INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana coach Kevin Wilson set up the schedule as a stepping stone to success.
He wanted the Hoosiers to take center stage last Thursday, he wanted two extra days to prepare for Navy’s vaunted ground game and he figured it would help Indiana make that natural progression between Games 1 and 2.
But after blowing out Indiana State 73-35 last week, the Hoosiers now face an even tougher task — satisfying Wilson.
“It’s a good start. I thought we played hard. I want to build on that because I think you gain physicalness and effort and momentum as you go through the year,” Wilson said. “It’s a big week for us. We need to step up and we need everything around here to step up, whether it be in our building or as coaches.”
What didn’t Wilson like?
He counted missed tackles, was upset about some defensive miscommunications and certainly didn’t approve of three turnovers.
If the Hoosiers are going to avenge last season’s 31-30 loss to Navy (0-0), Wilson knows those miscues must be corrected Saturday.
Here are five things to watch in Saturday’s game.
HOLDING UP: Indiana’s defense was the biggest question coming into this season, and last week, the Hoosiers played well despite giving up more than 100 yards to Indiana State’s Shakir Bell in the first half. They’ll face a tougher challenge against Navy. In an era dominated by aerial displays and basketball-type scores, the Midshipmen are a throwback with their power-running option tactic. A year ago, Navy ran for 257 yards and three TDs and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. They also had a seven-minute advantage in possession time. Though the Hoosiers don’t care much about possession time, they know the defense must tighten up.
ANCHORS AWAY: While Indiana spent last week piling up points, Navy continued preparing for this week’s season-opener. It could give Navy a tactical advantage Saturday. The Midshipmen return two of their top three runners — fullback Noah Copeland and quarterback Keenan Reynolds — from the nation’s No. 6 rushing team. Plus, they now have tape of Indiana to game plan against. And shouldn’t a military academy always have the advantage in strategy and in-game adjustments? The Hoosiers, meanwhile, will be studying last season’s tape. Though it is unlikely Navy will change much in terms of philosophy, a fresh look is always a better gauge of what to expect.
QB DERBY: Indiana’s most entertaining battle might be the debate over who the starting quarterback. For the second straight week, Wilson isn’t hinting at who will be behind center this weekend. Or whether he’ll cast the deciding vote after being outvoted on last week’s starter. In the meantime, the Hoosiers have turned the quarterback carousel into their own version of Home Run Derby. A week ago, Tre Roberson started and threw two TD passes before leaving with what Wilson described as a bruised rib. Nate Sudfeld took over in the second quarter and threw four more TD passes. Cam Coffman played too but did not account for a score. Together, the three combined to go 17 of 30 for 319 yards with the six TDs and two interceptions.
OH BROTHER: Forgive Indiana’s players if they think they’re seeing double Saturday. Navy has five pairs of brothers on its roster. Yes, you read that right. The full list is: Kendrick and Kenneth Mouton, Blaze and Wave Ryder, Myles and Chris Swain, Nnamdi and Obi Uzoma and Will and Joe Worth. Even worse for the Hoosiers, this won’t be the only time they face such a dilemma. Navy is tied with rival Army, which plays about two hours away at Ball State on Saturday, and Wisconsin for the most brotherly tandems on a Football Bowl Subdivision roster this season. The Hoosiers and Badgers meet Nov. 16.
PROVING A POINT: Nobody doubted Indiana would score points this season. And nobody expects the Hoosiers to match or exceed last week’s point total, either. But Hoosiers fans are curious to see whether Indiana’s fast-break offense can be as efficient against FBS foes as it was against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent. A week ago, Indiana’s fast-paced offense repeatedly used less than two minutes to finish scoring drives. They scored on 11 of 20 possessions, too. If the Hoosiers are that proficient against Navy, it won’t be a close game — and it would bode well for how the rest of the season, too.
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