Weekly Preview: Indiana
Image Credit: Hoosier State of Mind
Opponent: Indiana Hoosiers (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten Conference)
Location: Memorial Stadium (52,929)
Date: Saturday, September 27, 2014
Time: 1:30 PM ET
TV/Radio Broadcasts: Big Ten Network, Terrapin Sports Radio Network
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The Indiana Hoosiers are the first conference opponent that the Maryland Terrapins will face in their first season in the Big Ten Conference. They finished last season with a record of 5-7 (3-5 Big Ten Conference) and are out to a 2-1 start to their 2014 campaign. They opened the season with a win over Indiana State, followed by a close loss to Bowling Green. Last week saw them pull off a very impressive upset of #18 Missouri on the road, building their confidence after a rather disappointing start to their season.
Kevin Wilson is the team’s head coach, and is in his fourth year at the helm of what is proving to be a very tough rebuilding project. However, he has made some progress in his time in Bloomington and seems to be putting the Hoosiers on the right track. Kevin Johns has been Wilson’s offensive coordinator for each of his seasons at Indiana, and brought with him a version of the popular Air Raid offense. Hal Mumme is credited as the inventor of this high-powered offense, but Mike Leach is the most famous coach to run it. To this day, he runs the only version that is truly pass-heavy, known for throwing the ball 60-70 times per game. However, other coaches such as Dana Holgerson, Sonny Dykes, Mike Gundy, and Kevin Johns have built their passing schemes off of Air Raid principles while attempting to create a more balanced offensive attack.
The 2014 season may see Indiana not only become balanced, but perhaps even run-heavy. Tevin Coleman has had an incredible season as the Hoosiers’ starting running back, and has shown great consistency in each of the first three games of the season. He ran for 247 yards against Indiana State, and scored 3 touchdowns on the ground against Bowling Green. Last week against #18 Missouri, he ran for 132 yards and a very crucial touchdown late in the game to seal the victory for the Hoosiers. He averages 8.6 yards per carry and 13.6 yards per reception.
While running the ball is very important to Kevin Johns’ offense, this is still an Air Raid attack. Nate Sudfeld is now Indiana’s full-time starting quarterback after Tre Roberson transferred to Illinois State after last season. Roberson was the more athletic of the two quarterbacks, but Sudfeld has the better arm. He has completed 65% of his passes so far this season while throwing 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. He isn’t the most proficient runner, but ran for 2 touchdowns against Bowling Green. He hasn’t had to be relied upon to be the main source of offense for Indiana just yet, as Tevin Coleman has proven to be extremely potent in the running game.
While Indiana’s offense has been very good in Kevin Wilson’s time in Bloomington, the defense has been another story. They have consistently ranked among the worst defenses in the country, and have tried many different coordinators and schemes to try to jump-start their defensive unit. Brian Knorr is in his first season as the team’s defensive coordinator after spending the past three seasons with Wake Forest in the same role. He brings with him a very aggressive 3-4 defense that has been inconsistent in the team’s first three games of the season. While they held #18 Missouri’s high-powered offense to just 27 points, they allowed Bowling Green to score 45 points on them. Maryland is the first team that the Hoosiers face at home since their season opener against Indiana State, so they’ll certainly be looking for some home-cooking on the defensive side of the ball.
After a heart-breaking loss to West Virginia in their third game of the season, the Terps bounced back well and beat Syracuse 34-20 on the road last week. C.J. Brown played his best game of the season under center, throwing for 280 yards and 2 touchdowns while committing no turnovers for the first time this season. Jacquille Veii was the team’s leading rusher, back at running back after spending the first three weeks of the season as Stefon Diggs’ backup at slot receiver. The running game is still a work in progress, but it is certainly good to see the passing game becoming the weapon that most analysts believed that it would be this season.
Indiana presents a similar challenge to West Virginia for the Terrapins, who will be facing their second Air Raid offense of the season in Bloomington this weekend. Like the Mountaineers, the Hoosiers like to run a balanced version of the Air Raid. They’ll want to spread the field with 3-5 wide receivers and run inside zone plays and quick passes to the perimeter in order to stretch the defense out. This is a very tough defense to stop, as it is nearly impossible to get pressure on the quarterback with so many quick passes being thrown.
Unlike West Virginia however, the strength of the Hoosiers’ offense does not come from its quarterback. Maryland’s defense will likely have an easier time slowing down Indiana’s offense because they are a better unit against the run. While the Maryland front seven is missing many of its key parts, Darius Kilgo and Cole Farrand still anchor a unit that has been strong against the run so far this season. Syracuse was able to exploit the Terps’ run defense last week, but that can happen when you face an athletic quarterback such as Terrel Hunt. Nate Sudfeld is not a threat to run the ball with any kind of success, so all of Maryland’s focus can be on Tevin Coleman. If they can slow him down and force Sudfeld to beat them with his arm, that may be just enough to get the Terps their first conference win as a member of the Big Ten Conference.
Similar to the Mountaineers, Indiana’s defense is still a work in progress. Mike Locksley should look to establish a solid running game in order to wear the Hoosier defense down and keep their potent offense off the field for as long as possible. The Maryland running backs have failed to get off the ground so far this season, and Wes Brown has been listed as Albert Reid’s co-backup behind Brandon Ross for the first time this season. I’d expect the Terps to use each back early in the game to find someone who can give them success every time he touches the ball.
This week, I was able to speak with David Woods about the Indiana Hoosiers. David writes about Indiana football for the Indianapolis Star. I’d like to thank him for his insightful responses, and for his participation in this interview.
BSL: Indiana is the first Big Ten Conference team that Maryland will play in 2014. What are the main things that Maryland fans should know about the Indiana football program?
Woods: Indiana has a legacy of losing. The Hoosiers and Northwestern share the record for most defeats ever (644) by a major college team. Indiana has gone to one bowl game (2007) in the past two decades. However, the Hoosiers’ 31-27 victory over then-No. 18 Missouri last week was historic. Mizzou was the highest-ranked team beaten by Indiana on the road since a victory at No. 9 Ohio State in 1987. Coach Kevin Wilson, in his fourth season, is starting to see his efforts rewarded. But the Maryland game is important for Indiana to show it is building a program and not merely pulling an occasional upset.
BSL: The Hoosiers have run a no-huddle Air Raid offense for the past few seasons, and are usually able to put up some big numbers through the air. However, this is a much more balanced version of the offense that Mike Leach runs at Washington State. In order for Indiana to have success offensively, what does it need to do?
Woods: Indiana’s success through the air obscures how effective its spread attack is on the ground. Even last year, the Hoosiers ranked fourth in the Big Ten in rushing and third in yards per carry. In Tevin Coleman, Indiana has the nation’s top player whose name is absent from Heisman Trophy discussion. He leads the FBS in rushing and all-purpose yardage, and his bursts in the open field can be breathtaking. Given the Terps’ struggles against the run, Indiana is likely to run more than it passes.
BSL: Nate Sudfeld is the Hoosiers’ starting quarterback this season, and seems like a good fit for what this team wants to do offensively. What is your analysis of his play so far this season?
Woods: Sudfeld acknowledged he has become more of game manager. He has thrown 74 passes without interception in the past two games and hasn’t made the major mistake that sometimes characterized his play. However, his less-than-spectacular statistics can be attributed to two things: Indiana’s improved running attack and the absence of the tall targets he had last year in Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser. Sudfeld is capable of a three-touchdown, 300-yard output in any game. But he is still learning to connect with a new collection of receivers.
BSL: The Indiana defense is the weak spot for this team. They were one of the nation’s worst defenses last season, but appear to be somewhat better so far this season. What changes have been made on defense for the Hoosiers in 2014?
Woods: One of the worst not just last season, but for many decades. New coordinator Brian Knorr introduced his 3-4, but the Hoosiers’ performance at Missouri had more to do with increased aggressiveness than it did with scheme. Indiana has more talent on defense than a year ago, and it features such depth that every defensive player who made the trip to Missouri except one got into the game. Coming from Wake Forest, Knorr will be as familiar with Maryland’s offense as any defensive coordinator could be. It’s too early to assert that Indiana’s defense is adequate. In the second half alone of a 45-42 loss at Bowling Green, the Hoosiers allowed 27 first downs, 375 yards and five touchdowns.
BSL: Last but not least, what are your keys to the game for Indiana this week?
- Indiana’s ability to pressure C.J. Brown and limit big plays by those elite Maryland receivers.
- Control the game by controlling the ball with Coleman and Co.
- Capitalize on scoring opportunities. In each of its three games, Indiana has frequently failed to score after getting near or in the red zone.
Zack’s Keys to the Game
- Slow down Tevin Coleman – Brian Stewart and the Maryland defense must find a way to slow down Indiana’s running attack. If they are able to force Nate Sudfeld to beat them with his arm, they have a much better chance than if they allow Tevin Coleman to run wild.
- Run the ball – Maryland’s running attack has to get going this week. The Big Ten Conference is all about running the football and playing defense. Whether it’s Brandon Ross, Albert Reid, Wes Brown, Jacquille Veii, or C.J. Brown, the Terps have to get quality yards on the ground.
- Make smart decisions – C.J. Brown did a very good job of getting the ball out to his receivers and allowing them to make plays after the catch last week. I’d look for Mike Locksley to dial up a lot of those short-intermediate passes against the Hoosiers this week, while allowing Brown to take a few shots downfield off of play-action.
- Limit the mistakes – The Terps played a perfectly clean game against Syracuse last week, committing zero turnovers for the first time this season. Limiting mistakes will be just as important against Indiana this week.
- Give C.J. time – Maryland’s offensive line finally improved their pass protection last week, and it showed in C.J. Brown’s final stat line. They’ll need to continue to improve in that regard, as it isn’t going to get any easier to keep him on his feet. If Brown is able to stand in the pocket for just a few seconds without having rushers in his face immediately, he can be a very dangerous quarterback.
What’s a Hoosier?
As I was sitting in the Maryland Student Union this week, I overheard some of the football players asking each other, “What’s a Hoosier?” (Jameis Winston, take note of the appropriate conversation for the Student Union). So, for those out there wondering the same thing, here is the definition of a Hoosier:
Hoosier – A native of the state of Indiana
Alright, so it’s not very interesting. Apparently no one knows how or why this started, either. But there’s your lesson for the day.
Zack is a financial analyst for a defense contractor in Washington, DC. The Owings Mills native focuses most of his efforts on Maryland Football recruiting and individual coach and player pieces; but also covers Terps Basketball. He has established relationships with Big Ten beat reporters across the conference, which he utilizes in his game previews. Now a Sr. Terps Analyst for BSL, Zack can be reached at: [email protected]