Behind Enemy Lines: Indiana

Terps will look to find the win column once again after a tough loss at home to the Purdue Boilermakers. The Terps, 4-2 (1-2 Big Ten) head to Indiana to take on the Hoosiers who are currently on a three game losing streak after starting 3-0 on the season. We spoke to Jack Ankony of Hoosiers Now who is close with the IU football team to learn more about the Terps upcoming opponent.

John Gugs: After starting off 3-0, the Hoosiers are on a 3 game losing streak. What do you believe the team is doing that it did not do in the first three games that is causing the losing streak?

Jack Ankony: You might expect a drastic dropoff in play when three wins are followed by three losses, but the losing streak is more about what Indiana hasn’t been able to fix, in my opinion. Indiana’s offense has been wildly inconsistent all season. The way Indiana won its first three games wasn’t sustainable, sneaking by with late-game heroics. Idaho shut Indiana’s offense out during a rainy first half, and the Hoosiers didn’t score in the second half against Illinois until a game-winning touchdown run from Shaun Shivers with 23 seconds left. Indiana trailed Western Kentucky all afternoon, and the Hilltoppers missed a 44-yard field goal that would have won the game at the end of regulation. Nebraska and Michigan held the Hoosiers scoreless in the second half the last two weeks, revealing similar trends from the first three games. That’s four out of six games where Indiana went 29-plus minutes without scoring, and Indiana is 2-2 in those games. So what’s changed? Not much, and that’s the problem. Indiana hasn’t played a complete game all year, and Cincinnati and Michigan are good enough to bury teams when they go dormant for long stretches. Against Nebraska, Indiana was missing its top two receivers, Cam Camper and D.J. Matthews, which was a big loss for a struggling offense. Indiana’s offensive inconsistency puts extreme pressure on the defense to be perfect, and that can only last so long. When Indiana’s fast-paced offense can’t stay on the field, the Hoosiers’ defense steadily wears down with time.

JG: Conor Bazelak has been sacked 19 times for a total loss of 195 yards so far this season. Why do you think Bazelak has been getting sacked so much so far this season?

JA: Offensive line play has been the biggest area of concern for Indiana this season. In Week 1 against Illinois, right tackle Matthew Bedford tore his ACL after starting 28 games since 2019. West Texas A&M transfer Parker Hanna stepped in for Bedford, and there’s been a noticeable dropoff in production at that spot. Center Zach Carpenter injured his thumb in pregame warmups before the Western Kentucky game, allowing third-string Caleb Murphy to make his first-career start. Halfway through the season, Indiana is still shuffling personnel around during games as it continues to look for its best five linemen. Tom Allen fired offensive line coach Darren Hiller after Michigan sacked Connor Bazelak seven times last week. Rod Carey is the new offensive line coach, and he spoke with brutal honesty that there might not be time to fix the ongoing offensive line issues.

JG: Charles Campbell seems to be having a great year so far. 100% on extra points and 9/11 on field goals this season. If it came down to it how confident would you be in Campbell if the game came down to a field goal?

JA: If Indiana needs a big play late in the game, I’m not sure if any Hoosier is more reliable than Charles Campbell. He drilled a 51-yard field goal in overtime to defeat Western Kentucky in Week 3, and he’s never missed an extra point in his Indiana career. He missed a field goal in the pouring rain against Idaho and had one blocked against Michigan, so his two misses don’t carry much reason for worry. Campbell has been a steady source of production since his clutch kick at Purdue in 2019 that helped Indiana secure bowl eligibility.

JG: The Hoosiers are giving up 428.5 yards per game on defense. With the Terps being known as a team that can move the ball well for the most part averaging 461.7 yards per game on offense. What do you think the Hoosier defense will need to do to slow down the Terps offense?

JA: It starts with limiting big plays, which was a major problem against Western Kentucky, Cincinnati and Nebraska. Indiana allowed seven touchdowns of 25-plus yards in these three games combined, and Maryland looks like a team capable of continuing that trend with speedy receivers and a talented quarterback. Against Cincinnati, Indiana was successful in its commitment to stopping the run, but that left its defensive backs on islands and vulnerable to explosive plays. The Hoosiers will have to find better balance in that regard against Maryland. Keep an eye on true freshman Dasan McCullough in this one. McCullough has four sacks this season and plays with impressive sideline-to-sideline range, which could be key in containing Taulia Tagovailoa’s mobility.

JG: Both teams are known to cough the ball up a bit both averaging over one turnover a game. How important do you think the turnover battle will be on Saturday?

JA: Tom Allen continually mentions the importance of takeaways each week, and that emphasis won’t change approaching this matchup. The Hoosiers forced three turnovers in the second half in their win over Illinois and two in the second half against Western Kentucky. Indiana’s offense has really struggled to sustain drives over the last two weeks, particularly in the second half, so a takeaway or two to set up Bazelak and the offense with good field position could be crucial.

JG: How do you predict the game to go and why?

JA: I predict Maryland wins this game 31-23. Indiana has to prove it’s capable of playing a complete game, specifically as an offense, before I feel confident in picking them to win a game the rest of the season. Nebraska and Michigan held Indiana scoreless in the second half of its last two games, and the offense has shown no signs of being able to fix mistakes and inconsistencies that have existed since Week 1. Indiana is also reeling from a few key injuries that have really challenged the team’s depth. Linebacker Cam Jones, perhaps Indiana’s best overall player, is out for several weeks with a foot injury. Jones is a three-time captain and led the Big Ten in total tackles through five weeks. Starting tight end AJ Barner, wide receiver D.J. Matthews and cornerback Jaylin Williams each remain game-time decisions for Saturday.

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