Bloomington – Indiana will have to cope with Northwestern's spread attack Saturday with a defense that's been spread thin due to injury.
Starters Will Patterson (hand) and Donnell Jones (elbow) have both been ruled out for Saturday's noon match-up with the Wildcats (4-3/1-2) due to injuries suffered in last week's 27-14 win over Illinois. Nickel back Chris Adkins (elbow), meanwhile, will miss his second straight game due to an elbow injury suffered in practice last week.
IU Coach Bill Lynch said he thinks Adkins' injury is long-term, although he stopped short of ruling him out for the remainder of the season. At this point, he's unsure how long Patterson and Jones will be sidelined.
"I don't think we know for sure with Will and Donnell," Lynch said. "We'll learn more as we go along, but they won't play this week."
The losses are significant. Patterson ranked third on the team in tackles (40) and also has 3 ½ tackles for loss and 1 ½ sacks from his outside linebacker position. Jones, meanwhile, has started opposite Ray Fisher at cornerback and has 14 tackles.
Patterson will replaced in the starting lineup by fifth-year senior Justin Carrington, someone who has seen significant action in each of the past two seasons. He has 15 tackles, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery, and Lynch is confident in his ability to step into the starting lineup.
"We really have four starting linebackers because Justin Carrington has played a lot," Lynch said. "He just hasn't played as much as Will, Tyler (Replogle) at Matt (Mayberry)."
Mayberry said the Hoosiers will miss Patterson's presence, but Carrington should be a very good fit against a Northwestern team that has throws the ball at least 44 times in each of its three Big Ten contests.
"Justin Carrington has done a great job this year when he's gotten an opportunity," Mayberry said. "He's a really athletic linebacker, and especially for a team like Northwestern that likes to pass it a lot, he'll do a great job."
The injuries to Jones and Adkins, though, could be a little more difficult to absorb. Richard Council replaced Jones against Illinois and did give up Illinois' first touchdown pass. If Indiana needs to utilize a third cornerback – which is a distinct possibility with as much as Northwestern like to throw it – Lynch said they'd turn to either Andre LeGrone or Adrian Burks. That duo has played sparingly, combining for two tackles on the season.
"You hope guys like that who practice and have been locked in, when they're called on they're ready to go," Lynch said.
"That's why practice is so important. Kids have to get themselves prepared because you don't know which week you're going to be called upon."
IU Defense To Be Missing Two Starters
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