Indiana comes in off of a 42-45 loss at Bowling Green, while Missouri is coming off of a 38-10 home win over Central Florida. Last year, Missouri posted a 45-28 win at Indiana in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Earlier this week, Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel talked about the Hoosiers.
“Indiana is a very, very potent offensive football team,” said Coach Pinkel. “They have a great quarterback, and one of the best running backs in the country. He’s a great, great player! They’re a good football team.”
Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson, formerly the Offensive Coordinator at Oklahoma, has brought a Big 12 style up-tempo spread offense to Indiana. The trigger man is 6’5” 230-pound junior QB Nate Sudfeld, who in 21 career games for Indiana, has thrown for 3613 yards and 29 TDs against just 11 interceptions, while completing 62% of his pass attempts. He carries an impressive 143.5 career passer efficiency rating into the game at Missouri.
Joining Sudfeld in the backfield is 6’1” 210-pound junior RB Tevin Coleman, who this season has rushed for 437 yards and 5 TD on 47 carries (9.3 yards/carry). He’s also one of Sudfeld’s favorite receiving targets, primary on screens and check downs. On the young season, Coleman has 4 receptions for 38 yards.
“We need more players to play like (Tevin Coleman),” said Coach Wilson.
He’s backed up by 5’10” 207-pound senior RB D’Angelo Roberts, who through 2 games, has 149 yards and 1 TD on 29 carries.
Sudfeld’s favorite target thus far this season has been 5’7” 167-pound senior slot receiver and punt returner Shane Wynn, who already has 12 receptions for 147 yards. The Hoosiers’ second-leading receiver thus far this season is 5’8” 162-pound true freshman J-Shun Harris, who is currently listed as the back-up at his outside receiver position. Harris has 9 receptions for 80 yards and 1 TD. Mr. Reliable for Sudfeld is 6’1” 190-pound senior track man Nick Stoner, who enters the Missouri game with 7 receptions for 68 yards. Sudfeld spreads it around, as through just 2 games, 11 different Hoosiers have at least 1 reception.
An important element of the Hoosier’s high-octane offense is their utilization of their tight ends. Listed as co-starters, 6’5” 256-pound junior Michael Cooper and 6’6” 230-pound true freshman Jordan Fuchs play an important role in Coach Wilson’s spread attack. They move around before the snap, and will line up just about anywhere on the field. Thus far, Cooper has just 1 reception for 14 yards. But the alignment of the tight end at the snap of the ball often keys the Hoosiers attack.
Up front, Indiana averages 6’5” and 295 pounds, so they’re not the biggest offensive line. They’re built for the speed and mobility that the spread offense requires.
Defensively, Indiana runs a 3-4 base, but their best player, 6’5” 260-pound junior Bandit (a hybrid LB/DE position) Nick Mangieri, often lines up at defensive end, or blitzes from off the line of scrimmage. He’s their top playmaker.
Against Bowling Green, who runs an up-tempo spread offense, Indiana played a lot of people on defense, although I wouldn’t say they have a lot of quality depth. They didn’t play as much nickel defense as you would have thought against that offense. Perhaps that’s because the Hoosiers are not very deep in the secondary. Both back-up safeties listed are true freshmen, and one of the back-up corners is a red-shirt freshman. Instead, the Hoosiers mostly kept 4 LBs on the field, including the athletic, defensive end-sized Mangieri.
They’re big up front, with a trio of defensive tackle sized guys. They rely on their LBs to set the edge. Overall, with the exception of Mangieri, I didn’t see the same level of athleticism on the defensive side of the football that the Hoosiers have on offense. Their LBs, including Mangieri, appear to be their best defensive position unit.
They mostly play zone, and at times against Bowling Green, they applied good pressure on the QB. But as Coach Wilson pointed out, they only had 1 sack (Mangieri) on 73 pass plays.
I get the sense, in watching Indiana’s defense, that they don’t yet have a true identity, at least not one as readily identifiable as does their offense. I’d say there’s some bend but don’t break, but it’s clear that they’ve tried to load up in the middle to offset the power running games they regularly see in the Big Ten. They’ve been pretty good on third downs, getting off the field 28% of the time on third down. But, they haven’t been as good on first and second down, or in the red zone, where their two not very powerful opponents have scored a TD on 57% of their forays inside the 20-yard line.
It appears to me that under first-year defensive coordinator, Brian Knorr, Indiana’s defensive approach is to try to slow down their opponent, and to rely on their high-powered up-tempo spread offense to outscore their opponents.
“One of the things we’ve got to do is we’ve got to continue to build our open-field tackling,” explained Coach Knorr. “We have to work on our technique. This week, we will work on being physical, and putting our guys in those situations.”
Coach Wilson assessed his team’s play at Bowling Green.
“Our effort was solid,” said Coach Wilson. “I think physically we can still be a lot cleaner just in blocking and tackling, and continue to grow there. But more importantly, just our mental, our mindset, our mental prep; our mental errors need to decrease as we move forward………………………………………….. Defensively, we got worked. We were a little too passive. We need to be more aggressive, as coaches and as players………………………………………. More than anything, we were too cautious. We sat back. And again, you can rush three guys, be aggressive. We got tired. We didn’t get pressure. We got worked, and had our opportunities to make some stops, and we didn’t.”
Another thing regarding Coach Wilson, perhaps as pertains to what I perceive as a lack of identity with Indiana defensively. He said earlier this week that during the game, he’s focused on the offense. It doesn’t sound like he’s as fully engaged in coaching the defense, but rather is more focused on the offense. Maybe that will change under Coach Knorr, but it’s early in his tenure.
“There’s a lot of ways for us to be aggressive,” explained Coach Knorr, who is a former head coach. “It’s not just bringing five or six defenders and playing man, or zone blitz coverage. There’s a lot of ways that we can have our guys be aggressive. And that’s one of the areas that we’ve talked to our kids about, just being more aggressive out there. Whether it’s attacking the bubble screen, or attacking blockers………………………………………….. Just be aggressive finishing plays.”
Finally, Coach Wilson said that the Indiana defense has played better in practice against their own offense that what they’ve done in games. He said that they need to take that to the field on game day.
“In competing against our offense in practice on a daily, more than most of the time, our defense has had the upper hand and the better go,” said Coach Wilson. “I need to see that transfer over to the game day arena. So my thing is just seeing what we’ve seen in practice, which is all talk……………………………………….. They’ve made a lot of improvement, but until you do it in games, it doesn’t matter…………………………………………. More importantly, we just need to be relentless, play harder, play more physical, play with more energy, play with our hair on fire, and play harder, and do it this week, and back it up in the weeks to come.”