Written by Evan Orris
Last week the Hoosiers secured a 56-14 win over FCS opponents Idaho Vandals. This time around, the level of competition will be much higher as they take on the # 8 Cincinnati Bearcats.
The Bearcats are currently 2-0 in the season with wins over Murray St. and Miami University (OH). In the last two seasons they are 11-1 with their only loss to the Georgia Bulldogs in the Peach Bowl. It will be a difficult task for the Hoosiers to defeat them, but here is what they need to do to win.
1. Let the ball fly
The Hoosiers did a good job on-site last week when Stephen Carr stormed 118 yards, but Michael Penix once didn’t look like himself. Penix was accurate with a completion rate of 68.8% and threw for two touchdowns but he hurled not the ball downfield like last season.
In 2020, on passes of 20 yards or more, Penix completed 42.5% of his throws for five touchdowns and only two interceptions. But those deep shots haven’t been in offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan’s playbook lately. Only Penix’s 16 pass attempts were beyond 20 yards. Sheridan mentioned earlier that this has to change. It has to change if the Hoosiers are to score with a strong Cincinnati defense.
2. Protect Penix at all costs
The IU offensive line has already allowed three sacks and six rushes in the first two games of the season. However, that number seemed too low. Countless times, Penix had little to no time to throw before a defender was thrown in the face.
The opening weekend was a disaster for the unit as they only overtook 77 yards in a rush and 156 yards. But they were also without starting line man Luke Haggard. He returned for the Idaho game and the line improved with 179 rushing and 159 passing yards. However, there were still a few hiccups that resulted in bags. Tom Allen told the line that communication needs to be better so that Penix can feel comfortable in the bag and make better throws.
3. Includes Desmond Ridder
Desmond Ridder is one of the best quarterbacks in college football. Tom Allen called him a “future NFL guy” while Defensive Coordinator Charlton Warren called him someone “hard to cheat”. Ridder has played 38 games for the Bearcats in his career, making them one of the best teams in the nation.
In his career, the 2020 Maxwell Award semi-finalist has thrown 7,443 yards, 63 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions. This season he already has 538 yards, six touchdowns and only one interception. He’s a smart quarterback who can hit teams with both his feet and his arm.
If the Hoosiers want to win, Warren will have to create a game plan to contain the QB stud. This is the second time Warren will face Ridder as he was on the Georgia coaching team last season when they played Cincinnati at the Peach Bowl. Georgia’s defense continued through the bout with a 24-21 win. Perhaps this time around, the experience will be on Warren’s side.
4. Pack the stone
In the last game, 47,408 fans flocked to Memorial Stadium after a year of postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The players were greeted with an unfamiliar cheer that gave them the energy they needed to win. That will be needed again on Saturday.
It has been announced that the game is already sold out this weekend. Fans have to come to the stadium and bring the energy early. If the Hoosiers are to become a top team in the nation, they need the fans who bring a first-class atmosphere to the game.