To say that first-year Indiana Coach Kevin Wilson wasn’t pleased with his team’s energy level during Saturday’s season-opening 27-20 loss to Ball State might be an understatement. Speaking to reporters after practice Monday, Wilson said “it looked like we were at a golf match or something. We were a very lethargic team.”
Virginia has had more than its share of struggles on the field since Coach Mike London took over, but deficient energy very rarely has been one of them. In fact, there were times last season when the Cavaliers might have paid a price for being too amped up.
Regardless, Virginia travels to Bloomington to take on Indiana on Saturday, and if the Hoosiers come out flat once again, the Cavaliers – who are looking to win their first non-conference road game since 2007 – likely will take advantage.
Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco said Monday that Indiana will provide “a good test” for the Cavaliers because the Hoosiers are designed to stop the run. Virginia, as you may remember, ran the ball quite well Saturday against William & Mary.
Well, Indiana might be designed to stop the run, but the Hoosiers sure struggled to do so against Ball State. Indiana allowed Ball State to amass 210 rushing yards. Indiana tallied just two tackles for a loss Saturday.
Virginia Coach Mike London said Indiana will use multiple defensive fronts, frequently shifting from a 4-3 base to a 3-3.
Hoosiers fifth-year senior middle linebacker Jeff Thomas is someone to keep an eye on. He tallied 11 tackles against Ball State and was his team’s second-leading tackler in 2010.
Wilson told reporters Monday that starting weak-side linebacker Leon Beckum – who tied for third on the Hoosiers in tackles last season – injured his knee Saturday against Ball State and was to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday*. Wilson didn’t offer a definitive diagnosis or recovery timeline, but the tone of his comments suggested Beckum likely will not play against Virginia.
* Indiana starting right offensive tackle Josh Hager also suffered a knee injury Saturday and was to undergo an MRI exam Tuesday. There’s been no official word from the Hoosiers, but Wilson didn’t make it sound like Hager will play against the Cavaliers, either.
London said Ball State succeeded in running the ball against Indiana by executing inside zone plays, attacking the edge and carrying out play-action passes. The Cavaliers have the inside (Kevin Parks) and outside (Perry Jones) threats to do the first two things, but Virginia has not run many play-action passes under Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor. Not that the Cavaliers will have to replicate Ball State’s blueprint in order to succeed.
Indiana allowed Ball State to accumulate 173 passing yards.
Cornerback Greg Heban is Indiana’s top performer in the secondary. He tallied a career-high nine tackles against Ball State. Last season, Heban tied for the team-high in pass breakups with five and recorded one interception.
On offense, Indiana operates “a little bit of a pistol offense with the (tailback) directly behind the quarterback,” London said. The key component is senior wide receiver Damarlo Belcher, who racked up four catches for 101 yards and a touchdown against Ball State. Belcher led the team in receiving last season 78 catches for 832 yards.
“It’s a high-tempo offense where they don’t allow you to substitute, so they’ll get to the line of scrimmage quickly, check at the line and call their plays. There’s a little bit of option aspects to what they do, some two-back schemes there. There’s some quarterback read plays.”
The Hoosiers are breaking in a new quarterback after Ben Chappell graduated following the end of last season. Edward Wright-Baker is the new man lining up under center. He saw limited action in five games last season. On Saturday against Ball State, Wright-Baker completed 20 of 32 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown.