We’re trying out a new format this week, with a graphic designed to look similar to our Advanced Box Score that will contain all the info gleaned from our film review of a given game – stats that don’t show up in a normal or advanced box score. We’ll call it Beyond The Box Score. The contents of the graphic should be familiar to those of you who have checked out our Film Review posts in the past.
A few points that jump out:
- A tough, tough day at the office for the secondary. Quite possibly the worst performance by IU’s secondary in the Allen Era, non-Ohio State division. Tiawan Mullen was obviously far less than 100% – he was uncompetitive in the three targets against him, all completions, all for explosive plays, and he tacked on a pass interference. Love his desire to be the field, but I hate to see someone as talented as Tiawan struggle like that. Speaking of pass interference penalties, Mullen’s replacement, Noah Pierre, had three! Two were reasonable, one was very much not. When he wasn’t committing penalties, Noah wasn’t faring much better, although he did have a nice PBU on a deep ball. And the story was worse for the safeties. If you combine Bryant Fitzgerald (who played the majority of the snaps at Husky) with starting safeties Raheem Layne and Bryant Fitzgerald, the trio allowed completions on 7 of 9 targets for 164 total yards, 2 TDs, and 1 PBU. Woof.
- One important aspect of the injuries to Tiawan Mullen and Reese Taylor that may have been overlooked is the impact their absence has on IU’s pass rush, particularly on passing downs. In 2020 and 2019, when Mullen, Taylor, and Williams were all healthy, IU almost always played the three together on passing downs, with Mullen moving inside to nickel. From there, Mullen was a dangerous blitzer, but even if he didn’t blitz, Williams or Taylor could be sent, and Mullen was available to rotate and limit the coverage weakness created by a blitzing CB. In 2020, IU’s trio of CBs generated 14 total pressures in 8 games. In total, IU’s corners (or Mullen when he was at nickel) blitzed 27 times in 2020, or just under 3 times a game. So far in 2021, the same group has zero pressures. Before Saturday, IU had brought a corner on a blitz just 4 times, generating a pressure on 1 of the 4 (and not by the CB). Part of that decrease is likely attributable to the change in defensive coordinator. Kane Wommack loved him a CB blitz, and maybe Charlton Warren isn’t such a fan. Against Maryland, Warren broke that tendency and blitzed a corner 5 times, generating 1 pressure by Jaylin Williams…but also giving up 2 TDs when Tagovailoa diagnosed the blitz, threw behind it, and the receiver beat Raheem Layne who was rotating over in coverage.
- I suspect part of the reason Warren hasn’t been using the corner blitz as much is the limited time in which all three corners have been available. In 2021, that trio has been healthy for just two full games from start to finish – the opener against Iowa (and I actually think Williams might have gotten hurt in garbage time in that one) and Cincinnati. When you add all those injuries with the early season injury to Devon Matthews, the recent injury to reserve safety Josh Sanguinetti (probably IU’s best safety against the pass), and the season-ending injury to redshirt freshman CB Christopher Keys (who likely would have played ahead of Noah Pierre), its easy to see how bad injury luck can turn a defensive asset into a liability.
- While it’s fair to be tough on the secondary, the blame for IU’s struggles against the pass does not all fall at their feet. A 17.5% pressure rate is well below average – most of Allen’s defenses have been between 25% and 30%. In particular, IU’s defensive line generated just two pressures in 40 dropbacks. Going back to the MSU game, IU’s DL has put up a paltry 4 pressures in 89 dropbacks (4%). That’s nowhere close to good enough.
- On the bright side, even though it’s not shown on the charts above, IU allowed next to nothing on the ground. Ryder Anderson hasn’t generated much pass rush recently, but he’s been stout against the run all season. Jaren Handy’s run defense seems to have improved as the season has gone on, and it’s probably no coincidence that his playing time has increased as well. He played more snaps at Bull than Lance Bryant for the first time all season. For a defense that seems to lack playmakers outside of the linebackers, Handy has the potential to be one, but he needs to be on the field to have a chance.
- And of course, Micah McFadden and Cam Jones continue to be productive, all-around, every-down players. If neither decides to return for 2022, I have absolutely no idea how Allen & Co. will replace what they provide.