Indiana will try to put last week’s loss at Cincinnati behind them quickly with a key Big Ten opportunity ahead this week.
IU (3-1, 1-0 Big Ten) hits the road Saturday for its first conference away game, taking on Nebraska (1-3, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. E.T. at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. The teams last played each other in 2019, when IU took home a 38-31 win.
Here are a few takeaways and notes from Monday’s media availability with head coach Tom Allen, offensive coordinator Walt Bell, defensive coordinator Chad Wilt, and quarterback Connor Bazelak.
Mixed bag of health updates
D.J. Matthews was the most notable IU injury from the Cincinnati game. He stayed down after a punt return, received attention, and then got up and walked off under his own power. He didn’t return to the game.
Allen said Monday that Matthews avoided a long-term injury, but his status is uncertain for the Nebraska game. Allen said the wide receiver is day-to-day for practice this week.
Center Zach Carpenter missed his second game in a row with a hand injury against Cincinnati, but the Allen is hoping to get him back in Lincoln. Caleb Murphy started in his place for both games.
Additionally, Dasan McCullough played fewer snaps against the Bearcats than he had in previous weeks. Wilt said “there was some stuff that prevented him from having the week he wanted to have, practice-wise,” which SID Jeff Keag clarified was an illness. Wilt added that McCullough is back to full strength.
Lineup changes on offensive line could be in play
Indiana’s offensive line struggled against Cincinnati, as quarterback Connor Bazelak was frequently under pressure and the running game didn’t have a lot of room to operate.
There are other things causing those issues besides the blocking, but the linemen are a big part of it. And the Hoosiers know it.
Due to injuries, the line was down two of the five who started the season-opener (Carpenter and Matthew Bedford). And that’s also a factor. But Allen said there could be changes coming.
“We’re going to have to look at adjusting some of the five (offensive linemen) we play with,” Allen said. “Just try to find the best combination that we have to go with. That’s obviously on the table, part of our discussions, trying to get the best five guys on the field each and every time we play.”
Hoosiers not overreacting to defensive miscues
IU’s defense markedly improved in the second half of the Cincinnati game from the first half.
After allowing 38 points in the opening 30 minutes, the Hoosiers shut out the Bearcats in the third quarter and allowed just one touchdown in the fourth. Obviously, the game situation was different for Cincinnati with such a big lead in the second half — there was no need for urgency or aggressiveness. But IU did make some adjustments to spark the turnaround.
At halftime, Wilt told his unit to “be brilliant at the basics.” That helped settle the players down and restore confidence. Linebacker Cam Jones said one of IU’s keys going into the game was stopping the run, which led to stacking the box — and leaving 1-on-1 matchups in the secondary — more often. IU did shut down the Bearcats’ rushing game in the first half, holding them to 17 yards on 11 attempts.
Cincinnati did its damage through the air. IU adjusted at halftime, and things settled from there.
Jones said the defensive mistakes were all correctable, not any huge problems.
“I tell the players, these are things that we go over every single day, whether it’s little details or technique,” Jones said. “We do it every single day, so there’s no excuses. It’s self-inflicted wounds, things that we can correct that can change the game overall.”
Hohlt capitalized on opportunity
Walk-on linebacker Matt Hohlt saw the field more often against Cincinnati than he had in previous weeks.
The redshirt freshman recorded three tackles, with one tackle for loss, on Saturday. He impressed his coaches.
“I thought Matt did a great job. He was productive,” Allen said. “Smart, tough, dependable young man. Really good football player. Just a guy that physically gives us something there. He’s got a really good moxie to him, understands the game, understands the run fits, really does his job at a high level every time he’s called upon. Excited for the way he performed. Allowing him to continue to grow and develop is going to be important for our defense.”
Wilt praised Hohlt’s background knowledge of the game from Center Grove, and his tough, reliable attributes.
“He’s a very smart football player. He cares a lot,” Wilt said. “He had a couple nice plays down there on that first drive, after we put our backs against the wall after the turnover, went in, got the stop. Matt continues to just show up and be who he is: tough, competitive, got dinged up a little bit, he was right back out there. We’ve got a lot of trust, faith, and confidence in him.”
Michigan kick time confirmed
Indiana’s homecoming game against the Wolverines was already set for a noon kickoff on Saturday, October 8. That information was confirmed Monday, and the game will air on FOX.
That game will be the second leg of a big weekend for IU Athletics. Hoosier Hysteria is the night before, next door at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
For the complete 2022 IU football schedule, GO HERE.
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