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Three Things: Indiana Beats Idaho 35-22

Has 2-0 ever looked so... not good?

NCAA Football: Idaho at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Well, it could have been worse.

Trailing 10-0 at halftime, Indiana seemed prepared to join the likes of Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Texas A&M in losing a buy game at home.

Thankfully for us, Indiana found its stride earlier in week two than in week one. By the end of the third quarter, the Hoosiers were up 23-10 and had taken control of the game thanks again to Bazelak’s big arm and ability to move the ball in a hurry.

It wasn’t the 20+ point victory that Vegas projected, but the Hoosiers now sit at 2-0 despite playing about two good quarters of football combined through the first two games. This week, albeit against a lesser opponent, Indiana was able to win without winning the turnover battle or any help from the replay booth.

I get the feeling that something *drastic* is going to have to change for Indiana to continue avoiding catastrophe, especially since the schedule doesn’t really get any easier from here on out. Until then though, I guess we should enjoy what we have?

Here’s Three Things:

Offensive Line Play

Thank god for Shaun Shivers’s mom, because the fact that he rushed for 155 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries is nothing short of a miracle behind the blocking he got yesterday. A true testament to that dog in him.

According to PFF’s premium stats, Indiana’s run blocking yesterday earned a grade of 34.3, a concerning drop from an already shaky grade of 56.7 in the opener versus Illinois. The problem was most apparent in the first quarter, when the Hoosiers failed to give Shivers enough room to punch it in from within five yards on three consecutive plays before turning it over on downs.

The pass blocking actually improved, according to PFF, jumping to a respectable 76.5 grade from 37.9 last week. Unlike the run protection, this improvement was reflected in the box score, as Bazelak managed not to get sacked at all last night. Idaho had a couple of Power Five transfers on that side of the ball too, so the uptick should not be dismissed for the simple fact that it came against the Vandals.

Still, turning in these poor blocking performances in either the run or the passing game is not going to cut it for an offensive group that has struggled to score consistently for most of the last two seasons, across two different coordinators.

Time of Possession

One of the reasons last season really went off the rails towards the end was the extent to which Indiana leaned on its defense to do everything in every game. It got to the point where it was difficult to even evaluate how the defense was playing because of how much they were on the field.

Last night, Idaho had the ball for a whopping 37:58 of game time. In week one, Illinois also had possession for over 36 minutes of the game.

Of course, some of this falls on the offensive line. The inability to reliably run the ball also means the Hoosiers can’t really eat game clock when they need to give the defense a break. Factor in Walt Bell’s no-huddle tempo and you’ve got a lot of pressure on the defense without a ton of time to cool off.

Even when the offense started clicking in the third quarter, it all came on quick strikes, with Bazelak throwing two 20+ touchdown completions in just over 5 minutes game time.

It’s not really clear how Indiana will fix this problem with the way the offense is currently working, and maybe it just comes down to trusting Tom Allen to keep the defense healthy and conditioned in between games so they can continue to go out and play 40 minutes per game.

While it hasn’t hurt Indiana yet, this is just another of the stats that leaves me with a feeling of impending doom.

Dasan McCullough

The one undisputed positive about this game for Indiana was the emergence of freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough. He was a big get as a recruit, so it doesn’t exactly come as a surprise that he’s playing so well, but it’s nice to see his commitment paying dividends so early in his college career.

Dasan recorded his first two sacks of his college career last night as part of a five tackle night in just his second college game, bringing him to 11 total tackles on the season, good for fourth on the team.

Having depth at linebacker will be crucial for Indiana this season, considering how much the defense will likely be on the field. There’s the looming worry of such a high-end talent having eyes for greener pastures, but McCullough has put those to bed in every interview he’s been in.

Indiana doesn’t often get guys out of high school who can step in and make an impact like this in their first season, so it’s great to see the wins on the recruiting trail pay off in the midst of what’s been a shaky first two games for Indiana.