Can Indiana get its ‘mojo' back with the run game? - After some red flags were raised with a 31-carry, 73-yard rushing effort in the season-opening win against Eastern Kentucky, Indiana bounced back in a big way in its next three games. Against Western Michigan, Akron and Michigan, the Hoosiers averaged 188.0 rushing yards/game and scored seven touchdowns on the ground. As a result, Indiana had its three best performances of the season to date, beating its two MAC foes before narrowly losing at Michigan.
But the Hoosiers took a significant step back against Ohio State, as the Buckeyes completely shut down the Hoosiers' ground attack. Indiana managed just 18 yards on 26 carries and didn't have a single run of 10 yards or more. Leading rusher Darius Willis was limited to 23 yards on 11 carries before having to leave early in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.
Offensively, we just didn't sustain our blocks as well as we have the last couple of weeks," IU Coach Bill Lynch said. "I think that Ohio State is a very good run defense and there is no question about that, but I just didn't think we properly sustained our blocks. As a result, we were not able to run the ball as well."
If Indiana is going to be successful this weekend in Charlottesville, it needs a big game from Willis so that IU can get back to running the ball like it did leading up to the Ohio State game. Willis' ankle injury is a bit of a concern, but indications are that the Hoosiers' leading rusher will be available Saturday. The Hoosiers need to run the ball not only to provide some much-needed offensive balance, but Virginia is one of the best pass defense teams in the nation, ranking eighth in the country with only 162.5 yards/game surrendered through the air.
Can Indiana get a much-needed win on the road? - No one wants to call a non-conference game in the middle of conference play a "must" win, but this is as close to one as you can find in Indiana's case. If the Hoosiers hope to get to six-plus wins and get back to a bowl game for the second time in the last three years, beating the 1-3 Cavaliers would appear to be a victory that they really need to get.
Of course, needing it and getting it are two separate things. While Virginia appeared to be a team headed nowhere a week ago, Coach Al Groh's team pulled off a stunning 16-3 upset win over North Carolina on Saturday for its first win of the season. The Cavaliers have a very good defense and an offense that has been a little better the last two weeks. Virginia tailback Mikell Simpson rushed for 100 yards in the win over UNC and quarterback Jameel Sewell is a concern because of his ability to run it or throw it.
It's also a road game, and victories away from Memorial Stadium have generally been few and far between for Indiana over the years.
One piece of good news, though, is that the Hoosiers' two best performances this season have come on the road. The 38-21 win at Akron was undoubtedly IU's best outing this year, as the Hoosiers forced four turnovers and whipped the Zips. The 36-33 loss at Michigan was clearly the most painful result this season, but Indiana played well enough on both sides of the ball to give itself a chance for its first win in Ann Arbor in 42 years.
Indiana will need to turn in a similar performance this weekend against the Cavaliers to pick up its second road victory of the season.
On Monday – Five Numbers to Note
On Tuesday – Four Names to Know
On Wednesday – Three Key Match-Ups
On Thursday – Two Big Concerns
On Friday – One Bold Prediction
VIRGINIA: Two Days and Counting
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