Late in the first quarter of Saturday’s Old Oaken Bucket game at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana’s offense was rolling.
On the Hoosiers’ first possession of the game, freshman running back Jaylin Lucas took a run 71 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. The momentum carried into IU’s second possession, with the team finding success on option plays and creative runs, converting multiple fourth downs and pushing deep into Purdue territory.
Just when it seemed like nothing could go wrong for Indiana, things suddenly fell apart. As quarterback Dexter Williams II attempted to evade a sack, he planted his leg into the ground, instantly falling to the turf. Williams had an air cast placed over his knee immediately, was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital – his day, and season, were over just like that.
Williams II was replaced by former starting quarterback Connor Bazelak, and the once-promising second drive of the game for Indiana ended with a missed field goal by Charles Campbell. Indiana held its 7-3 lead going into halftime, but Williams II’s injury marked a turning point for IU’s offense Saturday, as the team struggled to find any sort of success offensively afterward, mustering just three points prior to the final drive of the game.
Head coach Tom Allen said that losing Williams II so early in the contest was crucial in Indiana’s 30-16 defeat.
“It was a devastating loss for us,” Allen said following the game. “He did a great job last week, upgraded our game plan and worked it to perfection. We were driving when he went down, just a freaky, non-contact.”
When Williams II left the game, Indiana’s game plan had to change as well. Instead of running an option-heavy attack that had worked early in the Purdue game and helped IU win last week’s Old Brass Spittoon contest with Michigan State, the Hoosiers reverted to a passing-focused offense with the not-so-mobile Bazelak under center.
In two drives with Williams II at quarterback, Indiana threw the ball just once. With Bazelak in the game, the Hoosiers threw the ball 42 times for 21 completions, 201 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The same Bazelak-led offense that struggled throughout the heart of the Big Ten season showed its face again Saturday afternoon in Bloomington, as the team struggled to adapt to a drastic change in play style on the fly.
“With having a dual-threat quarterback who can throw and run, you have to watch both,” wide receiver Emery Simmons said. “And I think that’s what was getting them early in the game, they saw that Dex could run.”
Williams II’s untimely injury is the latest in a troubling streak of ill-timed injuries that have plagued this program over its past two seasons.
Allen added that he’s felt “snake bitten” over the serious injuries that key players have suffered over the previous two seasons. Since 2021, Williams II, Michael Penix Jr., Jack Tuttle, Cam Camper, Matt Bedford, Tiawan Mullen, Cam Jones and several other impact starters have missed significant time due to injury – Saturday’s incident was just the latest in a troubling trend for Tom Allen’s bunch.
Allen said that the team brought in a specialist after last season to evaluate its injury prevention, but mainly attributes it simply to bad luck – something fans have come to know all too well over the past 124 seasons of IU football, and certainly was felt in a season in which the Hoosiers failed to meet expectations once again.
“It’s hard to fix some of these, they are part of the game.” Allen said. “It’s just tough. No excuses, you have to have another guy step up, that’s the bottom line. But I hate it.”
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