Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Protecting Ben -- Line Keeps QB Up and Throwing

Lost amid all the hoopla surrounding Indiana’s dominating passing attack is this key fact -– the offensive line is protecting quarterback Ben Chappell like he’s never been protected before.

He’s only been sacked four times in four games, which is impressive considering IU averages 42.2 passes a game, by far the most in the Big Ten. He threw 64 times against Michigan.

This is key because Chappell will never remind anyone of Antwaan Randle El. He’s very accurate and not very mobile. His inability to run was one of the reasons why IU switched from the spread attack to the pistol formation last season.

That’s not a knock, by the way. Chappell is a true pocket passer who, when given enough time, is as accurate as any quarterback in the nation. The line is giving him time and that’s a big reason why he’s thrown 12 touchdown passes and one interception.

“I’ll take Ben over anybody, but he’s not a running quarterback,” coach Bill Lynch said. “Teams have a pretty good idea where he’s going to be.

“When you throw it that many times (against Michigan) and to be sacked only twice, I thought the line really battled.”

The line of center Will Matte, guards Aaron Price and Justin Pagan, and tackles Andrew McDonald and James Brewer has been healthy and solid all season.

“I’m really proud of the way our offensive line’s played,” Lynch said.

If one of the linemen gets beat, tailback Darius Willis is often there to back them up. The sophomore has become especially good at picking up blitzes.

“That’s why Darius is such a good player,” Lynch said. “He’s not about his numbers or anything like that. He played over 70 plays as a tailback (against Michigan), and he pass blocked on probably 40 or more of them. He’s a very smart player, so he recognized the stunts. He’s done a good job.”

The Hoosiers will need that, and a lot more, to beat No. 2 Ohio State on Saturday. They haven't won at Ohio State since 1987 and have lost 15 straight to the Buckeyes.

Still, if ever there was a recent IU team that could beat the Buckeyes, this is it.

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