Indiana football moved to 1-2 on the season following its 21-14 loss to Louisville in week three. Now, it looks ahead to a week four matchup against Akron to close out non-conference play.
It was the first start for Tayven Jackson following his official winning of the starting quarterback job, but yet again there were questions about the play-calling.
After week three of the season for Indiana, who is trending up? Who’s trending down? We take a look at some players and position groups here.
Tayven Jackson: There’s no question that following the game on Saturday, you came away impressed with the way Jackson played. While he had his ups-and-downs, his play only got better as the game went on and you could see his confidence continue to grow with each positive possession.
After a slow first half that saw multiple throws miss high, including his first interception of the season, the second half was nearly perfect. He would lead Indiana on a 13-play, 97-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown and then an eight-play, 89-yard drive.
Jackson finished 24-of-34 for 299 yards passing with one touchdown and one interception.
“I think there’s no question, you could see him growing up throughout. There’s things that happen that you don’t always see, especially in the first half, just mistakes being young, the clock, different formations, checks, seeing guys in motion, things like that. But those will continue to get better and better,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “But I just love the fact that he just makes plays. He’s able to create, extend plays, eyes downfield, finding receivers. Those are things you can’t teach. That’s just instinctual things that he has.”
“Tayven’s ability to make reads in the throw game was impressive. He’s obviously — they are loading the box and trying to stop the run and make the young quarterback make plays, and he was able to do that. He created several out of nothing. I always talk about, that’s kind of like a key quality you’re looking for in a quarterback is, hey, can he make something out of nothing. When something breaks down can he extend the play long enough to get his eyes down the field, which he’s able to do that, and either beat you with his legs or beat you with his arm.”
Jackson is now up to 559 passing yards on 71.7 percent passing with one touchdown and one interception. The best part of his skillset is his ability to move in and out of the pocket and get out of trouble without taking a sack. He’s been sacked just once this season.
Another standout skillset of Jackson’s that Tom Allen emphasized this week was his leadership ability.
“He’s a verbal guy,” Allen said. “I would say since I’ve been here, he has the potential to be the best verbal leader we’ve had at that position in all my years here, and I expect him to be that way.”
Jaylin Lucas: Jaylin Lucas was terrific — once again — but this time did it in the receiving game. All offseason the coaches talked about the potential Lucas had as a pass catcher and while they showed it in bits through the first two games, it wasn’t until this past week that you could really see the potential.
Lucas led all receivers in the game with 10 receptions — on 12 targets — for 98 yards and one touchdown. He lined up in the backfield, was used in screens, jet sweeps, short routes and his touchdown as a wide receiver lined up in the slot.
“We worked hard on that this off-season, for him in that role. I just continue to see that being a focus for him, getting the ball in space, try to do a good job with that,” Allen said. “As with all of our guys, you try to maximize an individual’s talent, what he can do. Getting him the ball in space is important, whether it’s hand it to him or throwing it to him. Like I said, he works really hard on that and we’re going to continue to emphasize that.”
Lucas is up to 15 receptions on the season — leading Indiana — for 138 yards. In total, he has 44 touches for 279 yards and three touchdowns.
Secondary: If you were to take just one half of the Louisville game, this group would be nowhere near trending up. But, likely it’s a two-half game and this unit did a phenomenal job after halftime.
Louisville quarterback Jake Plummer had six of his eight first-half completions go at least 13 yards. He would have 202 passing yards in the first half, including a 43-yard completion over top of the IU defense, as well as an 85-yard touchdown pass as well.
Related: ‘They didn’t flinch’: Mentality of young Indiana football secondary showed major growth throughout Louisville matchup
In the second half, however, it was entirely different. Plummer had just 36 passing yards after halftime, inducing an interception. Jamari Thrash, who had four receptions for 159 yards in the first half, had just one target and zero receptions in the second half.
“There was mistakes, there was a big explosive play that was in there, but they didn’t flinch. So it goes back to mentality, they’re young guys so it’s my job first to get them ready so the stakes don’t happen,” Indiana co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach Matt Guerrieri said. “But I am pleased with them from a mentality standpoint of responding, taking the coaching, applying that so that’s a positive sign.”
Walt Bell: There has to be serious concern over the development and progression that Walt Bell is making with this offense in year two. There are enough playmakers and now a clear talent in Tayven Jackson at the quarterback position and there are still more and more questions about the play-calling every week.
While no game should come down to one play, the 4th-and-goal play call in the fourth quarter was as head-scratching as they come. With the ball on the half yard line, you decide to give it to your running back lined up six yards in the backfield. No quarterback sneak or bootleg roll out.
“Could have run a quarterback sneak, run your base power play, whatever. We obviously chose to run, not to sneak,” Allen said. “Obviously since it didn’t work, you want to run the other one. We scored previously on the other one. Yeah, didn’t work, so … You obviously wish you would have done something else. I think that’s how we all would think the same exact way.”
Bell will likely have an ‘easier’ time calling Saturday’s game against Akron, so there won’t be any real answers to come from the script, but moving into week five, Bell’s ability to get this offense rolling to start the game and make it consistent throughout will be critical.
Offensive line: While the offense line hasn’t been bad by any means — and much more effective this year through three weeks than most of what it showed in the past two years — there are some concerns moving forward.
First and foremost are injuries. Matthew Bedford was dinged up last week and didn’t start. He came into the game in the second half after Max Longman went to the locker room with a lower body injury.
While it was mostly a clean game, there were two offsides penalties from the offensive line as well as a bad snap that caused a loss of 13 yards when Zach Carpenter’s snap went way over Tayven Jackson’s head.
The offensive line needs a nice bounce back week against Akron, and likely will see that. But, it needs to stay healthy moving into week four.
MOST TO PROVE
Tom Allen: The talk from Allen coming out of week three has been the increased and heightened emphasis of putting together a full 60-minute game. The loss to Louisville was exactly the opposite; a tale of two halves.
“I want to see us come out and play with the confidence that we played with in the second half from the get-go and so to me, it was a noticeable difference without question … Our inability to play 60 minutes of really good football on Saturday, disappointed in that,” Allen said. “Felt like that we were on track to get to where we wanted to be from what we stated as our goal from playing a team like that in Week 1. Didn’t feel like we fully maximized that.
“I want to see us execute better. I mean, it’s not a complicated part in regards to that.”
Whether it’s penalties, mental mistakes, clock mismanagement or poor play-calling, Tom Allen needs to get things in order and have a clean game on Saturday in that manner.
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