Indiana football: In a search for answers, maybe Dexter Williams is one?
It’s not often that Tom Allen isn’t so full of energy that he’s bouncing from one place to another.
But following Indiana’s 56-14 loss at Ohio State on Saturday, the Hoosiers’ 7th consecutive setback and the one that officially knocks them from bowl contention, Allen looked deflated. His team sits 3-7 overall, but worse than that is Indiana’s Big Ten record the last 2 season: The Hoosiers have won only 1 of their last 16 in league play. Maybe IU can salvage something at the end of this season, with a road trip to Michigan State then a home date with Purdue (which might have a Big Ten West title on the line), but it’ll be an underdog in each.
And Saturday was a mess, as expected. The Hoosiers were down 28-7 at the half to the No. 2 Buckeyes, then were beaten by the same score in the 2nd. Afterward, Allen looked like a man short on answers.
It may be as simple as this: There aren’t any.
Allen has exhausted his in-season moves, making an assistant coach change to help an ailing offensive line, switching the quarterbacks, attempting to energize a team that’s been beaten down by a seemingly endless string of Big Ten losses.
Only one thing seems certain at this point, that Allen should stick with Dexter Williams II at quarterback for the rest of the season. Look, this was no masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination, but as Allen and the Hoosiers press toward the future — assuming they have a future that is tied together, and that could be questionable at this point — then IU should turn to as much youth as possible, and it should do so at the most critical position on the field.
Williams didn’t start the game, with veteran Connor Bazelak instead getting the nod after missing last week with an injury. But Bazelak was ineffective, going 3 straight 3-and-outs to start the game before Allen decided to go to Williams, maybe in a last-ditch effort to see if the move could jump-start the offense. It did, as Williams scrambled for a 1st down on his 1st snap, then hit Andison Coby on his 3rd for a 49-yard gain. Three plays later, he hit AJ Barner for the 1st of his 2 touchdown passes.
In all, Williams’ numbers were only OK — he was only 6-of-19 but for 107 yards and 2 TDs, without an interception — but at least it was something, which is more than nothing. Williams also gained 76 yards rushing (although he lost 30 on 4 sacks, as again the offensive line struggled, an ongoing problem that must be addressed in the offseason), giving the Hoosiers a dual-threat at the quarterback position.
For Indiana to have any success in the Big Ten East, it must have a dynamic athlete at its quarterback position, similar to what Michael Penix Jr. gave the Hoosiers during the what-now-seems-like-a-miraculous run to being a national darling in 2020. But since ’20, Indiana has had 5 quarterbacks start games, a total that will grow to 6 once Williams gets the nod for Snap No. 1 at Michigan State Saturday.
Nothing is more telling of a struggling program that quarterback instability. Is Williams the right man for the job long term? Well, that’s too early to determine. But the 6-1, 200-pound redshirt freshman is the right man for right now, as Allen and the Hoosiers have exhausted the possibilities and haven’t found an avenue that produces wins.