Indiana was already struggling to stop Rutgers’ rushing attack.
But the task became more difficult when the Hoosiers lost three starting defensive backs over the course of the contest.
Safety Louis Moore was ejected from the game in the first half for a targeting call, so his status for this Saturday against Penn State is the easy part. He’s available and expected to return. Because he missed the entire second half vs. Rutgers, Moore can play in the first half this weekend.
The situation isn’t as clear when it comes to starting safety Phillip Dunnam and husky Noah Pierre.
If there’s any silver lining at this point with Dunnam and Pierre, it’s that coach Tom Allen didn’t declare on Monday either player is out for the season.
But Pierre, who was carted off the field in the first half Saturday, will be out for a while.
“Noah will be out for an extended period of time,” Allen said on Monday. “He’s been such a great player for us, great leader for us.”
Pierre is in his sixth and final year of eligibility. He was voted a team captain coming into the 2023 season.
“I feel like we have some depth at that spot, but obviously losing a guy like Noah for an extended period of time is tough, a tough blow without question, but he’s going to continue to be a great leader for us and continue to get himself back as soon as possible,” Allen said.
True freshman Amare Ferrell filled in for Pierre at the husky position and recorded seven tackles against Rutgers. At 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Ferrell is built closer to a linebacker at the hybrid position, but he played safety in high school.
“He (Ferrell) had a chance to play an extended period of time on Saturday, which he was ready when called upon, and he’s going to have to continue to grow in that role,” Allen said. “Really excited for his future. He’s a guy that we made a decision even several weeks ago that we were not going to redshirt him because he was too valuable to us and playing on defense, as well, special teams. So really excited for his future.”
With only five games remaining in the season, it is at least possible Pierre could miss the rest of the season.
And Allen didn’t rule out that possibility for Dunnam either.
“Phillip, hopefully we’ll get him back,” he said.
Dunnam has emerged this season as one of IU’s top defensive playmakers. The sophomore safety has three interceptions and he’s had his hands on several more passes.
With Dunnam out, Allen named the two players who will see greater opportunities in the coming weeks.
“Jordan Grier will be having to step up as well as Bryson Bonds will now have an opportunity to be able to play,” Allen said.
Grier saw most of the snaps in Dunnam’s absence Saturday. He recorded three tackles.
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