Indiana-Virginia spotlights two major programs trying to rise

The Hoosiers held their own for three quarters before falling to Ohio State in Tom Allen's debut as Indiana coach.
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Virginia cleared its first hurdle of the season with ease against William & Mary of the FCS in the Cavaliers’ opener. Now the Cavs face the challenge of repeating the performance against a Power Five opponent.

Virginia hosts Indiana on Saturday in a battle of programs hoping to show they are on the rise.

The Hoosiers, in their first full season under coach Tom Allen, led No. 2 Ohio State 21-20 late in the third quarter of their opener before falling 49-21. Richard Lagow threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns, completing 40 of a program-record 65 attempts. He also was intercepted twice and sacked five times for minus 29 yards.

Allen, who became the head coach before Indiana faced Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl last December, said his team’s inability to finish the job against the Buckeyes was “very frustrating and disappointing and not acceptable.” He did say there were positives in the loss as well, which the Hoosiers hope to build on against the Cavaliers.

“It’s a culture change. It’s an expectation,” Allen said. “And you know, we’re raising the expectations here.”

Virginia is undergoing a culture change of its own in its second season under Bronco Mendenhall, and transfer right tackle Brandon Pertile said beating the Tribe brought relief and hope that the success will blossom.

A year ago, the Cavaliers were manhandled 37-20 by Richmond, also of the FCS, in Mendenhall’s debut.

“I kind of felt like a lot of guys exhaled. A lot of the guys returning were not nervous about the game, but just anxious to get back out there and kind of erase last season’s stigma around us,” said Pertile, who transferred from Oklahoma State as a graduate student after last year. “And I felt like when we got in the locker room, a lot of guys did that after the game and they were exhaling with a good thing to build off of towards Week 2.”

Now, Mendenhall said, they’ll face a team that will serve as more of a measuring stick.

“I watched them play in a bowl game a year ago,” he said of the game, won 26-24 by Utah. “That’s not by accident. It’s a good league, they’re a good team, and I mean our players are smart. Again, we use the phrase, ‘Real recognizes real.’ They only have to watch a series or two of film and they know that it’s a good team.”

Some things to watch when Indiana visits Virginia:

AIR SHOW: Virginia’s Kurt Benkert had a very efficient opener, completing 27 of 39 throws for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He was also sacked three times. With both quarterbacks such major parts of the offense, the team that can protect the best, or get a complementary ground game going, will have a distinct advantage. The Cavaliers managed just 82 rushing yards against the Tribe, and Indiana just 17 against Ohio State.

DYNAMIC DUO: Simmie Cobbs Jr. (11 catches, 149 yards, touchdown) and Luke Timian (10 for 72 yards) became the third duo in Hoosiers history to record double-digit receptions in the same game. The game marked a return to action for Cobbs after he missed almost all of last season with an injury, and it came after Nick Westbrook, the leading returning receiver from a year ago (54 catches for 995 yards), sustained a season-ending ACL injury on the game’s opening kickoff.

PACE: The Hoosiers ran 95 offensive plays against Ohio State, or 41 more than the Cavaliers faced against William & Mary. Substituting to keep the defense fresh figures to be a challenge for Virginia.

JUST FOR KICKS: Mendenhall blamed the snap-and-hold dynamic for a missed 42-yard field goal try by A.J. Mejia against the Tribe, but placekicking remains an issue for the Cavaliers. They made just five field goals all of last season and went for it on fourth down four times after Mejia’s miss. Indiana’s Griffin Oakes, by contrast, is in his third season as the Hoosiers’ placekicker and has made 53 of 73 career attempts, with a long of 58 yards.

HISTORY: Virginia has won both prior meetings, including a 47-7 rout when the Hoosiers visited in 2009. The Cavaliers prevailed 34-31 two years later at Indiana, and the Hoosiers are 6-14 against ACC schools.