In late September 2019, just four games into his first season as IU’s offensive coordinator, Kalen DeBoer faced a challenge: he needed a way to move the ball against a tough Michigan State defense. He had a young, injury-prone QB with a strong arm and a quick release. His offensive line was a little leaky, and the running game wasn’t particularly strong. He had talented wideouts and a good tight end. Taking all of those inputs, DeBoer’s answer to the challenge, at least in part, was simple: bubble screens. His offense ran a whopping 15 of them against Sparty. That was good for 21% of IU’s 70 offensive plays. These were quick horizontal passes, generally caught behind the line of scrimmage, with wide receivers or tight ends serving as blockers. Most of the bubbles were to slot wideout Whop Philyor. Some were “swing screens” where a running back caught a pass after going in motion before the snap. A few were to tight end Peyton Hendershot. The principle and purpose was the same – stretch the defense horizontally. Whether all 15 of these were “called” as opposed to RPOs where Penix opted to throw the bubble rather than hand it off is hard to say. There was probably a little of both. Some of those bubble screens contributed to Michael Penix’s school record 20 straight completions, as the Hoosiers put up 356 yards and 31 points against a tough MSU defense. Continue Reading
We’re going to try something new this week in reviewing an advanced box score for the previous game. What better game to start out with than the one everyone wants to, if they haven’t already, forget.
At the start of the season, Vegas had the Hoosiers’ line at 7.5 wins. Bill Connelly had Indiana about 6.8 wins. Most Indiana fans had the Hoosiers at 8 wins with some thinking 9 or even 10 as a possibility. Seven wins was considered a worst-case scenario.
Five games into the season, everyone is disappointed. Many have already moved on to basketball. And if basketball is your thing, you’re in luck! The odds that your favorite beat writer will be talking about Indiana’s chance of winning a bowl game instead of writing about TJD’s early-season dominance is slim.
Indiana has fallen to 1-2 on the season with much of the blame resting on the offensive side of the ball. Even ignoring the turnovers and inability to finish drives, the Indiana offense has not functioned reliably this season. It hasn’t done so in a while.
On the eve of IU’s 2021 season, we’re back to answer four key questions facing offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan and his offense.