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Indiana Football Notebook: Final thoughts, takeaways from week one



Andre Carter Indiana football
Taking a final look at the key takeaways and some final thoughts following the season-opening loss for Indiana football. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The Indiana football program got its 2023 season underway on Saturday by hosting No. 3 Ohio State at home. It was an up-and-down performance that resulted in a 23-3 loss.

The Hoosiers showed promise throughout the game but it was an underwhelming offensive performance that left fans and the team wanting more.

There was a lot to takeaway from Saturday’s performance, so let’s dive in.

Brendan Sosrby Starts, but both quarterbacks played

The quarterback dilemma coming into Saturday didn’t get any clearer following the loss. While Brendan Sosrby got the start, both he and Tayven Jackson saw action throughout the game. And, neither showed a lot of firepower.

Sorsby finished 8-of-16 for 58 yards while Jackson was 1-of-5 for 24 yards. The expectation is both quarterbacks will play once again next week, with Jackson getting the start.

“Our decision was to play ’em both in the first two games. So Sorsby started this week. Tayven starts next week. The guys know that. They knew that ahead of time,” Indiana football head coach Tom Allen said postgame. ” … We just said whoever starts week one, the other is going to start week two. That’s how we set it up. So it gives us a chance to be able to, after the first two games, be able to evaluate where we’re at, where they’re at and what we need to be able to do moving forward.”

After next week against Indiana State, Allen said he will then look into making a more firm decision on a starter moving into the rest of the season.

“Yes, I would like to be able to have that, yes,” Allen said. “But I think it’s really just fair to have them both play against the same opponent. You just play one against one team, one against another team, it really doesn’t give you a pretty clear picture at all. Because obviously they’re two different opponents. Our first two opponents are very different.”

In total, most of Indiana’s passing attack was short of the first-down sticks, with very few deep ball attempts. Coming into this season, getting more explosive plays down the field was a point of emphasis. Unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition on Saturday.

“I would say it was probably a little more conservative than we, even in that game, would like for it to be. But there’s certain reasons for that, without question. But, yeah, we got to be able to do that. That’s going to grow, for sure. We really felt like, coming in, you’re going to have to take about, you know, seven or eight shots. And a couple of those we had and then got pressured,” Allen added. “But at the same time, yeah, there’s no question we got talented receivers on the perimeter and got to do a better job of getting those guys the football. But I think you’re just going to see it continue to grow each week, there’s no question about it. Both these guys can throw the football. But I just think, once again, some of the field position didn’t help us, several times. And when you’re backed up like that that’s when you make big mistakes and get costly situations. You don’t want to throw picks in those spots. 

“So once again, two young guys, probably a little more conservative than we will be moving forward — definitely more conservative than we will be moving forward, but at the same time just got to continue to get better.”

Indiana defense showed signs of being very, very good

Yes, Ohio State came into the matchup with a new quarterback and one that had only made one career start, but as a group the Buckeyes have one of the most talented skill position units in the country.

The Hoosiers held Kyle McCord to 20-of-33 for 239 yards and one interception. Marvin Harrison Jr was held to just two catches for 18 yards and Emeka Egbuka to three receptions for 16 yards. Indiana also held both Miyan Williams and Treveyon Henderson to under four yards per carry.

“I know for a fact those receivers are special. And the one (Harrison Jr) is probably the best we’ve ever gone against since I’ve been coaching, in my entire career. So to be able to keep those guys in check was very critical,” Allen said. “It was a combination of some pressure up front, as well as the guys coming around the back end and just trying to do a good job of disguising things. You saw how we’re going to play. That’s the system. That’s who we are. That’s what we want to be able to do. Mix things up. Confuse people. Got some length in the back end. Got some playmakers. I thought — we dropped two picks. It would have been tough catches. We dropped two picks that they ended up getting six points off of two field goals that we got to make plays on. But I was very encouraged by our secondary.”

In total, Ohio State finished with 380 yards but were very much limited when it came to explosive plays.

The Hoosiers also held the Buckeyes to just 2-of-12 of third downs.

Heading into this season, the potential of the defensive line and pass rush was there. It was widely expected that the defense would take a step up in production, especially when it came to getting into the backfield. On Saturday Indiana had five tackles for loss, including two from key transfer Andre Carter.

The defense showed it can be a very good unit this year and the performance it put up against an extremely talented Ohio State offense should be very encouraging.

Running back room underwhelmed, yet still has a lot of potential

Coming into the offseason, the Indiana football staff raved about the running back room. Yet on Saturday, it was underwhelming. In total, Indiana had 71 yards on the ground with a 2.2 yard per carry average. In fact, it was Christian Turner who led all Indiana running backs with 29 yards on seven carries — with a long of 11 yards. Jaylin Lucas had 11 carries for just 24 yards and Josh Henderson finished with three carries for five yards.

This was the first time we were able to see a lot of the two running back sets and at times you could see the potential. But, in large parts the speed and athleticism of the Ohio State defense was too much to overcome. Indiana tried to get out in space but quickly that was blown up by some of the talented Buckeyes’ defensive lineman.

It was good to see Indiana try to force things with Lucas, but there was a lot to be desired with how the coaches used him. He was largely used inside the tackles and for a 5-foot-7 speedster, utilizing him outside, in jet sweeps or in the screen game should be the way to go.

Other Quick Hits: 

  • It’s never sexy to talk about punters but Indiana has a good one in James Evans. He had six punts for 325 yards with a long of 60. His 54.2 yard average was significant in flipping the field and giving the IU defense a shot at holding Ohio State to minimal damage.
  • Indiana’s linebackers of Aaron Casey and Jacob Mangum-Farrar were phenomenal. Casey had 11 tackles while Mangum-Farrar had five and did a great job as the quarterback of the defense, starting at the MIKE position.
  • IU’s secondary, in particular, did a good job handling the matchup. Phillip Dunham’s interception was tremendous and his ability to read Kyle McCord’s eyes and the anticipation he played with stood out. Kobee Minor, Louis Moore and Nic Toomer all were among the leading group of tacklers and were busy all game long. But, again, to limit Marvin Harrison Jr and Emeka Egbuka to five catches for 34 yards … is quite good.

Game Highlights:

SEE ALSO: Indiana Football: Tom Allen sounds off about upcoming Friday night game

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.