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Tayven Jackson has ‘growing pains’ in 4OT win as Indiana football offense stumbles again



Indiana football QB Tayven Jackson
Tayven Jackson had his first tough outing on Saturday as the offense for Indiana football struggled in a major way. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

There is no question that the Indiana football offense has struggled all year and Saturday night may have been the tip of the iceberg.

Look no further than the third overtime two-point conversion attempt. Indiana had a wide open Jaylin Lucas — nobody was within 10 yards of him — in the end zone. Instead, it was an incomplete pass that forced overtime number four.

But, it’s what quarterback Tayven Jackson said following the game that is more jarring.

“He’s not my read. It’s 1-2-3, and then get out of there, so I’ve never looked at Jaylin ever running that play in practice,” Jackson said. “So, I know he’s butt naked (open), but it’s not my read.”

Jaylin Lucas had 10 receptions for 98 yards and one touchdown in week three. On Saturday, Lucas had zero targets. Yes, zero. Now, it’s on both Jackson and the coaching staff to progress and find ways to make this offense more effective going into Big Ten play.

“For me, it’s seeing signals and being better at reading the defense,” Jackson said of his development. “I got rushed a little bit, and I was trying to force things, and that’s never good. But as a team, we just need to have better focus.”

Jackson finished 11-of-26 passing for 190 yards with one touchdown and one interception. High throws, tunnel vision at times and young mistakes reared their head for the redshirt freshman who was making his third start of the season — and second since being named the official starter.

‘Growing pains’ is how head coach Tom Allen described it following the win.

“It was a tough night. Definitely wasn’t his best,” Allen said. ” … We had some open receivers we didn’t hit. We had three critical drops. One where it would have been a touchdown early on. Just lack of focus. That’s really what it is. So those three drops hurt us. And then just not being able to execute. So just growing pains, without question.”

The big play early on was a deep ball down the field to Donaven McCulley — which resulted in a wide-open drop. Omar Cooper had a drop later in the game and there were times that Jackson starred down receivers too much.

All parts that Jackson owned.

“They were on me,” Jackson said. ‘That drop that Donny (McCulley) had was one me. I put it at the knees and I should have put it higher for him to catch that ball easy. All the other drops were on me. They weren’t perfect throws. Unless they’re absolutely perfect throws, then we can talk about it. But it was on me.”

Jackson has now had three starts of 18-of-21 passing, 24-of-34 passing and then Saturday’s game of 11-of-26. 85.7 percent passing, then 70.6 percent and 42.3 percent.

On the season, Jackson has thrown for 749 yards on 62.8 percent passing with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

In total, Indiana football was out gained 473 to just 282. The Zips had 24 first downs compared to 14 for IU. Indiana was 3-of-14 on third downs, averaging 7.7 yards per third down, and had just four drives longer than four plays all night.

Four of the five second-half possessions before overtime consisted of the following: three plays for three yards, three plays for two yards, three plays for six yards and three plays for zero yards.

“We got to execute better in practice. We play a Big Ten team next week, and what we did out there today is not going to cut it,” Jackson said. “So we got to be better on Sunday and Monday, and the rest of the week.”

“Not good enough. Not even close,” Allen echoed .”Below the standard. Below what’s acceptable, for sure.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana Football Notebook: Final thoughts, takeaways from week four

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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.