Saturday, September 19, 2009

Are the Hoosiers a defensive team?

After by far the most impressive performance of the season, the Hoosiers are 3-0 and heading to Ann Arbor, Mich. to open Big Ten play.

Through three non-conference games, it is clear the IU defense has carried the load. But can we call the 2009 Hoosiers a defensive team? It's something that hasn't been said in a long time, if ever.

IU forced four turnovers in its win over Akron, all interceptions. They were stout against the run again, allowing 106 yards, with a big chunk coming with the game well in hand. It appeared throughout the game that except for one big mistake the IU defense was in control. Whenever Akron began mounting a drive, IU forced a turnover. Akron was short-handed at quarterback, but that shouldn't take away from the IU performance.

The big question heading to next week will be whether the Hoosiers' defense can stop the run against a quality Big Ten foe. Michigan is clearly much improved and has a lot of speed on offense. The IU defense will have problems with Tate Forcier and the spread offense. But if they can keep the run game under control, I think they may have a chance to keep the game close. Ben Chappell and the IU offense will have to play well and eliminate the turnovers.

The Hoosiers may need to play a near-perfect game, but I think IU's best game is enough to win at Michigan.

Overall, a dominating performance by the Hoosiers in the 38-21 win over Akron. It's exactly what IU needed with conference play about to begin.

Next week: At Michigan, noon Sept. 26.

Defense dominates third quarter

IU dominated the third quarter with its defense. They forced two interceptions and turned one into a touchdown to take a 24-14 lead heading to the fourth quarter.

The IU offense had three possessions in the third and appeared to be adhering to the same pattern as the previous two games. The first drive resulted in a fumble and the third was a blocked field goal.

Akron still has not been able to mount much offense. They have rushed for 27 yards and passed for 134 through three quarters. The IU defense so far remains the game MVP.

IU takes lead back at end of half

The Hoosiers offense retook the lead late after an otherwise forgettable second quarter. A late touchdown gave IU a 17-14 lead over Akron.

The special teams big plays now are even. Akron blocked an IU punt and recovered in the end zone to go up 14-10. IU responded with a 12-play drive to retake the lead with about 30 seconds left.

Quarterback Ben Chappell lost his rhythm in the second quarter, throwing an interception and completing no passes until the final drive. But he had five completions on that last drive, including the touchdown pass to Mitchell Evans.

IU coach Bill Lynch threw in a new wrinkle by using Evans at quarterback in the first half. He played pretty well, completing two passes for 12 yards. He also has four catches for 43 yards.

Overall, the offense looked pretty good. The running game has been exceptional and has sustained most of the Hoosiers' drives. IU running backs are averaging 4.3 yards per carry, which is really impressive.

The defense also has largely clamped down on the Zips, with the exception of the one touchdown catch by Deryn Bowser. Akron had 100 total yards in the half and 49 came on Bowser's touchdown catch. The IU defense allowed only four yards rushing in the half.

The halftime adjustments once again will be crucial. The last two weeks, IU's opponents have been successful at controlling the Hoosier offense in the second half. The IU offense has to be prepared to score some more points to hang on.

In-game updates on Twitter.

Hoosiers lead 10-7 after first quarter

The Hoosiers offense looked in sync in the first quarter, but a defensive lapse has made sure Akron remains in the game.

IU rushed for 47 yards and passed for 67 in the first quarter, but the big play came on the opening kickoff, when Ray Fisher ran it back 91 yards for a touchdown.

I've been impressed with the IU running game so far. The line appears to be opening the holes and the backs are hitting them. The Hoosiers also were 4-5 on third down, which is encouraging.

Unfortunately, one defensive lapse gave the Zips an easy touchdown. A missed tackle allowed Akron wide receiver Deryn Bowser to score a 49-yard touchdown. He is the only Akron receiver with a catch so far.

Indiana v. Akron: Pregame thoughts

The Hoosiers will be the underdog on the road against Akron today. The early line gave the Hoosiers 4 1/2 points.

According to my friend LaMond Pope, who covers the Hoosiers for the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Akron has not allowed a a point in its last six quarters. Of course, four of those quarters came against Morgan State. The first two quarters came against Penn State, when the team was already down 31-0.

Statistically, Akron and Indiana are nearly identical so far this season. Akron has scored 24 points per game, Indiana 21. The Hoosiers allowed 16 points per game, Akron 15.5.

The Zips offense has been pretty balanced so far, with a few more passing yards per game. The team's defensive problem appears to be in the passing game. Akron has allowed 232.5 yards per game through the air. That's still better than IU, which has allowed 272 yards passing per game.

The IU defense will have to take advantage of a depleted Akron offense. Starting quarterback Chris Jacquemain will not play after being suspended indefinitely.

Game is on ESPNU or 100.1 FM radio in Fort Wayne.