A deeper dive into the conservative 2nd half

Courtesy: Bobby Goddin, IDS News

We’ve done our fair share of questioning Mike DeBord here.  Some of it seems deserved.  First impressions go along way towards making up people’s minds and the initial impression of DeBord last season wasn’t exactly overly positive.

There’s been a lot of criticism, including here, about the 2nd half offense by Indiana against Rutgers.  That IU went super-conservative which allowed Rutgers back into the game.

In a closer look, I’m not exactly sure that’s the case.  Yes, Indiana ran it a lot more than the first half.  But situation (down, distance, time, lead) seemed to dictate some of it.

We’ll walk through the second half, play by play, and you can make your own conclusions.

Indiana up 17; 30:00 to go

1st and 10 at IU25 21-S.Scott to IU 28 for 3 yards.

A run on first down that sets up a potential passing situation.

2nd and 7 at IU28 21-S.Scott to IU 33 for 5 yards.

Indiana goes back to the run.  And it works.  Sets up a 3rd and short.

3rd and 2 at IU33 21-S.Scott to IU 34 for 1 yard.

Possibly a conservative move but Scott had converted 3 of 4 3rd and 2 plays in his career.  While the IU offensive line hadn’t dominated, Scott has proven to be a productive short yardage back.

Indiana up 17; 24:06 to go

1st and 10 at IU12 21-S.Scott to IU 13 for 1 yard.

Back to the running game.  No luck.  Sets up 2nd and long, an obvious passing down but one you wouldn’t be surprised if Indiana ran.  Especially deep in their own territory.

2nd and 9 at IU13 12-P.Ramsey complete to 86-P.Hendershot. 86-P.Hendershot to IU 35 for 22 yards.

A pass!  Ramsey throws slightly behind Hendershot but the tight end makes the incredible catch and turns it into a 22 yard gain.  Momentum.

1st and 10 at IU35 21-S.Scott to IU 36 for 1 yard.

And back to the running game.  With IU still up 17, it isn’t exactly an egregious call despite the short gain.

2nd and 9 at IU36 12-P.Ramsey complete to 6-D.Hale. 6-D.Hale to IU 48 for 12 yards.

With Indiana back in a passing situation the Hoosiers go back to the pass with a quick strike to Hale on the outside.  Same as the last 2nd and 9, it wouldn’t have been shocking to see the IU offense pound it up the middle again, but they appear to still have their foot on the gas, at least a little bit.

1st and 10 at IU48 12-P.Ramsey complete to 5-J.Harris. 5-J.Harris to RUT 50 for 2 yards.

The Hoosiers switch it up and go with a bubble screen on 1st down, but it ultimately only gains 2 yards.  Still you can’t blame them for trying.

2nd and 8 at RUT50 12-P.Ramsey to RUT 49 for 1 yard.

The Hoosiers called an audible on their original play and went with a Ramsey carry up the middle.  A 1 yard gain would leave the Hoosiers in obvious passing territory.

3rd and 7 at RUT49 12-P.Ramsey scrambles to RUT 48 for 1 yard.

Ramsey dropped back to pass, but Brandon Knight was beat on the linebacker blitz so Ramsey had no time to pass.  It’s honestly a major testament to Ramsey to escape the untouched blitzer and scramble for a yard.

Indiana up 17; 17:34 to go

1st and 10 at IU9 12-P.Ramsey incomplete.

Ramsey dropped back to pass but when nothing developed, he scrambled right before ultimately throwing it away.

2nd and 10 at IU9 12-P.Ramsey complete to 2-R.Taylor. 2-R.Taylor to IU 14 for 5 yards.

A screen pass to Reese Taylor picked up 5.  Still probably leaves Indiana in a passing situation.

3rd and 5 at IU14 12-P.Ramsey complete to 5-J.Harris. 5-J.Harris to IU 25 for 11 yards.

Indeed Indiana goes to a pass.  Perhaps an extremely conservative offense goes with a rush, up 17, but Indiana passes for the 3rd consecutive play.  Ramsey’s initial looks aren’t open so he escapes pressure, scrambling to the right before finding Harris near the sideline for the first down.

1st and 10 at IU25 23-R.Walker to IU 28 for 3 yards.

Indiana goes back to the run.  I don’t see much wrong with that.

2nd and 7 at IU28 12-P.Ramsey complete to 5-J.Harris. 5-J.Harris to IU 34 for 6 yards.

In an empty backfield, Ramsey quickly finds Harris for 6 yards.

3rd and 1 at IU34 21-S.Scott to IU 38 for 4 yards.

3rd and 1.  An obvious rushing situation, especially with Scott in the backfield.  The freshman converts the first down.

1st and 10 at IU38 12-P.Ramsey complete to 21-S.Scott. 21-S.Scott to IU 43 for 5 yards.

You’d almost think that IU would go back to the run here, but instead Ramsey finds the running back on a pass when his other options weren’t open.

2nd and 5 at IU43 21-S.Scott to IU 42 for -1 yard.

Can’t complain about running on 2nd and 5, up 17 early in the 4th quarter.  It didn’t work, but it’s by no means ultra-conservative.

3rd and 1 at IU47 21-S.Scott to IU 49 for 2 yards.

An offsides penalty moved Indiana from a 3rd and 6 to a 3rd and 1.  A nice break for IU.  Another 3rd and 1 that Scott converts.

1st and 10 at IU49 21-S.Scott to RUT 48 for 3 yards.  FUMBLES. S.Scott recovers

Scott fumbled near the end of his 3 yard run, but recovered.  You could argue that the coaches should take out a player who fumbles as a punishment, but I don’t know if you can argue running it on 1st down.

2nd and 7 at RUT48 21-S.Scott to RUT 45, FUMBLES (44-T.Maddox-Williams). 6-D.Roberts to RUT 45 for no gain.

See above. Maybe Scott shouldn’t have been in the game, but there doesn’t seem anything wrong with running it on 2nd and 7.

Indiana up 10; 10:40 to go

1st and 10 at IU40 23-R.Walker to IU 47 for 7 yards.

Up just 10 now, but Indiana hands off to Ronnie Walker who shows nice burst on a 7 yard run up the middle.

2nd and 3 at IU47 12-P.Ramsey incomplete.

Ramsey, flanked by Taylor in the backfield, possibly could have forced a pass to Taylor on his route, but up 10 in the 4th, there was no reason to risk it.  He threw it away.

3rd and 3 at IU47 12-P.Ramsey complete to 3-T.Fryfogle. 3-T.Fryfogle to RUT 38 for 15 yards.

A situation where IU could conceivably run or pass, although with Majette in the backfield the likelihood of passing was nearly guaranteed.

1st and 10 at RUT38 23-R.Walker to RUT 19 for 19 yards.

A huge hole created by the line gave Walker another explosive run.

1st and 10 at RUT19 12-P.Ramsey incomplete. Intended for 39-C.Gajcak.

This pass was nearly intercepted towards the left sideline.  An unnecessary pass.

2nd and 10 at RUT19 23-R.Walker to RUT 18 for 1 yard.

After that close call, Indiana went back to the running game to milk some clock.

3rd and 9 at RUT18 12-P.Ramsey incomplete. Intended for 6-D.Hale.

It’s really hard to argue a pass attempt into the end zone to your biggest redzone threat, and Hale would probably tell you he should have caught it. A passing TD there probably changes the narrative about the offense in the 2nd half.

4th and 9 at RUT18 12-P.Ramsey incomplete. Intended for 5-J.Harris, INTERCEPTED by 22-D.Hayes at RUT End Zone. 22-D.Hayes, touchback.

OK, I get the idea that going up 17 with a touchdown is a lot more impactful than going up 13.   But Indiana didn’t even go for the first down.  They went for the touchdown and to J-Shun Harris.  Harris is a good possession receiver, but not exactly one you’d target 20 yards downfield in a compacted part of the field.  Not a smart call, but not a conservative call either.

Indiana up 10; 3:52 to go

1st and 10 at IU25 23-R.Walker to IU 27 for 2 yards.

After Scott’s fumble, we didn’t see him again.  Instead, fellow freshman Ronnie Walker got the carry as Indiana continued to run the clock.

2nd and 8 at IU27 23-R.Walker to IU 30 for 3 yards.

Another carry up the middle that forced Rutgers to call their final timeout.  3:03 left

3rd and 5 at IU30 12-P.Ramsey to IU 34 for 4 yards.

Indiana went back to the QB draw that worked so well on 3rd and 11 late in the first half.  It didn’t work out as well, but still ran valuable time off the clock.

4th and 1 at IU34 12-P.Ramsey complete to 86-P.Hendershot. 86-P.Hendershot to RUT 41 for 25 yards. Penalty on RUT 22-D.Hayes, Offside, declined.

Actually a nice play to draw Rutgers offsides.  Peyton Hendershot went into the motion as Ramsey faked the snap and Rutgers jumped offsides.  Ball game.

Yes, there were a lot of runs.  But it wasn’t as if IU was running on 3rd and long hoping to just run some clock and then punt.  Indiana faced four 3rd downs in passing situations.  There was 1 pass play where nothing was open and Ramsey scrambled for a yard.  Two of these situations saw IU attempt a pass, one of which was converted.  And the aforementioned QB draw. I’d much rather have this type of boring second half than the 4th quarter IU had in their last lost to Rutgers where IU stayed pass-heavy and Nate Sudfeld tossed two interceptions.

In addition, an offense that converts on 3rd down tends to cleanse the memory of struggles on 1st and 2nd down. IU wasn’t that much more productive on 1st and 2nd down in the 1st half than it was in the 2nd, but in the 1st half, IU converted 7 of 9 3rd downs.[ref] And 9 of 11 if we include two defense penalties that IU drew on 3rd downs.[/ref]. In the 2nd half, IU wasn’t terrible on 3rd downs, converting 4 of 8, but it couldn’t possibly keep up the pace from the 1st half.

Indiana will need to play better offensively to beat teams like Iowa, Minnesota, Maryland, or Purdue.  But with the expected returns of Luke Timian and Whop Philyor, IU will reinforce their receiving corps as they look to open things up the rest of the way.