Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Even IU's Big Ten-leading Offense Has Concerns

Let’s say you’re Bill Lynch and you’re looking at an Indiana offense that ranks No. 1 in the Big Ten in scoring (and No. 10 nationally) at 44.5 points and No. 1 in passing (and No. 20 nationally) at 285.5 yards.

Would you be worried?

Coaches, of course, worry about everything, and if they don’t, we in the media come up with something to make them worry. It’s our way of getting back at them for making as much in a year as we’ll make in our careers.

We at Hoosier Hoopla don’t do that, of course. We’re just revealing a little secret.

Anyway, there is reason to worry because of the Hoosiers’ mediocre running attack. The pistol formation was supposed to fix that. So was getting a talented tailback such as Darius Willis and developing a veteran offensive line that includes guys so big grizzly bears would think twice about attacking them.

And yet, IU ranks last in the Big Ten in rushing, at a measly 127.5 yards a game. That this comes against football lightweights Towson and Western Kentucky is even more troubling.

So what’s the obvious solution –- get Barry Sanders to come out of retirement.

What’s the next obvious solution given the Sanders thing ain’t happening -– be more man than the other guy.

Running the ball is about playing physical. It taps into that be-more-man-than-him philosophy made famous in the Rocky movies. You pound and pound and pound until you break the defense’s spirit.

At least, it’s supposed to work that way. So the Hoosiers are emphasizing that in practice this week. Yes, they have a dominant passing attack. Quarterback Ben Chappell seems to win another award every time he shows up for breakfast. Receivers such as Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner are really good.

But Big Ten teams are going to try to take away the Hoosiers’ ability to pass. So will November’s chilly weather (assuming global warming hasn’t ripped away winter forever). When that happens, and it will, they will have to run. If they do that successfully, they have a chance at the winning record and bowl bid they aspire to.

Oh, yes. There’s one other thing for Lynch to sweat over. The run defense ranks last in the Big Ten at 185.5 yards. That, too, is being addressed in practice.

No team has ever thrived by stinking with the run and against it. That’s a disastrous 1-2 punch. The Hoosiers are better than that. They HAVE TO BE better than that.

If not, it’s going to be another awfully long season.

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