Week three of the college football season is upon us, and Indiana is preparing for its second of three nonconference foes.
A year ago, IU edged Western Kentucky 33-31 in Bowling Green, in what turned out to be their final win of the season. Saturday the teams will meet at Indiana.
Here are some interesting notes from Q&A sessions on Monday with head coach Tom Allen, offensive coordinator Walt Bell, defensive coordinator Chad Wilt, and quarterback Connor Bazelak.
Indiana (2-0) and Western Kentucky (2-0) kick at Noon Eastern on Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
WESTERN KENTUCKY OFF TO FAST START
Although they have a new quarterback, WKU (2-0) is picking up where they left off a year ago, averaging 43.5 points per game.
No one has held the Hilltoppers below 30 points since 2020.
“We went through and tried to find different games from the past season, and really nobody really slowed them down,” Tom Allen said on Monday.
Perhaps more impressive is their defense, which has generated seven interceptions through two games, while allowing 22 points and 339 yards per contest, against Hawaii and Austin Peay.
IU is an early 6-7 point favorite according to oddsmakers, but ESPN’s SP+ model produced by Bill Connelly actually favors WKU, 31-27.
HOOSIERS AVOIDING SACKS
The pocket hasn’t always been clean, but quarterback Connor Bazelak, working in concert with the offensive line, has only been sacked once so far this season.
The Missouri transfer says part of the equation is simply knowing when to move on to the next play.
“I think a lot of times when you see games with a bunch of sacks, you think it’s the offensive line but a lot of the times it’s the quarterback just holding the ball too long taking unnecessary sacks when nothing’s there,” Bazelak said on Monday.
While the running game struggled against a stacked box in week one, offensive coordinator Walt Bell likes what he’s getting from the offensive line in the pass game.
“I think our offensive line has done a tremendous job in pass protection,” Bell said on Monday.
JAMES HEAD, JR. GETTING CLOSER
IU has been without anticipated starter at defensive end James Head, Jr. through the first two weeks as he deals with an arm injury suffered during fall camp.
Head, Jr. has been a contributor on the defense going all the back to 2018, and before the injury head coach Tom Allen thought he was ready for a breakout fifth season.
According to defensive coordinator Chad Wilt, Head, Jr. is close to returning to the field.
“James is working his tail off to get back and get ready and we think he’s really close with with where he is in his preparation,” Wilt said.
MCCULLOUGH’S UNIQUE ABILITY
Freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough has clearly been one of the headliners through the first two weeks. After arriving at IU as the program’s highest-rated recruit during the rankings era, McCullough has already posted 11 tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, two sacks, and another quarterback hit.
Positionally, the 6-foot-5 and 230-pound McCullough is highly versatile. Indiana has lined him up mainly at outside linebacker, but they are finding multiple ways to utilize his talents, especially as a pass-rusher.
“It’s a unique combination of length, athleticism, and what I consider is a high football IQ mixed in with a really strong work ethic. It’s a good combination,” Allen said.
“Just have to keep bringing him along. It’s only been two games, but he has done a good job at progressing each week. I feel the way I do because of how he prepares. I expect that to continue to grow and develop each week as he grows as a player, and that was only his second college game he has ever played in.
“You can kind of see the twitchiness and ability. Because of his arm length, he is able to get his hand up on balls and grab people, and they don’t get away from him once he gets ahold of them, even though he is not 250 pounds. He is 225 pounds or in that range. He has good core strength to him.”
DAVION ERVIN-POINDEXTER RETURNS TO BLOOMINGTON
IU had major turnover in its running backs room a year ago. Sampson James transferred during fall camp, Tim Baldwin transferred during the season, and starter Stephen Carr was injured. That progression created more and more opportunities for walk-on Davion Ervin-Poindexter, and he capitalized, delivering 44 carries for 227 yards (5.2 ypc).
During the offseason, Allen helped Ervin-Poindexter find an FBS program where he could play on scholarship. As it turned out, the school was Western Kentucky, and Ervin-Poindexter will be back at Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
“Really so proud of him, Allen said. “When he was here for us as a walk-on and just worked so hard and had to play last year and just tried to help him find an opportunity to go and get a scholarship. He was able to do that.
“He has made some really nice runs. He is one of their leading playmakers on offense.
“Really proud of him, and yeah, now we have to go find a way to stop him.”
Ervin-Poindexter has 24 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown so far this season. You can watch him below at WKU’s fall camp talking about the impact playing for IU at WKU a year ago had on his decision to transfer there.
BAZELAK’S NFL INFLUENCES
Bazelak is an Ohio native, so it should come as no surprise he has Ohio influences as it relates to what quarterbacks he watched growing up. Findlay, Ohio product Ben Roethlisberger was Bazelak’s favorite when he was younger.
“Growing up I loved Big Ben, he was my favorite,” Bazelak said. “Just his toughness, his willingness to stay in the pocket and take hits, and make plays when they weren’t there, and just how much he won.
“Recently I’ve been watching more of the young guys, (Justin) Herbert and (Joe) Burrow those two I’ve watched a lot of film, and it’s always interesting to me to kind of compare those guys with guys watching on film like (Tom) Brady and (Matthew) Stafford just kind of how they you know move around and interact with the guys.”
CINCINNATI KICK TIME ANNOUNCED
As is customary throughout the season, kickoff times are often announced two weeks prior to key games as television networks wait to determine the best fit.
IU announced on Monday the Sept. 24 Cincinnati game will kick at either 3:30 p.m. or 4 p.m., and will air on either ESPN2 or ESPNU. That week four contest is at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
For the complete 2022 IU football schedule, GO HERE.
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