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Published: Saturday, 10/19/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Indiana offense offers UM challenge

BY RACHEL LENZI
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

ANN ARBOR — The Indiana football team’s offense isn’t gimmicky. It’s not the hot new trend.

Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson admits something else about his team’s no-huddle, hurry-up scheme: It’s not perfect.

“You have to execute it well,” said the third-year coach, whose team plays today at Michigan. “You’ve got to to be able to communicate. You have to be able to understand your deal. You have to recognize defenses, recognize coverages and fronts and alignments and who to block, what routes to run, and what space to throw to. It’s just kind of our style.”

In other words, it’s complicated. But it gives the Hoosiers a chance for offensive success. Steered by two quarterbacks, the Hoosiers’ up-tempo offense relies on rapid play-calling, quick snaps, and rapid movement and execution.

“It can get you rattled a little bit, and sometimes that makes it harder,” Michigan coach Brady Hoke said.

Opposing defenses are the judge of whether the high-tempo offense is effective, and Hoke said he saw that kind of offense run when his teams at Ball State faced Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference. Today is the first time Hoke will face Indiana in his three seasons at Michigan, yet he’s also seen similar offenses in the Big Ten.

There’s little question that in standing on its own, Indiana’s offense is effective.

The Hoosiers (3-3, 1-1) are third in the Big Ten in scoring (41.7 points) and second in total offense (504.3 yards; 172.8 yards rushing and 331.5 passing), and they have averaged at least 77 plays in its six games this season.

“They’re the top three in a lot of categories in our league, and they’ve got really good skill players,” Hoke said. “They’re very athletic, they run very well in that system. They’re going to try to create some space in different ways, with formations and everything else on the offensive line.”

If Michigan — or any other team — has set the goal to stop Indiana’s offense, it comes down to this: Making the Hoosiers’ defense do the dirty work.

Defensively, the Hoosiers are last in the Big Ten in defense, having given up 456 yards (216.5 rushing, 239.5 passing) in six games and have given up 32.8 points a game — second-to-last in the conference. In a 42-28 loss last week at Michigan State, the Hoosiers ran 74 plays, including 47 passing, but gave up 473 yards to the Spartans, including 238 yards on 47 carries.

“When the running game goes, you stay in down and distance situations that are manageable,” Wilson said. “Our ability to continue to find the running game as an offense, and stop the running game against a better team, that’s going to be a strong challenge playing against Michigan.”

Contact Rachel Lenzi at: rlenzi@theblade.com, 419-724-6510, or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.



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