The Hoosiers improved to 4-3 with a somewhat convincing win over Illinois, moving two wins from bowl eligibility.
Once again, the Hoosier defense set up the clinching scores in the second half. Illini QB Juice Williams fumbled twice, including one deep in IU territory, which the Hoosiers converted to touchdowns. The IU offense also looked much better, with Hoosier QB Ben Chappell throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Running back Darius Willis also returned to the lineup, rushing for 58 yards.
The Hoosiers this week travel to Northwestern, where they will have to prove they can beat a team on the road that is better than Akron. A loss next week, and fans can fully shift their focus to basketball season.
An interesting side note on Saturday night's win. Yes, Chappell played likely the best game of his college career last night. But Mitchell Evans also impressed when he moved into the quarterback spot in Wildcat formations.
Evans did not complete a pass in two attempts, but ran for 84 yards on nine rushes. He is clearly faster than Chappell and a big asset in the pistol offense the Hoosiers run, which is a version of the spread attack in use around college football.
I'm wondering if Evans would be a better regular quarterback in the Hoosier system than Chappell. No question, Chappell can make all the necessary throws. He made a really pretty 44-yard pass to Tandon Doss in the fourth quarter that put the game away. But Chappell cannot run effectively if the pocket closes. The IU coaches also can't call the designed QB runs that are a staple of most spread offenses with Chappell in the game.
Just look at Illinois: Williams ran for 54 yards against the Hoosiers last night, the second most on the team. Florida QB Tim Tebow does almost all the offensive work for the Gators and Michigan QB Tate Forcier is as much a threat to run as he is to pass.
Evans, a junior, began last season as a quarterback, but moved to wide receiver. He came to IU having played QB and safety in high school.
At this point, Evans has only six pass attempts for the season with two completions. But he also has 125 yards rushing and is averaging more than six yards a carry. Am I suggesting Chappell should be benched as the starting QB? No. But I just wonder if Evans could be a better and more complete QB in the pistol system if he took more snaps.
I don't think any changes will be made at this point. It's just something to think about.