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COLUMN

Starter or not, Sudfeld is Indiana's No. 1 QB

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Kickoff: Bowling Green at Indiana, noon, Saturday
RADIO: 1250-AM
TV: ESPNU

Online: For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio

Offense at its best with sophomore running it

Monday, September 9, 2013 - 6:20 pm

BLOOMINGTON -- Is there any doubt about Indiana's starting quarterback? It has to be Nate Sudfeld. There's no other choice.

Check that. There's always a choice, just not if the Hoosiers want a winning record and bowl bid.

Yes, Tre Roberson and Cam Coffman remain in the picture. Both can run the offense and generate points. Coach Kevin Wilson suggests he's not ready to bag the rotation for a single starter.

“We'll look at our plan and how to do that,” Wilson said. “There is not a controversy. I think collectively we're better with a couple of these guys playing, so we'll see how it goes moving forward.”

Here's the bottom line -- Sudfeld maximizes offensive production. He just does. And with a defense that allows a Big Ten worst 38 points a game -- and it could get worse on Saturday with Bowling Green (2-0) and its 37.5-points-a-game attack coming to Memorial Stadium -- you can't score enough points.

Sudfeld hasn't started a game this season and still leads the Big Ten with eight touchdown passes against two interceptions. He's completing 72.9 percent of his passes for 582 yards. He has NFL size at 6-5 and 230 pounds. He has the team's strongest arm. He is confident and poised beyond his sophomore experience. When he messes up, he bounces back with touchdown passes.

Yes, that is big-picture huge.

Sudfeld was asked if he's done enough to start. He dodged the question as if it were an unblocked blitzing linebacker.

“I don't know. It's not up to me. It's up to (Coach Wilson). I'll be ready if my name is called. If Tre or Cam is called, I'll be excited for them. We're all good teammates, so whatever is best for the team.”

It's also not up to tight end Ted Bolser, but he does have insight. He's caught four touchdown passes this season -- three from Sudfeld, one from Roberson. He likes both guys.

Still …

“Nate is doing a great job. He's going to be one of the best in the business. I love him back there. I hope he's there more often. He's a great kid and a great quarterback. He's got a lot of things going for him.”

On Saturday against Navy, Sudfeld came in for IU's third series and the offense instantly clicked after going no where with Roberson. Maybe it was good luck. Maybe the line started blocking better; the receivers started running better routes; the play calling was better. Maybe Navy's defense hit a lull.

Whatever. Numbers don't lie. Sudfeld was 31-for-42 for 363 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. He rushed six times for 35 yards.

Afterwards he had ice bags on both elbows.

“I've never thrown so many passes in my life,” he said. “I've never run so much in my life.”

Points are the most important number. Roberson's two possessions resulted in a punt and a loss of downs, for a total of 16 yards and no points. Sudfeld's six full possessions (a seventh used two plays to run out the first-half clock) produced five touchdowns, one interception and 35 points.

Again, maybe some of that was just game circumstance, but so what. Sudfeld produces. He also shares the wealth. Kofi Hughes had six catches against Navy. Bolser had five. Shane Wynn and Tevin Coleman had four each. Cody Latimer had three.

Receivers notice.

“It comes with trust,” Bolser said. “He trusts me. Hopefully he keeps throwing my way. If he doesn't, hopefully he's hitting Cody or Kofi or Shane or somebody else for a touchdown.”

Sudfeld will never be confused for RG3, but he ran for first downs and scrambled to buy passing time.

“Most of the rushing attempts I had, it felt good,” he said. “A few were designed. A few I just took off. I didn't get sacked.The line did well. I was just trying to make plays.”

Sudfeld blamed himself for Navy loss because of his first-half interception. IU had first and 10 at the Midshipmen 12-yard line. Latimer was breaking open for a likely touchdown, but Sudfeld under threw him and was intercepted. The Midshipmen then drove for a field goal. That was, potentially, a 10-point swing in what became a 41-35 defeat.

“That was a bad mistake on my part,” Sudfeld said. “I tried to make too much happen. That was on me. That's tough to swallow. If I throw a touchdown there, statistically we win the game. That hurts the most.”

Pain is part of sports. It helps you grow. Sudfeld is growing. The more he plays, the faster the growth, the better it is for the Hoosiers.

“Coach is always telling me, be ready. So I am. It's a lot of fun to be out there, to keep driving, play the whole game while guys are making plays.

“It stinks to not win, but there were a lot of positives. We've got a lot to work on.”

It starts with Sudfeld starting.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com.