BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana will be getting back a key part of its defense on Saturday when the Hoosiers travel to Western Kentucky.
Devon "Monster" Matthews suffered an injury during Indiana's season-opener at Iowa on Sept. 4.
He was held out of Indiana's last two home games against Idaho and Cincinnati, but after returning to practice earlier this week, head coach Tom Allen is optimistic Matthews will be back on the field in Bowling Green, Ky.
"Yeah, so Monster is progressing well," Allen said. "We expect him to play this week. As a matter of fact, he practiced with us last night (Sunday), which is great. I expect him to be fully back and ready to go, which will be great for our secondary."
Matthews is an all-Big Ten caliber player.
Last season, he collected 40 tackles (third on the team), 26 solo (fourth), one sack, two tackles for loss, one interception, six pass breakups (second), and one quarterback hurry. He was tied for seventh in the Big Ten in pass breakups and started all eight games for the Hoosiers at strong safety.
His season earned him third team all-Big Ten by both the coaches and the media.
With Jamar Johnson getting drafted to the NFL by the Denver Broncos, Matthews was the key returning safety for Indiana this season. Raheem Layne returned from injury this season after missing all of 2020, and he moved from cornerback to safety to play alongside Matthews this season.
"He's just like a great player," Layne said about having Matthews back. "He brings that extra factor to our defense. Me and him got a great chemistry because that's who I normally line up side-by-side with. Me and him, we already on the same page, so we got great chemistry together and it's just a great player to get back on our defense and make great plays for us on Saturday."
Saturday's game is a good time for Matthews to come back since Western Kentucky has a high-octane passing attack.
The Hilltoppers like to throw the ball. Through two games, WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe has thrown for 859 yards (429.50 average) and 10 touchdown passes.
"I think our DB's (defensive backs) are gonna have to play great and play long," Indiana linebacker Micah McFadden said. "They're definitely gonna try to threaten us down the field. We're gonna have to have them over the top and our safeties are gonna have to be on point for sure."
Indiana defensive lineman Sio Nofoagatoto’a said he thinks the Hoosiers' secondary is excited to try to get some interceptions and revert back to last season's squad where they came away with a lot of takeaways.
As a lineman, he's also excited that Indiana will have time to rush the passer, and he thinks having Matthews back at safety is like a security blanket over the defense.
"It's definitely a good vibe. Just the intensity that he brings and the security of having him in the back there," Nofoagatoto’a said. "Even when he was out, he was still a vocal leader, helping the guys who stepped up in his position, but having him back out there is good, you know when everyone is out there, it's a good vibe with the defense."
Indiana is currently a 9.5-point favorite, according to FanDuel.com. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. ET in Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium.
Related Stories on Indiana Football:
- INDIANA LOOKING FOR MORE OUT OF ITS RECEIVERS: There have been some dropped passes by the Hoosiers' receivers this season, and Grant Heard is expecting more of his group moving forward this season. CLICK HERE
- INDIANA O-LINE MOVING IN RIGHT DIRECTION: With everyone back along the offensive line, consistency still remains the big key for Indiana in that position group. CLICK HERE
- WHAT MICHAEL PENIX HAD TO SAY TUESDAY NIGHT: Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. faced the music on Tuesday night, answering questions for 30 minutes on the Sports Illustrated Indiana podcast Mike & Micah at Yogi's Bar & Grill in Bloomington. CLICK HERE
- GAME TIME SET FOR PENN STATE: Indiana will take on No. 6 Penn State under the lights at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 2. The game will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be nationally televised on ABC. CLICK HERE