Young Indiana secondary prepares for veteran WKU quarterback
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana has a serious youth movement going on.
The Hoosiers' depth chart for Saturday's game against Western Kentucky listed 11 players in either the two-deep or three-deep lineup in the defensive secondary - all of them freshmen or sophomores. Starters include freshmen at strong safety (Jonathan Crawford) and right cornerback (Andre Brown Jr.).
Awaiting that group is Western Kentucky sixth-year quarterback Brandon Doughty, who in the first two games this season has thrown for 650 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Last week, in a 41-38 victory over Louisiana Tech, Doughty completed 28 of 38 passes for 444 yards. So far this year, he has completed 69.1 percent of his passes.
''(Doughty) knows how to throw the ball and get away from pressure,'' Indiana secondary coach Brandon Shelby said. ''If we let him sit back there all day, it's going to be a long day.''
One thing that Indiana has experienced a lot in the first two games (wins over Southern Illinois and Florida International) is the big play. Young players in the wrong spots and a host of missed tackles have allowed opponents to average nearly 35 points per game.
Coaches and players alike said this week that letting mistakes linger can be worse than moving on. Sophomore cornerback Rashard Fant said the worst thing his young teammates can do is worry about the past.
''You have to put it out of your mind,'' Fant said. ''Even when you give up a touchdown, you have to keep playing and move on because if you think about it you are burnable and they will attack you.''
Shelby said sometimes mistakes can work out if players are playing hard. He pointed to the 96-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman Jameel Cook Jr. late in the fourth quarter last week against FIU.
Shelby said on that particular play Cook was supposed to have blitzed but didn't. Because he didn't, he was in the right place at the right time.
''That's one of those times where you say, `Great play, now don't do it again!''' Shelby said.
Here are some other things to watch this weekend:
HOWARD'S RUN: Indiana transfer running back Jordan Howard leads the Big Ten in rushing with an average of 152 yards per game and ranks fifth nationally. He is one of only five Big Ten running backs averaging more than 100 yards per game. Last year against WKU, he ran for 183 yards and two touchdowns while at UAB in a 42-39 Blazers victory.
MORE ON DOUGHTY: The Western Kentucky quarterback was the nation's leader in passing yards with 4,830 and touchdowns with 49 in the Football Bowl Subdivision last season. His top game was 593 yards passing against Middle Tennessee. He had five games where he threw five touchdown passes or more with a high of eight against Marshall.
TOUGH HILLTOPPERS: Since 2012, Western Kentucky has a 12-4 record, including 2-0 this season, in non-conference competition. WKU has wins over Vanderbilt and Louisiana Tech this season. WKU is 0-2 all-time against Indiana and 0-5 all-time against current members of the Big Ten.
SCALES IS BACK: Indiana sophomore linebacker Tegray Scales, considered to be IU's most athletic defensive player, returns this week after missing two games for a suspension. Scales was listed as No. 2 on the depth chart this week behind Marcus Oliver, who flourished in Scales' absence and is the co-leader on the team in tackles with 17.
SHOOTING FOR 3-0: Indiana is looking for its first 3-0 start in the five-year tenure of coach Kevin Wilson. The last time the Hoosiers went 3-0 was in 2010, Bill Lynch's final season in Bloomington. That team finished 5-7.