Written By Alex Compton (@Alexncompton)
Week one came and went, and just like that, IU is back on the road in a nearly must-win situation. They played decently against Ohio State on Thursday, but the big plays and inability to run the ball effectively ultimately doomed the Hoosiers in their quest for one of the biggest wins in school history. IU has now completely shifted their focus to the Virginia Cavaliers, who are fresh off a 2-10 season and a 28-10 win over FCS William & Mary. The big plays I just talked about killed Indiana on Thursday, and that is my matchup to watch for this week.
JONATHAN CRAWFORD & TONY FIELDS VS. VIRGINIA WIDEOUTS
Indiana was right there on Thursday. After a score late in the third quarter to go up 21-20, JT Barrett started hitting crossing routes that turned into 20 yard gains and eventually long, long touchdowns two times. Tony Fields has now been bumped up to the lone starter alongside of Crawford, as Chase Dutra will now be a super sub and special teams standout. Against the Buckeyes and those long touchdowns I talked about, Crawford was unable to keep contain on the outside, and Parris Campbell was able to go right by him for the score. The next instance was also a short mesh route, and Johnnie Dixon went up the middle past Crawford for another long score. If the Hoosiers want a clean and convincing win on Saturday, these types of plays simply can’t happen.
We’ve already talked about it earlier in the week, but senior quarterback Kurt Benkert will try and nickel and dime the opponent up and down the field week in and week out. Last week against FCS William & Mary, he went 27-39 (69.2%) for 262 yards and 3 scores and no interceptions. Out of those 27 completions, only 8 of them went over 15 yards, which means tackling in space and keeping contain will be key to keeping the Hoos off the scoreboard often on Saturday. Doni Dowling and Joe Reed are probably their best big play potential guys, and it will be on Crawford and Fields to keep them from breaking through (no pun intended) to the next level.
Simply put, Virginia just does not have the firepower to give IU fits over 60 minutes if they don’t let them. Sound tackling and sound positioning will have to make Benkert beat the Hoosiers with bigger plays on his own, and I’m nor sure he can do that consistently enough.
Other Notes On This Matchup:
Nine different receivers caught a pass on Saturday for the Cavaliers.