The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Maryland defense faces challenge in prolific Indiana RB Tevin Coleman

(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Indiana’s up-tempo offense showed the country just how deadly it could be in last week’s stunning 31-27 win at then-No. 18 Missouri, and it has elements of an Air Raid attack that reminds Maryland defensive coordinator Brian Stewart of West Virginia. He dug into Hoosiers’ Coach Mike Wilson’s history on Wednesday, noting that Wilson comes from the Mike Leach tree and has long been devoted to fast-break offenses.

Wilson “was at Oklahoma when Mike Leach was the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, who ran this same kind of offense, this Air Raid that he got from Kentucky being with Hal Mumme,” Stewart said.

But Indiana is also unique in its ability to run the football, and Maryland is expected to be tested again Saturday a week after it gave up 370 yards rushing against Syracuse.

The focal point of Indiana’s win over Missouri was running back Tevin Coleman, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound junior who ran for 132 yards and a touchdown. Coleman is one of the most consistent running backs in college football; he has rushed for at least 100 yards in five straight games dating from last season and has scored touchdowns in 12 consecutive games. He leads the country in rushing yards per game — averaging 189.7 yards and picking up 8.6 per carry — and his big-play ability adds another dimension to Indiana’s offense with his home-run ability. Coleman has broken 11 runs of at least 40 yards this season, and six that have gone for 50 or more.

Indiana uses different looks in the backfield, including with D’Angelo Roberts, who is averaging 4.9 yards per carry and had two touchdowns against Missouri. Those weapons bring balance to a spread that is averaging 236 yards passing behind quarterback Nate Sudfeld, who has thrown just one interception on 92 attempts this season.

“This offense is a tough offense and I think they’re done a good job of running it,” Stewart said. “And they’re more run-oriented than what we’ve seen in the past. And that’s because they have pretty good running backs.”

The focus this week is cutting down lanes with gap-integrity, Stewart said. His defense has been gashed in total yardage the last two weeks — it gave up nearly 700 to West Virginia (511 came in the passing game) and nearly 600 against Syracuse. The Terrapins’ defense is in a state of transition, working to get its starters healthy at all three levels. It has moved Keith Bowers from nose tackle to end in the wake of Quinton Jefferson’s season-ending knee injury, and it is grooming a core of younger linebackers to help shore up depth as all four starters continue to battle injuries.

“You don’t coach injuries. The main thing you do is you coach your system, what we do,” Stewart said.