Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
On Saturday afternoon the Indiana Hoosiers will be attempting to clinch their second consecutive undefeated non-conference slate and a 3-0 start when the Wake Forest Demon Deacons roll into town. Here are some of the things Indiana will have to do in order to beat Wake Forest.
1. Win the Takeaway Battle
Ever since IU defensive coordinator Tom Allen joined the program we have heard about the importance of takeaways. So far this season the Hoosiers have six while turning over the ball just once on offense. The plus-five on the takeaway margin is a major reason as to why the Hoosiers are 2-0.
Wake Forest’s offense doesn’t make many people shake in their boots, but their defense is very, very good. This makes it even more important for the Indiana defense to take the ball away from the Wake Forest defense and give their offense more chances to put points up on the board. The Demon Deacon offense has given the ball away four times, twice inside their 20-yard line last week against FCS foe Delaware. If the Hoosiers defense can take the ball away at least twice and get points from those takeaways, they will come out victorious.
2. Be Better in the Clutch
Great teams make plays in the clutch, meaning they pick-up the third down conversion when they need it and punch it in for seven when they have red zone opportunities. The Hoosiers have been abysmal in clutch situations so far this season. In two games this year Indiana is only converting a paltry 28.6 percent of their third downs and converting just 40 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns. You want to know how teams get beat, it’s right there. Leaving points on the field in the red zone and not being able to extend drives. Indiana has to get their third down conversions up to around 45 percent and convert at least 70 percent of their red zone trips into touchdowns. Indiana is not going to beat Wake Forest by kicking field goals.
3. Clean Up The Special Teams Issues
The Hoosiers have yet to put together a complete special teams performance this season. In the opener against Florida International, the Griffin Oakes missed a chip shot field goal and holder Mitchell Paige wasted another opportunity by dropping a snap on a field goal. In their second game, the punt protection cost the Hoosiers a touchdown allowing a defender to come unblocked that turned into a punt block that was recovered for a touchdown.
Luckily for the Hoosiers, these plays did not cost them the game. However, the Hoosiers cannot giveaway points like this against Wake Forest. In the Demon Deacon’s win against Duke was in large part to two missed field goals.
4. Win the Point of Attack
In our Match-up To Watch article earlier in the week, we highlighted the contest between defensive end Duke Eijofor and tackles Brandon Knight and Coy Cronk. The battle goes beyond just this one-on-one grudge match. Wake Forest has 21 tackles for loss and 10 sacks through three games this season, while Indiana’s offensive line has been under fire a bit with their lack of finish against Ball State. The big question here though is, will Dan Feeney play? If he does the Hoosiers have a great shot at neutralizing the Demon Deacon rush. If he is out? Well, it will be that much harder for this line to open up holes for Devine Redding and the running game and giving quarterback Richard Lagow time to find an open receiver. It will take a group effort, but if the Hoosiers win the point of attack, they’ll be raising the victory flag once again.