BLOOMINGTON — To pull off an upset at No. 3 Ohio State, No. 9 Indiana is going to need to execute in the red zone better than its last game at Michigan State.
The Hoosiers went 3-of-7 in red-zone opportunities against the Spartans, scoring 17 points on two touchdowns and a field goal, after going 16-for-16 on red-zone scoring chances in their first three games.
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan shouldered the blame for IU’s red zone struggles last week.
“There were moments, especially in the second half and especially in the red zone, where I didn’t do a good enough job,” Sheridan said.
There were some player mistakes as well. Sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. threw an interception in the end zone on a red-zone possession in the first half. IU senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle was whistled for an offensive pass interference inside the 5-yard line, forcing the Hoosiers 15 yards back in a red-zone possession that ended with a 21-yard Charles Campbell field goal.
In the second half, IU freshman tight end A.J. Barner dropped a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 2. Then, on a fourth-quarter red-zone possession, running back Stevie Scott III came up short on a third-and-goal run from 3-yard line. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Sheridan called for a rollout play with Penix but didn’t have a receiver roll to his side. Instead, Penix threw across his body and misfired an attempt to tight end Matt Bjorson.
Sheridan said he reviewed all of his red-zone calls over the weekend.
“The selection of the plays and the timing of the plays — I didn’t do a good enough job to help our players to be put in a position better,” Sheridan said. “Where there some execution issues where we need to execute better as an offense, yes, but I take the brunt of the responsibility for that. I need to do a better job, and we’ve been good, and that’s been a strength of ours prior to Saturday.”
Scott said IU is working to get those issues fixed before its top-10 matchup with the Buckeyes.
“Field goals are cool, but we need seven points … especially with the game coming up this week,” Scott said. “The red zone is very crucial to us.”
Indiana head coach Tom Allen said left tackle Caleb Jones (undisclosed), left guard Mike Katic (undisclosed) and linebacker Cam Jones (head) will be game-time decisions for Saturday at Ohio State (noon, FOX).
If Jones is out, junior Luke Haggard would likely make his second career start at left tackle. A 6-foot-7, 275-pound JUCO transfer from California, Haggard graded out well in his first start at Michigan State
“Luke did a nice job and had to play the whole game,” Sheridan said. “I was proud of the way he competed. I think he was coached and prepared for the moment. That is a credit to him and (IU offensive line) coach Darren Hiller.”
Indiana freshman running back Tim Baldwin showed signs of promise in his debut for the Hoosiers with three carries for 18 yards against Michigan State.
Allen said Baldwin was rewarded for how he performed in practice.
“He is a guy that has earned that by the way he has prepared, and that to me is a big deal,” Allen said. “We want to really do a good job as a staff of rewarding guys for that and hold them accountable for their practice habits and when they are doing it the right way and doing it at a high level. Then we would love to give them a chance to go out and see what they got on game day.”
- Fryfogle was added to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List, given to college football’s top wide receiver. Fryfogle leads the Big Ten in receiving yards, with 24 catches for 424 yards and four TDs.
Allen was named as one of 19 coaches on the midseason Dodd Trophy Watch List, given to a coach who enjoys success on the gridiron while stressing the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity.