Tayven Jackson entered Saturday’s game against Louisville with one start in his college football career after transferring to Indiana from Tennessee this past offseason.
In Lucas Oil Stadium, where he won multiple Indiana state titles with Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Jackson put on a show. He showed playmaking ability, but he wasn’t without mistakes.
However, the good outweighed the bad. He was not the reason why Indiana lost, even though he’ll say he is:
Tayven Jackson hasn't seen a replay of the pylon play.— Zach Osterman (@ZachOsterman) September 16, 2023
"I don’t want to watch it. We lost that game because I didn’t get in." #iufb
This kind of perspective, from a redshirt freshman, is leadership. Jackson took none of the credit and all of the blame, making sure to thank both Indiana’s offensive line and receivers and say they deserve praise.
Now, on the field, Jackson was about as excellent.
He completed 24 of his 34 attempts, good for 70.6%. He passed for 299 yards on the day, good for 8.8 yards per attempt. Through routine throws and pushing the ball downfield, Jackson was able to get the ball where it needed to go.
Jackson’s PFF passing grade of 74.2 is the best for any Indiana quarterback against a Power Five opponent since Michael Penix Jr. against Ohio State back in 2020.
Facing pressure on 35.1% of his 37 dropbacks, Jackson completed six of his 10 attempts for an average gain of 5.8 yards. Against the blitz he was even better, completing all five of his attempts in as many dropbacks for 85 yards, an average gain of 17.
Jackson was also perfect as a deep passer, completing all three of his attempts 20 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage for 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
The mistakes? A fumbled snap that lost about 13 yards and an interception on third down that sailed beyond his target and way into the secondary. That interception, in reality, wasn’t all that bad considering the next play would’ve been a punt.
His pocket presence was outstanding, he was usually aware of his surroundings and able to find enough space to get a pass off around Bob Bostad’s revamped offensive line. If there wasn’t room in the pocket he could find some space outside of it. It’s the best we’ve seen since Peyton Ramsey/Penix.
Now, overall, I don’t think it’d be entirely fair to Jackson to expect him to perform like this all season. He’s still a redshirt freshman in need of experience, he’ll likely have worse outings than he did Saturday.
Indiana needs to win this season, but those’ll serve as learning experiences for Jackson as be becomes more comfortable in his role.