Indiana Football: Keys to victory against Nebraska

With BTN Tailgate coming to Bloomington to cover the Indiana vs. Nebraska contest, the Hoosiers have a chance to make a great impression on the country. This marks the third game in a row where they have faced a top-15 opponent.

While Nebraska remains unbeaten, their games suggest that they are very beatable. They barely beat an Oregon team 35-32, who were ranked at the time, but are now on a four game losing streak and have been embarrassed back-to-back weeks. The following week they narrowly beat a Northwestern team who are third to last in the inferior West division of the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, Indiana comes off of a loss to #2 Ohio State where they played decent enough, but made too many mistakes to overtake such an impressive squad. On their day, Indiana can beat anybody, the problem is that they can beat themselves too. The Wake Forest game is a perfect example. If Indiana wants to upset #10 Nebraska, they will need to improve on the following:

Capitalize in the red zone

Indiana has struggled to score touchdowns in the Red Zone this season. Against touch opponents, these are crucial points that end up being the difference. Against Ohio State, they failed to convert on a 4th and 1 on the 9 yard line. Points left on the board. Against Michigan State two weeks ago, they attempted a half-back pass on 4th down that turned the ball over and killed a great drive. More points left on the board.

On 18 trips to the red zone this season they have scored only 8 touchdowns, and settled for 4 field goals. That means out of a possible 126 points, they have only put up 68. It is ridiculous to expect a touchdown on every trip to the red zone, but this has proved to be a problem for Indiana. Nebraska has scored over 30 points in 4 out of their 5 matches, so scoring when the opportunity arises for Indiana will be crucial.

Limit turnovers

Oct 8, 2016; Columbus, OH, USA; Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow (21) drops to throw during the 2nd quarter against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State Buckeyes lead 24-10 at half. Mandatory Credit: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

This one seems like a no-brainer, but since Richard Lagow’s turnover free first two games, he has had 8.  Two of Ohio State’s touchdowns last week came directly from turnovers that gave them an extremely short field. Against Michigan State, Devine Redding almost lost a fumble on their game-tying drive that would have surely stopped their comeback short.

The defense has proved they are capable of slowing down some of the top offenses in the country, but they can’t do it if the offense puts them in these situations. Nebraska has a dangerous pass defense, too. They rank 21st overall, allowing less than 200 yards per game, 3 touchdowns for the entire season, and intercepting quarterbacks 9 times. Lagow will need to have to be sharper than he was against Ohio State.

Stop the run

Indiana did a great job against Heisman hopeful JT Barrett. They help him to under 100 yards and managed to even intercept one of his passes. Unfortunately, they were shredded by the run game, giving up 290 yards compared to Indiana’s 99. They allowed three separate rushers accumulated over 70 yards, and as a whole, they averaged almost 6 yards per carry.

Nebraska is a very similar team to Ohio State offensively. They have a couple of dangerous backs, and their quarterback can scramble as well. Luckily for Indiana, they got a scouting report simply by facing Ohio State. They also have a good scout quarterback in Zander Diamont who mimics rushing quarterbacks well. Preparing for an offense and actually stopping one is a whole different story.

Last thoughts

Kevin Wilson declined to give out an offensive player of the game award against Ohio State, showing that he expects a lot more from the talented bunch. Their key players in Lagow and Redding need to show a lot more if they want to take down Nebraska, as the defense will have their hands full with Tommy Armstrong Jr. and Terrell Newby.