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IU football likes new fast-paced offense, seeks greater consistency and production

Four games into the 2022 season, Indiana’s offense has had a different look and feel compared to the 2021 vintage.

Besides the fact that the Hoosiers already have won more games than they did all of last year, the year-over-year change that has been most noticeable for the team has been pace of play.

In the offensive coordinator change from Nick Sheridan to Walt Bell in the offseason, Indiana also changed from its more traditional offensive pace in seasons past to a new, high-tempo scheme in 2022. A month into the season, and it has been one of the fastest units in the nation.

Four games into the 2022 campaign, Indiana is running an average of 93.7 plays per game – the second-most of any team in the FBS, behind Texas Tech’s 94.3.  There’s more that goes into plays per game than just tempo, but one measure is undeniable — Indiana leads the nation in plays per minute with 3.3.

After four weeks and an offseason of getting acclimated to the new speed, Indiana’s offensive staff and players are pleased in some respects with the increased pace of play.

“[The players] love it,” wide receivers coach Adam Henry said Tuesday. “The faster we play, it seems like the better we do. They’re like, ‘Coach, can we play even faster?’ They’ve accepted the challenge.”

Henry mentioned that the players have come to love the new system, and tight end AJ Barner backs that up. The third-year player has noticed several advantages for the team in its new style compared to the way it played last season, but also sees aspects the team needs to improve.

“I feel like we’re doing a good job of just keeping the tempo, but I feel like during certain points of the game, we just need to keep our foot on the pedal and keep going up tempo,” Barner said. “It’s just executing when it comes down to it, and making plays when we need to.”

Saturday’s 45-24 loss at Cincinnati may have been the biggest showcase of Indiana’s new offense so far. The Hoosiers ran 109 plays in the defeat, the most of any team in the nation in week four. 

While the numbers suggest the new offense is doing what it is supposed to, the scoreline and result were not what the team wanted from Saturday’s game. The Hoosiers are still getting used to their new high speed system, and it may take some time before it completely clicks for the full offensive roster and coaching staff.

“I think the whole offense is still trying to learn,” running backs coach Craig Johnson said. “It’s a unique style of play, and all the players as well as the coaches that have not been in it are learning. I think that if we continue to win, we’ll be in a groove. I think we have to show that we can move the ball.”

If there was ever an opportunity for Indiana to move the ball down the field with more consistency and capitalize on all of the advantages that the high-paced offense provides, it could be this Saturday against Nebraska – the Huskers currently sit 127th in the nation in total defense, allowing 81.25 plays and 514 yards per game.

Regardless of statistics that could play to IU’s favor, head coach Tom Allen sees this weekend’s matchup as a challenge for his team – as well as an opportunity.

“I know we’re going to get their very best shot. We have to be at our very best, no question,” Allen said Monday. “We’ve just got to grow as a team. Our first road game last week, we didn’t handle the situation the way we needed to early for sure. That gives us a chance to be able to go do that again and have the same flow.”

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