It may be hard to believe, but this 2018 Indiana football season is already half over. While the 4-2 record was predictable, the rest of the season is anything but that.
Let’s take a look at what’s working and what isn’t as the Hoosiers get set to embark on what should be a very challenging and entertaining second half of the schedule.
STEADY QUARTERBACK PLAY
Yes there are some lingering critics, but what team wouldn’t be thrilled with this quarterback stat line after six games:
- 141 for 211 passing (67%), 1,361 yards, 11 touchdowns, 5 interceptions
- 61 carries, 244 yards, 2 touchdowns
The bottom line is that when Peyton Ramsey has had time to throw, he has been just about unstoppable. The completion percentage is 16th nationally and 2nd in the Big Ten. When he has to escape the pocket, his judgment has been solid. Is he ever going to be Nate Sudfeld throwing the deep ball? Nope. Can IU win with him? Absolutely.
To be fair, Indiana’s passing game has lacked explosive plays and IU is one of the worst teams in the country at pass yards per completion (9.71). IU appears to have taken the next step in that area, with several downfield attempts against Ohio State. Now if Ramsey can just hit Reese Taylor on that wheel route.
THE BEST RECEIVING CORP IN THE…
We don’t want to overstate it, but they are one of the best in the Big Ten. Now if they can just all be healthy at the same time.
If there’s any good news with the injuries to Luke Timian and Whop Philyor, it has allowed for the resurgence of Nick Westbrook and J-Shun Harris, along with the emergence of Ty Fryfogle.
Harris wasn’t even in the rotation at the beginning of the season and he is leading the team in catches. Westbrook had his best game of the year against Ohio State as he returns to his 2016 form.
Donavan Hale showed what he is capable of against FIU and provides that big “jump ball” frame that every quarterback likes to have. We don’t expect that he’ll get another offensive pass interference penalty any time soon.
Philyor looked like an NFL caliber slot receiver against Michigan State. Timian is as steady as they come, and Fryfogle, just a sophomore, could lead this team in receptions down the road.
Don’t forget about Reese Taylor, Mike Majette out of the backfield and an emerging star in tight end Peyton Hendershot.
More five wide sets please.
A GOOD BUT INCONSISTENT OFFENSIVE LINE
Coming into the season, the offensive line appeared to be the strength of this football team. It would be difficult to say that at the mid-season mark.
It isn’t that they’ve been bad, save perhaps for the Michigan State game. It’s just that they haven’t been dominant, save perhaps for the Virginia game. Therein lies the problem — the play has been choppy.
IU struggled to establish the run against FIU, which ranks 92nd in the country against the run. They were strong at protecting Ramsey against Ohio State, which has a very strong defensive line. They failed to get much second half push against Rutgers.
You get the idea. The bottom line — we’re still waiting for them to take over.
AN OPPORTUNISTIC DEFENSE
Raise your hand if you had the IU defense and their four returning starters leading the Big Ten in takeaways with 13? Those takeaways have led to 41 points, and have been a major reason why the Hoosiers were able to hang around with Michigan State and Ohio State.
The seven interceptions are good for 20th in the country, and they’ve often been the result of quarterback pressure, a hallmark of Tom Allen’s defense.
While a youth movement is underway with this defense, it has been veterans leading the way. Jonathan Crawford and Dameon Willis lead the team in tackles. Crawford also had a game changing pick-six against FIU. Marcelino Ball leads the team in tackles for loss, and in sacks along with Nile Sykes. Allen Stallings leads the team in quarterback hits.
Overall, the combination of a strong cast of veterans and a promising crop of underclassmen is working well.
On the downside, IU has played two really strong teams this year, and has given up 42 points a game in those contests. Most but not all of those points are on the defense, and there are no easy games left on the schedule.
A STRONG FRESHMAN CLASS
On paper this was supposed to be a good freshman class, as the Hoosiers brought in one of their highest ranked groups ever. Few, outside of the program at least, thought the impact would be seen so soon.
Running back Stevie Scott has filled in admirably for Morgan Ellison and Cole Gest, with more than 500 yards and nearly five yards per carry.
Reese Taylor has done a little bit of everything and continues to be a big part of the game plan.
When he’s gotten opportunities, Michael Penix has shown why he’ll be a starter at some point.
Two players on defense that have particularly stood out are Devon Matthews and Cam Jones. Both should end up being stars in this program for years to come.
You can’t forget about the redshirt freshmen and sophomores either. While they are too many to name, Indiana has played 38 underclassmen this season — the 8th most nationally. The future is bright.
STILL WAITING FOR THE BREAK THROUGH
The four wins — FIU, Virginia, Ball State and Rutgers.
The two losses — Michigan State and Ohio State.
Stop us if you’ve seen this before. We’ve certainly seen worse, including multiple seasons that included losses to the likes of Ball State. This program certainly seems to be on the upswing, but it still needs a signature win to prove it. Iowa anyone?
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