It was former Indiana quarterbacks two, current Indiana quarterbacks zero on Saturday at Michigan.
And that helps to explain why the IU football coaching staff seemingly cannot settle on a starter behind center.
IU quarterback turned wide receiver Donaven McCulley threw a 44-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, and Jack Tuttle, who transferred from IU to Michigan during the offseason, threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in a backup role for the Wolverines.
In between was a whole lotta unconvincing play from IU redshirt freshmen signal callers Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby.
And unconvincing is not where Indiana had hoped to be at quarterback halfway through this 2023 season.
You can forgive new offensive coordinator Rod Carey if he wanted to have a fresh look at Jackson and Sorsby in a game situation. While both have had their moments, neither has done much to separate themselves.
Let’s not forget, Jackson won the job based on his performance against FCS opponent Indiana State. Since then, he’s had one good half against Louisville, and five uninspiring halves.
So with Carey installed as the new play caller, the plan all week was to rotate Jackson and Sorsby — against perhaps the best defense in the country.
Neither was up to that very tall task. And the staff seemed to gain very little from rotating Jackson and Sorsby in the rain at Michigan Stadium.
“I think there’s no question, today, neither one of them protected the ball very well,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “We were just trying to use this as an opportunity to see who would step up and take it, and hopefully one of them would have done that. That was the goal for today, just to be able to feel good about who is going to take over.”
While Jackson and Sorsby knew the plan all week, it’s reasonable to question whether either of them were ever going to get into a rhythm on Saturday against an elite defense in poor weather conditions. While neither was available to the media after this game, both of them said earlier in the season it was challenging to play while constantly looking over their shoulder in a rotation.
McCulley of course understands the quarterback perspective, and he doesn’t envy the dynamic Jackson and Sorsby were dealing with on Saturday.
“I think it’s really hard to get yourself in a routine, and get other guys in a routine (when you are rotating),” McCulley said during postgame interviews. “I’m not sure why they were flip-flopping and stuff like that, but I think it’s hard to get into a routine when you’re doing that.”
McCulley added that on some drives the other offensive players didn’t know who was the quarterback until they got in the huddle.
Jackson looked promising on the second drive of the game, as he led IU to the Michigan 10-yard line before throwing an interception. He finished 7-of-13 for 52 yards with two interceptions. He also suffered an injury to his throwing hand according to Allen.
Meanwhile Sorsby completed just 6-of-15 throws for 44 yards. He ran the ball 13 times for 30 yards, but he was indecisive, sacked three times, and also lost a fumble.
And now, with a make or break game coming next Saturday, and things even more murky at quarterback, the plan is to somehow settle again on one quarterback. There is no plan to continue the two quarterback approach you saw on Saturday.
“Obviously we’ve got to make a decision,” Allen said. “We will not continue to rotate the guys in that manner moving forward.”
Who that will be is anyone’s guess right now. And there’s a wildcard in this mess.
Last season’s starter at the end of the year, Dexter Williams III, was upgraded to questionable for the Michigan game. Allen said he actually could have played in an emergency situation in Ann Arbor.
It isn’t clear if Williams is really physically or mentally ready to go as a starter anytime soon.
But one thing is clear.
An emergency is exactly what both Allen and Indiana face next Saturday when they host Rutgers.
The Daily Hoosier –“Where Indiana fans assemble when they’re not at Assembly”