Both the Hoosiers and the Sycamores scored their first touchdowns of the season tonight in Indiana’s victory over Indiana State. For two teams lacking in program momentum heading into week two, something had to give.
Thankfully for Tom Allen, the more talented roster prevailed in tonight’s in-state matchup, as Indiana State could not find any answer for the size, strength and speed of guys like Jaylin Lucas and Josh Henderson. As was expected, Indiana was able to overpower its FCS opponent.
That’s not to say that Indiana played a perfect game though. The final score doesn’t reflect how rocky things got there for the second and third quarters, a span over which Indiana only outscored Indiana State 10-7.
Some questions may have been answered, while others appear more urgent than ever. Here’s Three Things:
QB 1 (?)
Looking at the box score, it would appear as though Indiana has found its starting quarterback in Tayven Jackson. While he didn’t throw for any touchdown passes tonight, he led Indiana’s best looking drives, including a 93 yard touchdown drive at the end of the third give Indiana a 31-7 lead.
Under more normal circumstances, I think it would be easy to say that the quarterback battle is over. Indiana, however, is not necessarily a normal program.
One of the reasons I was sheepish about the Hoosiers’ chance to break the 3-win mark this year is that I was not confident in this staff’s ability to identify the players on the current roster that could put Indiana in the best position to win.
Last year saw Indiana cycle through Brendan Sorsby, Jack Tuttle, and Connor Bazelak before it became apparent that Dexter Williams was the best fit for Walt Bell’s offense. And most of those decisions were forced by injuries to the three guys ahead of Williams.
Tonight featured more head-scratchers in the form of Jackson being pulled for Sorsby towards the end of the second quarter. Jackson had finally gotten some offensive momentum before the substitution.
It wasn’t Sorsby’s fault, but it was clear that Indiana lost its mojo at that point. The drive ended in Indiana State’s only touchdown of the season and was followed up by another lackluster drive that saw Chris Freeman hit his second field goal of the season.
The other concern is that both Cam Camper and E.J. Williams left tonight’s game with injuries. Tayven’s biggest advantage over Sorsby appears to be his passing ability, but losing two top targets may force Walt Bell to rely more heavily on the run going forward.
There’s really no way to know how Tom Allen and co. will settle this going forward, but considering the hits each QB took tonight, there may be some value in having two guys ready to go.
Indiana finished the day with seven penalties totaling 60 yards on a stat sheet that does not reflect some missed offsides calls on the Hoosiers’ D-Line. This is not going to cut it going forward.
Seeing this lack of discipline in year seven of Tom Allen’s tenure is not a good sign. For a team that will have razor-thin margins on any path to respectability, things like multiple ineligible receiver penalties will absolutely cost them games going forward.
Line problems aside, the Hoosiers nearly cost themselves multiple turnovers with running into the kicker penalties. Indiana’s defense has struggled too much getting off the field in the last two seasons to be able to tolerate this kind of sloppiness.
Thankfully, Indiana was playing Indiana State tonight and was able to escape relatively unscathed for how undisciplined it was on both sides of the ball. I would not expect such a cushion against Louisville next week.
No player embodied the talent differential between Indiana and Indiana State tonight more than Jaylin Lucas. Each of Indiana’s first two drives ended in 25 yard touchdown runs from Lucas, who was clearly the most talented player on the field in tonight’s contest.
Along with the rest of the team, he didn’t play a perfect game tonight. His second quarter fumble - his second of the game - turned into Indiana State’s lone touchdown of the season on a scoop and score that completely deflated Indiana for most of the next two quarters.
We knew coming into the season that Indiana’s hopes would likely live and die with Lucas and the coaching staff’s ability to get him the ball in space. That remains the case now, though it’s not clear that Indiana has cracked the code to getting him open over these first two weeks.
If Indiana can get anything going this season, it will need more performances like tonight’s from Lucas. For all of his mistakes, he was able to turn some missed passes, missed blocks, and poor play calls into positive yardage on multiple occasions tonight.
It’s worth noting that Josh Henderson still finished with more touches tonight, but Lucas’s 10 carries and 4 receptions reflect a real effort to let Indiana’s most electric player make plays.