The first night of college football featured games where all three of Indiana's other non-conference opponents, Florida International, Wake Forest, and Western Kentucky, hit the grid iron. Hoosier Huddle writters T.J. Inman and Sammy Jacobs sat down and watched all the action last night and will share with you the game highlights and how it may impact their games against the Hoosiers.
FIU Stuns UCF
In one of the bigger surprises of the opening night of college football, the Florida International Golden Panthers shocked in-state rival Central Florida in Orlando by a score of 15-14. The Knights were double-digit favorites heading into the game and raced out to a 14-3 halftime lead but FIU dominated the second half and blocked a late field goal attempt to come away with the comeback victory. Sophomore quarterback Alex McGough completed 29 of 38 passes for 260 yards and Alex Gardner rushed for 75 yards and a score.
The Hoosier Huddle staff watched the game and we were extremely impressed with the Golden Panthers defense. They held Central Florida to just 46 rushing yards on 30 carries. In addition, the FIU defense displayed a lot of speed and athleticism in their pass rush as they routinely pressured the UCF quarterback and came up with two important sacks. FIU’s offense didn’t look very explosive (they only had three plays of more than 25 yards and only one of more than 30 yards) but they racked up nearly 400 yards of total offense and the size of the receiving targets could be a problem for IU’s young secondary. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the offensive performance was the offensive line. UCF didn’t record a sack and rarely pressured McGough.
“This is one game. It’s only one game, but these guys already believe and this is confirmation on why they believe,” FIU head coach Ron Turner said. Many have been looking ahead to Western Kentucky and the game at Wake Forest as the first tests of the season for the Hoosiers but Thursday night convinced me that the week two matchup against FIU will be no walk in the park.
John Wofford Leads Wake Forest to Lopsided 41-3 Win
Wake Forest sophomore quarterback John Wofford had a career night against FCS bottom feeder Elon in the season opener. Wofford set a career high with 323 pass yards and three touchdowns, he also added a 70-yard run for a touchdown. The Demon Deacon offense, who was down right awful last season, put up 591 yards of total offense, 388 through the air to 13 different receivers and 203 on the ground. To put that in prospective the Wake Forest only managed 479 yards rushing all year in 2014 as a team.
Demon Deacon head coach Dave Clawson praised the overall improvement as an offense saying, "John is a good player, he's improved, but we've improved around him. I think that we showed that tonight."
Wake Forest's defense, the primary strength of this team, clamped down on Elon holding them to three points and a paltry 151 total yards. Elon was also a dismal 1-for-13 on third downs. The defense was led by fifth year senior linebacker Hunter Williams who had five tackles and one TFL.
"Overall, it was a good win. It was exciting to see a lot of our freshman skill guys get involved. I think that all four freshman receivers caught balls. I thought the backs all had moments where they looked really good. It's one game, but it's nice to be 1-0, and now we have to get better before next week when we go on the road in the ACC." Clawson said about the win.
While defeating an FCS program who has won just three games over the last two year cannot be a true test, this offense is much improved and the Deacons got a large number of freshman on the field Thursday night. The bottom line when Indiana faces Wake Forest on Sept. 26th is that this offense must be able to move the ball and score on the powerful Wake defense.
WKU Holds Off Vandy for a 14-12 Victory
Raise your hand if you had just 26 total points being scored in this contest? No one, that's what I thought.
Western Kentucky made the short drive down to Nashville, Tn. to take on SEC foe Vanderbilt. The Commodores held the powerful Hilltopper offense to just 48 yards and no points in the first half.
WKU senior quarterback Branden Daughty credited Vandy head coach Derek Mason saying, "I am telling you, Coach Mason is a heck of a coach. He's top notch. He has a lot of different schemes, throws a lot of things at you, a lot of blitzes, so you have to be ready for it. He does a really good job, and hats off to him in the first half. I thought we really toned down and executed in that second half, and it helped us out a little bit."
The Commodores could not capitalize on their defense's success as they threw two red zone interceptions and missed a field goal. Vanderbilt's tying two-point conversion try was stopped by a great tackle by sophomore defensive back Joe Brown.
The Hilltopper offense looked out of sync all night as Daughty was under relentless pressure and WKU receivers dropped pass after pass. Western Kentucky was held to just 247 yards of total offense and surrendered two sacks. Daughty had this to say about the offense's performance, "They were a good defense. Obviously we didn't play as up to par as we would have liked, but we got the W and came out 1 and 0. We weren't playing up to par and we have excelled before, we know we are better than that. It was frustrating at times, and you know sometimes you just have to step up and make plays, and that is what we were lacking in the beginning of the game."
This will still be the most challenging game for the Hoosiers due to their youth on the defensive side of the ball. However, the Hilltoppers have flaws of their own, mainly along the offensive line and with tackling on defense. Even though Vanderbilt was held to just 12 points, Western Kentucky let up 393 total yards.