Indiana football: Report card for win over Maryland
The sign of a good team frequently can be whether it wins on a bad day.
Indiana did so on Saturday, handing Maryland a loss when the Hoosiers were not as sharp as they had been in the first five games of the season.
The Hoosiers defense was solid, but offensively IU wasn’t crisp. Yet, the Hoosiers found a way in their 27-11 victory.
Following are the grades:
Passing offense: D+
The Hoosiers were out of sorts from the get-go.
Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was more erratic than he had been all season, missing receivers high and low, left and right. He was only 2-of-15 in the first half, and one of the completions came on a circus toss when he eluded pressure then chucked the ball up for Miles Marshall, who made the grab for 37 yards. Penix’s second completion of the half covered 0 yards.
He was better in the second half, hitting all four of his attempts before an injury knocked himout of the game late in the third quarter. Penix finished an uncharacteristic 6-of-19 for 84 yards. Backup Jack Tuttle came off the bench to throw for 31 yards, hitting all five of his attempts. One of the best came on a 2-point conversion, shortly after Penix’s injury, when Tuttle found Peyton Hendershot near the left pylon.
IU threw for 115 yards without a score, but it didn’t turn the ball over, nor was it sacked.
Rushing offense: A
The Hoosiers showed early that they intended to jump-start the running game.
IU went to the Wildcat formation frequently starting on its second possession. After Penix’s completion to Marshall, IU ran the ball seven consecutive times, the last a direct snap to Stevie Scott III for the score.
Scott finished with 88 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns, a solid afternoon. But IU coach Tom Allen wanted to get more speed on the field, so he turned at times to wide receiver David Ellis, who tacked on 21 rushing yards. But Ellis was tripped up inches short of the first down on a red zone fourth-down attempt in the third-quarter.
Third-stringer Tim Baldwin Jr. received a bulk of the opportunities in the second half and took advantage. He gives the Hoosiers a different look, as a quicker, more agile back, and he finished with 106 yards, with a 6.6 yards-per-attempt average.
Penix had 29 yards scrambling on two carries, but unfortunately was hurt on the second, which gave the Hoosiers first and goal at the 3-yard-line in the third quarter. He didn’t return to the game.
It’s rare this season that the running game rules the day, but IU had 234 yards on 48 carries with three TDs. Impressively, it only lost 10 yards total, 2 of those on a kneeldown.
Overall Offense: C+
Although it wasn’t always pretty, especially in the passing game, the Hoosiers mostly took advantage of opportunities. They scored on four of their five trips inside the red zone, including three touchdowns.
And the one failure set up defensive points on a safety.
The running game, largely absent this season, was a big factor; perhaps Indiana found a couple of answers in manufacturing a better rushing game in the second half of this shortened season.
The Penix injury is concerning.
But the Hoosier offense dominated possession, with 36 minutes, scored 25 points and didn’t have a turnover. That was good enough to win. But the Hoosiers converted only 6-of-16 on third downs, an issue that kept IU from making the game a runaway sooner.
Passing defense: A
Taulia Tagovailoa passed for 241 yards but many of those were hollow, meaningless yards after the game had largely been decided.
For the most part, the Hoosiers harassed him into mistakes all over the field, sacking him three times and intercepting him thrice. Unfortunately, Jaylin Williams fumbled away his pick after a 43-yard return. It was IU’s only turnover of the day.
Hoosiers defensive back Tiawan Mullen had a nice play on a bouncing ball, intercepting a pass to thwart a promising Maryland drive. And a play after Jonathan King sacked Tagovailoa, Micah McFadden had the final interception. Maryland could never mount much of an offensive charge because IU kept the Terps’ passing game in check and then some.
Rushing defense: A
The Terrapins gained 59 yards rushing, a total kept down partly because of sack yardage.
Maryland never got much going, with only one double-digit rush, a 15-yarder by Peny Boone. Otherwise, IU was stout at the line of scrimmage.
The biggest stop resulted in points, when linebacker D.K. Bonhomme wasn’t fooled on the option, stayed with Tagovailoa and brought him down in the end zone for a safety. It was a huge play while the game was still in the balance midway through the third quarter.
Overall Defense: A
Can’t ask for much more.
The Hoosiers gave up only 11 points and eight of them came with less than two minutes left when the result was beyond doubt.
And 43 of the Terrapins’ 300 yards came on that late touchdown pass.
Otherwise, IU was dominant, holding Maryland’s playmakers in check and creating three turnovers by harassing Tagovailoa frequently.
Special teams: A
Indiana kicker Charles Campbell was good on his only field goal attempt, a 33-yarder.
Haydon Whitehead punted seven times and did well, with a 45.4-yard average.
The Hoosiers’ coverage was solid.
Allen helped his team avoid the letdown following a competitive loss at Ohio State, finding ways to overcome the Hoosiers’ struggles and cruise to an easy win.
Knowing that Indiana needs to find a solution to its running game, he implemented a Wildcat offense that had success and helped make up for whatever was ailing Penix.
Give Allen credit for working his way through a sub-par day by many of his offensive stars.
Sometimes, good teams have to find a way to win ugly, and the Hoosiers did that on Saturday.
On an afternoon when the offense struggled to find its footing, the defense stepped up in the third quarter and made the game’s biggest play — on a safety no less — to get the Hoosiers rolling.