Five Step Drop – Week 3

Doug McSchooler – freelancer, FR170771 AP

Moving forward, the Five Step Drop article series is how we at ATB Hoosiers will be reviewing the game from the week before and previewing the next game on the schedule.  The hope is that we can be your one stop shop for Hoosier content. 

The first 2 steps will be a review of both the offense and defense from the week before.  Steps 3 and 4 will be an offensive and defensive preview with a few keys to victory for each side of the ball.  The 5th step is going to be a player spotlight.  This can be either a player who played at an extremely high level the week before or could play a large role in the Hoosiers getting a win in the next game.  In place of this small explanation there will always be a very broad review of the week before to set the table for the first and second step!

Week 2 overview

Last week, the Hoosiers had a stereotypical “get right” game when FCS Idaho came to Bloomington.  Following a very underwhelming performance in Iowa City, this was an opportunity for the Hoosiers to get back to the basics.  They finished with a 56-14 victory and were able to get some young guys and backups some live action snaps.  The one thing that was obvious from the opening kick was the energy on the field and in the stands. The Hoosier faithful showed out with well over 40,000 people and a packed student section.  I can tell you from experience, that is an unheard-of crowd unless someone like Michigan or Ohio State is in town.  #LEO was in full affect and it’s amazing to see the players feeding off the crowd!

First Step – Week 2 Offense

I’m sure if you go a read articles by other Hoosier sources, they’ll focus on some big plays and the fact that the offense played fine.  That’s it…fine.  Now I’m sure you saw the Hoosiers scored 56 points and now I’m telling you the offense was just “fine”.  Well, it’s the truth.  The Offense ended the game with a total of 338 total yards of offense, and 76 of those yards came on one play in the 4th quarter when backup QB Jack Tuttle hit A.J. Barner for a TD.

It is way too early in the season for overreacting and saying this offense is going to cost the Hoosiers a special season, but that doesn’t mean questions can’t be asked based on this performance.  Ignoring Penix’s rushing due to a couple of sacks, the Hoosiers averaged 4.17 yards per carry vs Idaho.  Truthfully, that number would be ok if it was against Ohio State or Michigan…not Idaho.  The offensive line struggled to open consistent holes in the run game and allowed several pressures.  Moving forward, if the Oline can’t play more consistently, the offense will likely have a glass ceiling as it reaches Big Ten play.

I’d love to say that is the end of the questions for the offense following the Idaho game. There have to be some questions posed to Offensive Coordinator and Head Coach about Michael Penix.  This is the third straight game where the pass game has lacked any creativity.  Sans the 76-yard toss by Tuttle, the Hoosiers passing game went 12/19 for 83 yards.  In 2 games, Penix hasn’t looked anything like the Penix of old.  I still see flashes of the quick release, nice tight spiral, and velocity on a few of his throws, but overall, he seems very tentative.  Moving forward, the hope is that Nick Sheridan is just easing Penix back into the offense and this has just been a bump in the road to a 3rd consecutive bowl game.

Second Step – Week 2 Defense

For all the questions there are with the offense, there are next to none with the defense.  The Hoosiers came out as if they were shot out of a cannon.  From the first snap, the intensity was high and it lasted the entire game.  Allowing only 261 yards, the defense clearly overmatched and overwhelmed the Vandals, as they should have!  Through 2 games, the defense is clearly still running hot following the success they achieved in 2020.  Outside of the long TD run in the Iowa game where Reece Taylor lost contain on the edge trying to make a big play, the defense is showing the ability and potential to carry the offense and all its questions.

Normally Special Teams are just an afterthought.  However, vs Idaho, the defense and specials squads tag teamed to bury the Vandals before halftime.  The Hoosiers scored 2 ST touchdowns in the first half and set the offense up with quality field position all night.  There is no way around it, the game ball goes to the 3rd and often ignored phase of the game in this one!

Third Step – Week 3 look ahead on Offense

This week, the Hoosiers get #8 Cincinnati.  The Bearcats haven’t played anyone of note, their defense has shown it is pretty stout and has several draftable prospects.  Cincy has only allowed 21 points to this point. They have also held teams to under 4 yards per carry in both games and forced 5 turnovers.  For the Hoosiers, the key will be continued continuity on the offensive line.  Yes, I have serious questions about that group.  However, if the Oline can build on some of the positives from the Idaho game, perhaps they can take a little pressure off of Penix and allow him to continue knocking off the rust.  It’s also time for Nick Sheridan to empty the bag a little. IU has try to get the playmakers that exist on this offense into space more frequently.

Fourth Step – Week 3 look ahead on Defense

This is going to be a very fun matchup between the Cincy offense and IU defense!  The Bearcats are led by quarterback Desmond Ridder, who will certainly be drafted this spring.  In the first two games Ridder has completed over 72% of his passes and has 6 touchdowns to 1 interception.  On top of a dynamic passing game, running back Jerome Ford is averaging 7.8 ypc and has 4 TDs.  The Cincy offense will be the first intense challenge for this Hoosier defense.  The first key is to attempt to limit big plays for the Bearcats.  If the Hoosiers can force Ridder to make smart decisions on 8-10 play drives, the chances of him making mistakes are much higher.  The second key is to get pressure on Ridder.  If the Hoosiers can’t make negative plays and put the Bearcats behind the chains, it could be a long day.

Fifth Step – Player Spotlight

I have two players that I’m keeping an eye on Saturday vs Cincinnati, Micah McFadden and Ryder Anderson.  Both have shown an ability to make plays in the backfield, and that will be vital on Saturday.  Simply, if the Hoosiers can’t make Desmond Ridder sweat, I’m unsure they can win.

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