Before Kickoff: 3 Keys for Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl
Nov 26, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers pose for a team photo with the Old Oaken Bucket and hold up four fingers for winning four consecutive game against Purdue after the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Memorial Stadium. Indiana defeats Purdue 26-24. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Just hours before The Foster Farms Bowl kicks off in Santa Clara, California the Hoosiers look for their first Bowl win in nearly 25 years.
The last time the Indiana Hoosiers successfully defeated an opponent in a bowl game, Terminator 2: Judgement Day was the most popular movie in theaters. Dave Grohl was still banging the drums for Nirvana. Yes, the last time the Hoosiers brought home a bowl game victory to Bloomington was 1991.
The Hoosiers found themselves on a heartbreaking end to the 2015 Pinstripe Bowl last year, a game in which Indiana had on lock (the kick was still good). They fell to Duke in a 44-41 defeat in overtime, continuing the drought for Indiana Football.
A win in the Old Oaken Bucket game sent the Hoosiers to yet another bowl game. Actually it sent the Hoosiers to their first back-to-back appearances in bowl games for the first time in 25 years.
The latest news in the past two months coming from Indiana Football surrounded their split with former Head Coach Kevin Wilson. Wilson was investigated for mistreatment of player injuries and a pile of other odd stories. Wilson later resigned handing the keys to the ship to Defensive Coordinator Tom Allen. An unusual press conference of question marks surrounded the program. Strangely enough, Wilson was extended after the Pinstripe Bowl last year, but now unemployed.
Can the Hoosiers find a way to pull off a win in California? We have some of the keys to tonight’s matchup against No. 19 Utah.
Nov 10, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; Utah Utes quarterback Troy Williams (3) throws a pass against the Arizona State Sun Devils during the first half at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1: Stop Utah Quarterback Troy Williams
No, not the Memphis Grizzlies Troy Williams. Rather the 6’2, 200 pound junior quarterback who will be under center for the Utes. Williams finished the season passing for 2579 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams ranks among the top 60 in passing yards throughout the FBS (No. 55), counter to Indiana’s Richard Lagow (No. 31).
Williams is coming off of one his worst performances of the year against Colorado. He completed only 13 of the 40 pass attempts in the game, serving up two crucial interceptions that lead to a 27-22 loss at the end of the regular season. Despite the rough outing to Colorado, Williams has versatile options on the offensive side of the ball.
Senior wide receiver Tim Patrick has served as Williams’ No. 1 option through the air with 43 catches, 684 yards, and five touchdowns. If the Utes get the offense rolling early through the air, look for Patrick to have a critical role. Utah is playing without one of their top receivers in Cory Butler-Byrd, who announced that he would not be playing on Wednesday dealing with undisclosed injuries. Butler-Byrd suffered oblique and knee injuries throughout the season, which could be the cause of his absence. Butler-Byrd’s absence will be important for the Hoosiers to capitalize on, considering his the do-it-all type of player.
Williams ranked among the five best quarterbacks in passing in the Pac-12 but the second worst in passer rating among the league (122.1). The Hoosiers need to find a way to translate their dominate defensive showcase this season to this single game. Find pressure pockets that Williams cannot avoid, pushing him to make quick decisions through the air.
The Utah offense ranks No. 80 in FBS teams in terms of yards per game (216.9). The question is whether or not Indiana can flash their top-30 defense throughout the game and make stops.
Nov 12, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers wide receiver Mitchell Paige (87) and running back Devine Redding (34) celebrate a touchdown during the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium. The Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Indiana Hoosiers 45-31. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
No. 2: Converting in the Red Zone
Indiana has been marked as the team with a whole lot of offense and a lack of defense over the past few seasons. Historically, the NFL made players coming out of Indiana have been on the offensive side of the ball. If the Hoosiers want to be successful tonight, they will need to convert inside the 20 yard line early and often.
Utah’s defense has allowed opponents this season to score 88% of the time inside the red zone. All but four times have teams that were inside the 20 yard line failed to score. This could be the true key to success for the Hoosiers.
Junior running back Devin Redding has found the end zone six different times this season. Three of which came in the final three games. Redding pegged as a brute force running back tallied 1,050 yards on the ground. Redding will need to continue the success he has seen on the ground in order to keep Indiana within striking distance. If the pass game does not serve well early on, look for Redding to get the bulk of the touches.
Let’s hope that by some stretch of the imagination, transfer quarterback Richard Lagow will limit the interceptions through the air. Utah had one of the best defensive seasons in the Pac-12 and will aim to keep Indiana out of the red zone for most of the night.
Oct 29, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow (21) throws a pass during the first half of the game at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports
No. 3: Richard Lagow and Co. passing their way to victory
Junior transfer quarterback Richard Lagow has had quite the interesting season. Lagow was tabbed as the best JUCO quarterback to transfer in his class last year. He was asked a lot in his first year at Indiana, to continue the role that Nate Sudfeld had with the offense. Lagow did just that, passing for 3,174 yards, 18 touchdowns and completing nearly 60% of his passes. This was enough to peg him as the third best quarterback in the Big Ten in passing yards and fifth best in touchdown passes.
With that said, Lagow’s downfall has come in passing the ball to the opposite team. Lagow has notched 18 touchdowns this year but a destructive 16 interceptions has Hoosier fans a little bit weary. The junior quarterback has also been sacked 25 times throughout the regular season, marking him within the top 5 among Big Ten quarterbacks.
The Utah defense over the past few seasons has been renamed “Sack Lake City”, something Indiana and Lagow will want to avoid. Utah’s most explosive defensive end, Hunter Dimick, just broke the school record for most career sacks with (28.5). At the same rate also broke the single game sack record back in November with 5 against Arizona State. The previous record had been held for nearly 20 years by John Frank between 1996-99. Needless to say, Lagow will need all the help he can get from his offensive line in order to eliminate the possibility of Dimick ruining the offensive flow.
In the same token, Indiana has among some of the most explosive receivers in the Big Ten Conference. Sophomore wide out Nick Westbrook ranks No. 3 in receiving yards this year in the Big Ten (49 catches, 915 yards). Indiana has three receivers in the top 15 in the Big Ten among receiving yards including Westbrook, No. 8 Ricky Jones (50 catches, 783 yards) and No. 14 Mitchell Paige (54 catches, 604 yards). Lagow will need to keep the offensive tempo moving and find these receivers consistently tonight to find success.
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