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Behind the numbers: IU’s 27-11 win over Maryland

Indiana’s offense and defense struggled on first down, but there was good elsewhere

Maryland v Indiana Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Your No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers are just one win from clinching second place in the Big Ten East and one more canceled game for Ohio State from being the odds-on favorite to make the Big Ten Championship Game out of the East. Welcome to 2020.

All of that is true because Indiana handled business at home and beat Maryland in a workmanlike 27-11 affair. It was a game that was sleepy as hell for 30 minutes, then haunting for IU fans for most of the second half as quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s health status remains uncertain after he took an awkward step while getting out of bounds after a long run near the goal line. He got up slowly with the help of IU’s medical personnel and limped away, leaving the future for the Hoosiers this season – which could include a trip to Indy in December – unknown and uncomfortable.

Crimson Quarry went through the play-by-play log from Saturday’s game and calculated some advanced stats from the Indiana-Maryland game.

Note: Success rate is defined as gaining 50 percent of the necessary yards for a first down on first down, gaining 70 percent of the necessary yards on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down.

We excluded end-of-half kneel downs and Maryland’s two-point conversion attempt.

When Indiana was on offense

Success rate (number of plays in parentheses) | comparison to the Ohio State game:

  • First down: 27.6% (29) | -9.1%
  • Second down: 41.7% (24) | + 6.7%
  • Third down: 37.5% (16) | +6.7%
  • Fourth down: 50.0% (2) | +16.7%

Nothing sums up Indiana’s day on offense, at least in the first half, quite like the Hoosiers’s 27.6-percent success rate on first down. This means that on average, Indiana gained at least five yards on first down on roughly just one out of every four snaps on first down.

Indiana’s success rate on first down was nearly 10 percentage points worse than it was against Ohio State, when the Hoosiers had nearly a 37-percent success rate.

Indiana was much more committed to the run on first down compared to its trip to Columbus. The Hoosiers ran the ball on first down 22 times compared to just seven pass attempts (a 75-percent run percentage on first down) after passing the ball 67 percent of the time on first down against Ohio State (passing on 20 of 30 first-down plays, excluding kneel downs).

Indiana’s first-down runs Saturday went for an average of 3.9 yards, which actually outpaced the Hoosiers’s average of 3.4 yards per first-down pass attempt, which speaks to the team’s struggles passing the ball and in staying ahead of schedule on first down.

The Hoosiers were not only better in terms of success rate on second, third and fourth down compared to first down, but also compared to their respective marks against Ohio State.

Indiana averaged 5.2 yards per second-down run, compared to four yards per second-down pass attempt, while running 70 percent of the time on second down.

It shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise, but even on a run-heavy day dictated by Penix’s accuracy issues in the first half and his second-half injury, the Hoosiers were more willing to air the ball out on third down – 10 passing plays compared to six runs.

Those half-dozen rushes went for an average of 9.7 yards per carry, however, thanks to Tim Baldwin Jr.’s 26-yard run on 3rd & 3, a 19-yard scamper from Stevie Scott III on 3rd & 1 in the third quarter and an eight-yard run from Scott on 3rd & 2 in the first quarter.

As we wrote last week, Indiana was wildly imbalanced in terms of its run/pass play-calling at Ohio State and while the Hoosiers’s coaching staff surely wouldn’t choose a negative-one-yard rushing performance (including sack yards, a bad snap and a kneel down) against Ohio State, it almost didn’t matter that Indiana couldn’t run the ball effectively as long as the Penix-to-Fryfogle connection was as productive as ever. Weirdly, IU’s pass-happy tendencies could actually help the Hoosiers’s running ability in short-yardage situations if defenses are prepared for a screen pass, quick slant or even a big-play shot downfield.

The fact that IU produced runs of 26, 19 and eight yards in situations of 3rd & 3 (or less) is perhaps one of the most encouraging, if not unexpected, parts of the Hoosiers’s offensive performance on Saturday. The Hoosiers not only picked up a first down on four of their six third-down runs, but those runs resulted in a couple explosive plays, too.

Explosive plays (number of plays in parentheses) | comparison from the Ohio State game

  • 10+ yards: 15.5% (11) | -11.8%
  • 20+ yards: 8.5% (6) | -0.6%

Man, Indiana was really hoping it could’ve played another defense like Ohio State’s on Saturday. OK, I kid, I kid.

But the Hoosiers’s offense wasn’t nearly as explosive against the Terps as it was against the Buckeyes. After more than 27 percent of IU’s offensive snaps went for at least 10 yards against Ohio State, just over 15 percent of the Hoosiers’s snaps resulted in 10-plus yards gains on Saturday.

Penix’s first-half accuracy issues put a ceiling on IU’s explosiveness before halftime and his injury prevented him from working his way into form a la the Penn State game.

Miles Marshall’s 37-yard reception from Penix on a free play on IU’s second drive of the game was the Hoosiers’s longest completion of the game – and it probably wouldn’t have happened without Maryland jumping offsides and then a heckuva play by Marshall in between two defensive backs.

Surprisingly, it was Baldwin, IU’s seldom-used third-string running back, who was as explosive as anyone on the field Saturday with runs of 23, 24 and 26 yards, which were Indiana’s three longest plays of the game after Marshall’s 37-yard catch. Before Week 13, his only action this season had been three carries for 18 yards against Michigan State.

Indiana coach Tom Allen didn’t comment specifically on why backup running back Sampson James didn’t see the field in Week 13 but the Hoosiers might have someone in Baldwin who’s worth investing in with more carries.

When Indiana was on defense

Success rate (number of plays in parentheses) | comparison to the Ohio State game:

  • First down: 50.0% (28) | an improvement of 2.5%
  • Second down: 26.3% (19) | an improvement of 21.7%
  • Third down: 28.6% (14) | an improvement of 14.3%
  • Fourth down: N/A | N/A

While Indiana intercepted Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa three times, just like the Hoosiers did against Justin Fields and Ohio State, the Terrapins – like the Buckeyes – had a success rate of at least 50 percent on first down.

On 28 first-down snaps, Maryland picked up at least five yards on 14 of them.

The Terrapins averaged 6.7 yards on first down, which was nearly double the Hoosiers’s average of 3.8 yards on first down. Maryland’s offense picked up a first down or scored a touchdown on more than 28 percent of its first-down snaps (compared to 10.3 percent for IU), so the Terrapins certainly showed their potential on first down, with the younger Tagovailoa brother, Alabama’s former offensive coordinator, a couple of talented wide receivers and a big ol’ running back whose success seemed to defy physics.

It should be noted, however, that Indiana held Maryland to an average of 2.8 yards per first-down carry, but the Terrapins’s first-down pass attempts resulted in an average gain of 8.5 yards, which is why Maryland threw the ball roughly two-thirds of the time on first down.

For the day, Maryland’s yards-per-carry average, including sacks, was just 2.4 yards per attempt – roughly half of IU’s 4.9-yard average.

But while Maryland frequently stayed on, or ahead of, schedule on first down on Saturday, Indiana’s defense did a really good job on second and third down, when it held the Terps to less than a 30-percent success rate on both downs.

Explosive plays (number of plays in parentheses) | comparison from the Ohio State game

  • 10+ yards: 19.7% (12) | an improvement of 9.1 percent
  • 20+ yards: 6.6% (4) | an improvement of 2.2 percent

Maryland’s 10-plus-yard play percentage (19.7%) was more than four percentage points higher than Indiana’s, while the Hoosiers’s 20-yard play percentage was about two points better than the Terrapins.

And overall, Maryland’s 37.7-percent overall success rate outpaced Indiana’s 35.2-percent success rate for the game, but the Hoosiers were plus-two in turnover margin, they forced a safety and Maryland missed a 29-yard field goal, showing how IU’s defense and special teams play can carry the day against a lesser opponent, even when the Hoosiers’s offense isn’t clicking in the way it’s used to.