missed out on several opportunities to pin the Buckeyes deep.

"Where we let ourselves down was in the punt game," Lynch said. "We're not flipping field position the way we should and the way we're capable. There were times after good kickoff returns, even if we don't get a first down, we have a chance to punt them down inside their 15. We didn't do that. We never made Ohio State play the long field."

Ohio State only started one drive inside its own 20, and that was in the fourth quarter after the game had long since been decided. Indiana began four drives inside its own 15 and converted only one first down during those four possessions.

"We are going to work on punting this week," Lynch said. "[Chris] Hagerup is very capable and he will improve because he has punted the ball well in practice. He just really hasn't had the same performance as he had a year ago and as he has in practice. It is not that he doesn't care or is not working at improving, he just has to get back at it in practice."

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Redshirt freshman tailback Darius Willis hobbled off the field in the fourth quarter Saturday, raising some concerns about his availability for Virginia. But despite the right ankle injury Willis is listed as probable for this weekend's game.

Lynch said the staff held Willis out of practice Monday, but he expected Willis to progress a little bit each day this week leading up to the trip to Charlottesville. Willis is IU's rushing leader with 45 carries for 254 yards and three touchdowns, highlighted by his 152-yard effort two weeks ago at Michigan.

"I expect him to be ready to go," Lynch said. "He is like any running back in the Big Ten who is going to get beat up."

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Virginia Coach Al Groh knows Indiana offensive coordinator Matt Canada might throw some different things at him this weekend.

The Hoosiers were relatively vanilla with its formations this past weekend against Ohio State, but that could simply be because they weren't looking to show all of their cards as they prepare for a make-or-break three-game stretch starting this weekend in Charlottesville. Canada threw everything but the kitchen sink at Michigan two weeks ago, including one formation where IU lined up eight players out wide, leaving only quarterback Ben Chappell and running back Darius Willis in the backfield and tight end Max Dedmond to snap the ball. Canada might not throw that identical look at the Cavaliers, but he'll likely have an unconventional play or two to keep Groh's defensive staff guessing.

"Indiana is a very, very diverse scheme," Groh said. "They're doing some pretty cool stuff. I'm impressed by their stuff…many different personnel groups, some very unusual formations."

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Indiana has faced a couple of teams that played a 3-4 defense this season, but Virginia's 3-4 will offer a little different look.

Unlike Akron and at times Michigan, IU Coach Bill Lynch said the Cavaliers play more of a true pro-style 3-4 with two outside linebackers that line up on the line of scrimmage. Other teams on the schedule have utilized 3-4 schemes, but they've often walked an outside linebacker down to the line of scrimmage on occasion or blitzed them. But Virginia's defensive alignment will generally stay true to what about one-third of NFL teams are running these days.

"With their coverages behind the 3-4, to me, it looks like a pro 3-4 defense," Lynch said. "Akron played a mix of 3-4 and 3-5 stack defense. It was kind of a blitzing and moving defense. We saw the same thing at Michigan because they played a lot of different coverages. Virginia's defense, on the other hand, is more of a true 3-4 defense. They have a big nose tackle and big defensive ends that play head up on our tackles. They have big outside linebackers that are typical of pro football. They have big and physical inside linebackers as well as a good-looking secondary. I think scheme-wise and personnel-wise, they look like a 3-4 defense seen in the pros."

That will be something for Ben Chappell to contend with as he lines up under center on Saturday. But according to left guard Justin Pagan, it won't necessarily create any new issues for himself and the rest of the offensive line.

"It might change for the quarterback and their reads. They have all the complicated stuff to worry about. But it's still the same for the offensive line," Pagan said.


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