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Indiana gets defensive in Indiana State win

IU's Tegray Scales and Bobby Richardson wrap up one of four Hoosier sacks in their win over Indiana State. (Photo by the Associated Press)
IU's Tegray Scales and Bobby Richardson wrap up one of four Hoosier sacks in their win over Indiana State. (Photo by the Associated Press)

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For more on college sports, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at www.twitter.com/pdiprimio
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Hoosiers put substance to practice hype

Sunday, August 31, 2014 12:01 am
BLOOMINGTON — So we have the first sign. It does not provide Book of Revelation significance, but let's not quibble over details.There's a season to do that.

For now, consider that Indiana does have a defense that stops people, that gets off the field on third down, that makes open field tackles for the first time since Oscar Wilde topped the best-seller list.

Yes, that is a SLIGHT exaggeration, but if you've seen the Hoosiers defend the last generation, certainly if you endured last year's worst in America mess, you know exaggeration can be cool.

Anyway, IU throttled Indiana State in its 28-10 victory, and if the Sycamores remind no one of, say, Florida State, don't be deceived. This matters, for confidence, if not for production.

Indiana State managed just 170 total yards, 30 on the ground. Their 10 points came off Hoosier turnovers.

For perspective, that's the fewest yards IU has allowed since holding Murray State to 149 in 2008.

For more perspective, last year the Hoosiers allowed 38.8 points and 527.9 yards a game, as bad a defense as can be played without John Madden video game surrealism.

This is progress. Those who wear Cream 'n Crimson glasses might call it miraculous, and to heck with the fact Indiana State was just 1-11 last season.

Defensive coordinator Brian Knorr and his 3-4 scheme have made instant impact.

Great, now take a deep breath.

“We still have a long ways to go,” defensive lineman Bobby Richardson said, “but we did well together. We have to stay bonded, stay together and we'll be better the next game.”

Richardson set a tone with three sacks, impressive considering he'd totaled 5.5 in his first three seasons. Those were the only tackles he had, which was fine given 10 Hoosiers had at least two tackles, while 10 more had at least one. That included Donovan Clark, the former South Side standout playing in his first college game as a true freshman.

The Hoosiers thrived, by the way, without the complexity they're certain to reveal against better opponents.

“We kept the defense simple,” linebacker David Cooper said. “We felt if we executed, kept flying around and making plays, we would come out pretty well.”

And so they did.

Indiana State struggled to get any kind of offensive rhythm. Yes, it's a FCS school with just 65 scholarships to work with, but previous Hoosier teams struggled despite those advantages.

Not on Saturday.

The Sycamores averaged 1.2 yards a carry. IU hasn't done that to an opponent since, well, maybe ever.

“We showed a little consistency,” Cooper said. “We were anxious to get out there and go against somebody other than our offense. It felt good. The guys loved it.”

Despite the love, coach Kevin Wilson wants more. That's his nature, which makes him like every other coach, especially ones who have had enough of losing.

“It was a good start, but they've got a ways to go to really be a good game-day defense,” he said, “the kind that really cuts it loose. Trusting that the more they play and get used to the scheme and the calls and each other and the adjustments, the better they'll be.

“They're a long ways away from what we're going to see as the year goes on. I expect them to continue to keep spiking the right way.”

Indiana State coach Mike Sanford, as you would expect, saw things a little differently.

“In my mind, we should have won. If we take care of the ball and score in the red zone — we should have scored two touchdowns early in the game.”

Perhaps, but they didn't, mostly because the defense wouldn't allow it.

“We can win with defense,” safety Antonio Allen said. “This is a defensive team.”

As for the vaunted offense, which averaged 38.4 points last season and seemed poised to reach 40 this season, it's time to rethink things.

For one, quarterback Nate Sudfeld can't run as often as he did Saturday (10 times for 32 yards), when it seemed as if he were channeling former teammate Tre Roberson.

For another, Indiana State often dropped eight players into coverage, making it tough for Sudfeld to find an open receiver, especially when he's dealing with a lot of receiving youth.

But that will get fixed. The Hoosiers have a bye to tweak the attack, and that will include expanding the play calling and, well, finding a backup quarterback.

Here's a surprise. It could be Chris Covington, who arrived in Bloomington as a linebacker, but who played some quarterback at Al Raby High School in Chicago.

"He kind of came through the summer playing linebacker," Wilson said, "but I had a chance to watch him throw at one of our picnics at one of our post-practice deals and I thought he threw it too good to play linebacker so we kind of snatched him off the defense," Wilson said.

For now, though, it's all about the defense — in a good way.

That's progress.

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


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