Photo Credit Indiana University Athletics

Indiana Football Week One: What We Learned

After nine months of anticipation, the 2018 Indiana University football season finally kicked off on Saturday night.  The Hoosiers got a key road victory, 38-28 over Florida International.  IU will now play 7 of its final 11 games at home, including the next three at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.

With a lot of new faces on the roster and expected to play, there were a lot of unknowns going into Saturday’s contest with FIU.  It’s still early in the season with a lot of remaining questions, but we learned a lot about this team on Saturday night.

THIS IS WHY PEYTON RAMSEY IS STARTING

Ramsey threw an interception on the first series and you could hear all of the naysayers.  Years of IU football frustration can lead to a bit of impatience.

All the Ohio native did from there was complete his next 9 passes, and lead two long scoring drives as the Hoosiers rattled off 21 unanswered to effectively put the game away.

Ramsey was 20 for 27 for 156 yards and three touchdowns on the day.  He also showed his ability to make plays with his feet, running 8 times for 48 yards.

THIS IS WHY MICHAEL PENIX IS PLAYING

With Ramsey playing so well, it was somewhat surprising to see Michael Penix come into the game in the 3rd quarter.  It didn’t take long for Penix to show why.

Penix was 8 for 10 for 96 yards and his first career touchdown.  More than just the stats, Penix’s arm strength was undeniable.  With a simple flick of the wrist the ball sails out of his hand.

Allen said after the game that Ramsey is the starter and Penix is the “No. 2”, but both will continue to see action.

While a quarterback rotation can break up the rhythm and flow of a game, the good news is that if Ramsey gets injured, Indiana will have an experienced and talented backup at the ready.

JONATHAN CRAWFORD LOOKS THE PART OF SENIOR LEADER

Penix wasn’t the only No. 9 that showed out on Saturday night.

Indiana has a young and inexperienced defense that needs leadership.  Safety Jonathan Crawford led by example in the first quarter, forcing two turnovers including a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown that changed the game, putting the Hoosiers in front 14-7.

Crawford took some bad angles on plays later in the game, but he came up with the big moments that Tom Allen has been harping on.

INTRODUCING DONOVAN HALE, PART TWO

Donovan Hale has been a bit of an enigma during his tenure at IU.  The redshirt junior has the physical attributes and has flashed potential, but it has never fully materialized for the 6-foot-4, 229 pound wide receiver, in part due to injuries.

That may have changed on Saturday night.  Back in his home state, Hale had four catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns.  Both scores were impressive plays for the big target.

We saw a quick start last year against Ohio State as well.  If Hale can stay healthy and productive throughout 2018, it will give the Hoosiers a much needed big, fast, physical weapon in the offense.

REESE TAYLOR IS JUST GETTING WARMED UP

This is going to be fun.  The high school quarterback, turned cornerback, turned receiver, turned back to quarterback did a little of everything on Saturday night — except play quarterback.

Taylor sparked the Hoosiers first scoring drive, bouncing off a big hit and going 32 yards on a sweep into FIU territory.  He ended up with 3 carries for 40 yards, and caught 2 passes for 15 yards.  Oh, and he saw snaps at corner and special teams as well, recording two tackles.

A true freshman that just turned 19, Taylor is going to thrill IU fans for many years to come.

STEVIE SCOTT LOOKS THE PART

There was a lot of chatter coming out of fall camp about true freshman running back Stevie Scott.  He showed why on Saturday night, toting the rock 20 times for 71 yards against a stout FIU defensive line.  The Hoosiers need a big physical runner in the absence of Morgan Ellison, and Scott appears ready to take on those duties.

THE DEFENSE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS

With only four returning starters, there were legitimate questions about the defense coming into the season.  There still are.

Coach Allen characterized the defense against FIU as “not very good.”  With a lot of freshmen seeing the field, mistakes were made.

The good news is that if “not very good” is giving up 327 yards while producing three takeaways, there seems to be a strong foundation to build on.

SPEED AND DEPTH

Two recurring themes surrounding this program throughout the spring and summer were team speed and depth.  We saw both on Saturday night.

While the Hoosiers weren’t running circles around FIU, they did at times seem a step faster and more athletic.  As a Florida team known for speed, FIU seemed better matched with IU in that regard in previous meetings.  The speed element could show up as a big advantage at home the next two weeks against Virginia and Ball State.

We’ve also heard quite a bit about this team’s improving depth.  In part due to the hot and humid South Florida climate, the Hoosiers truly did go deep into the roster against FIU.  While Allen acknowledged youthful mistakes, there did not appear to be a major letdown.

NOTE

  • Starting running back Cole Gest left the game on Saturday.  Tom Allen indicated that his status was uncertain.

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