Hoosiers' balance poses problems for Florida International
Nate Sudfeld looks healthy, Jordan Howard looks strong and Devine Redding looks fast.
It's the perfect combination for Indiana coach Kevin Wilson.
Sure, it's only one week into the college football season, and, yes, the stakes increase this weekend when the Hoosiers trade a Football Championship Subdivision foe for potentially dangerous Florida International. So the Hoosiers must be even sharper Saturday.
''I thought it was a pretty good start and we're going to keep improving as we gain confidence,'' quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. ''I just thought there was a lot of good to take away from it and yet still a lot of areas that need improvement.''
Offensively, there was not much to quibble with.
Indiana (1-0) scored 48 points, piled up 595 yards, and averaged 5.9 yards rushing. Sudfeld wound up with 349 yards and one TD in his first start in 11 months, and the running back duo of Howard and Redding was impressive, too. Howard, the UAB transfer, ran for 145 yards and three scores in his Indiana debut while Redding had 57 yards and two TDs.
''I was really pleased at how well we were able to move the ball on offense,'' Howard said. ''We were just able to dictate the game on offense somewhat.''
Now Sudfeld, Howard and Redding will test a defense that limited two-time defending American Athletic Conference champ UCF to 46 yards on 30 carries and still needed a blocked field goal to hang on for a 15-14 victory.
The question, of course, is whether the Hoosiers can keep their momentum.
Wilson has started 2-0 just once in his four previous seasons in Bloomington, in 2012, and the Hoosiers know things are only going to get tougher this week against the Panthers (1-0), who just won their first season opener on the road since 2004.
''They look very aggressive. Their cornerbacks make good plays on the ball. They get after the quarterback,'' Sudfeld said of FIU's defense. ''They're going to try and stop our run. But with our offensive line I feel really good about that. ''
Here are some other things to watch this weekend.
DANGEROUS COMBINATION: FIU's defensive performance should not have been much of a surprise. A year ago, the Panthers were No. 35 nationally in total defense. And although they were just 4-8 in 2014, five of those losses came by three or fewer points.
DEFENSIVE DEBACLE: Southern Illinois exposed some gaping holes in the Hoosiers' defense - holes they must get plugged in a hurry. A week ago, the Salukis produced 47 points, 659 yards in total offense and averaged 5.4 yards per carry. The Hoosiers only held on because of a failed 2-point conversion pass. Expect FIU to try to take advantage after running 31 times for 131 yards last week.
TURNER & SHUT OUT: FIU is 0-8 all-time against Big Ten schools. But the Panthers may have a trump card in third-year coach Ron Turner. The former Illinois coach went 5-3 against the Hoosiers from 1997 through 2004. Turner later spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the Indianapolis Colts.
EIGHT MEN BACK: Last week, Wilson suspended nine players. This week, eight of them will play - the lone exception being linebacker Tegray Scales, who will complete his two-game suspension Saturday. Wilson also only said the players did not ''live up to their responsibilities to the program.''
TIME FOR T.O.: Sophomore Thomas Owens caught 11 passes for 78 yards in his first career start last week. That was one reception short of the school record, which was set by Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton on Oct. 8, 2011.