Indiana football will play its second consecutive road game in Week 5, this time heading to Lincoln, Neb. for a matchup with the Cornhuskers. It's a crucial game for the 3-1 Hoosiers, who face a difficult Big Ten schedule the rest of the way.
Last week's 45-24 loss at Cincinnati gave Indiana its first taste of true adversity in the 2022 season. Indiana didn't handle the road environment well early on, which spiraled into a 28-point halftime deficit, but Indiana coach Tom Allen was proud of the fight they showed in the second half. Following at 3-0 start, Allen learned how his roster of 13 transfers, 22 freshmen and five new coaches would respond to a loss.
"This team, program, has a lot of character to it, a lot of grit to it, a lot of toughness to it," Allen said. "We just got to play smarter. We got to play better for the whole game."
Now it's about putting everything together for 60 minutes, which is something Indiana hasn't done all season. The Hoosiers have a chance to answer this challenge as they take on a 1-3 Nebraska team that has experienced significant change this season. Led by interim coach Mickey Joseph, Saturday's game could be a turning point for both Nebraska and Indiana's seasons.
"Beating Indiana is the number one goal," Joseph said. "But it's really important for this football team just to get some confidence that they can start something and finish it."
- *** LIVE BLOG: And once the game starts, follow all the action on our live blog. To read that story, CLICK HERE.
How to watch Indiana Hoosiers vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers
- Who: Indiana Hoosiers (3-1, lost 45-24 at Cincinnati in Week 4) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (1-3, lost 49-17 at home against Oklahoma in Week 4)
- What: First Big Ten road game for Indiana. Third matchup between Indiana and Nebraska since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2012
- When: 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Oct. 1
- Where: Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.
- TV: Big Ten Network
- Announcers: Mark Followill (play-by-play), Matt Millen (analyst), Meghan McKeown (sideline)
- Stream: Watch fuboTV
- Radio: Indiana Hoosiers Sports Network, Sirius/Online: XM (134 or 195) // SXM App (957)
- Radio Announcers: Don Fischer (play-by-play), Rhett Lewis (analyst), Joe Smith, John Herrick
- Point spread: Nebraska is a 6-point favorite over Indiana, and the over/under is 60.5 points as of Saturday afternoon, according to the SIsportsbook.com website.
- Season totals: Indiana's 2022 regular season win total over/under was 4 prior to their 23-20 win over Illinois in Week 1, according to the FanDuel Sportsbook.
- Last season's records: Indiana was 2-10 overall with a 0-9 record in Big Ten play in 2021. Nebraska was 3-9 with a 1-8 record in Big Ten play in 2021.
- Series history: Indiana leads the all-time series 10-8-3. The series is tied at 1-1 since Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2012.
- Last meeting: Indiana defeated Nebraska 38-31 on Oct. 26, 2019 in Lincoln, Neb. The Cornhuskers got out to a 14-3 lead in the first quarter, but Indiana defensive lineman Allen Stallings IV returned a fumble 68 yards to set up a Ty Fryfogle touchdown that gave the Hoosiers their first lead of the game. In a game where both offenses generated over 450 yards of total offense, Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey completed 27-of-40 pass attempts for 351 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Whop Philyor led Indiana with 14 receptions for 178 yards, and Fryfogle and Matt Bjorson added receiving touchdowns. Stevie Scott generated 68 rushing yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, and Ramsey added nine rushes for 42 yards and a touchdown. Linebacker Micah McFadden led Indiana with 11 tackles, and defensive back Khalil Bryant finished with 10. Nebraska quarterback Noah Vedral completed 14-of-16 pass attempts 201 yards, and Luke McCaffrey connected on 5-of-6 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska's Wan'Dale Robinson was all over the field, rushing 22 times for 83 yards and a touchdown and catching six passes for 71 yards. But in the end, Juwan Burgess recovered the Hoosiers' second fumble of the game, setting up Scott's touchdown that gave Indiana a 14-point advantage in the fourth quarter. After the game, Indiana coach Tom Allen called this a 'breakthrough' win for his program, which finished the season 8-5 and reached the Gator Bowl.
- Coaches: Mickey Joseph took over as interim head coach after Nebraska fired Scott Frost three games into his fifth season. The last straw for Frost was a 45-42 home loss to Georgia Southern. Frost was under immediate scrutiny to start the 2022 season when he called for an onside kick attempt with an 11-point lead and nine minutes left in the third quarter in the season opener. The attempt failed and swung the momentum of the game, leading to Nebraska's Week 0 loss to Northwestern in Dublin, Ireland. Frost held a 16-31 record at Nebraska, including a 10-26 mark in Big Ten play, and he never finished better than fifth in the Big Ten West division. In Joseph's first game leading his alma mater, Nebraska lost to Oklahoma 49-17 at home. Joseph joined the Nebraska coaching staff before the 2022 season as an associate head coach, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator. He played quarterback for the Cornhuskers from 1988 to 1991, and most recently spent five seasons on the LSU coaching staff where he helped the Tigers win the 2019 national championship as an assistant coach and wide receivers coach. Tom Allen is entering his sixth season as Indiana's head coach with a 29-33 overall record. Allen's 29 wins rank seventh among all-time Indiana football coaches, behind John Pont's 31 wins from 1965-72. Allen's 26 wins over his first five seasons were tied for the most by a Hoosier head coach with the program's all-time winningest coach, Bill Mallory. Allen is 0-3 in bowl games, most recently losing 26-20 to Ole Miss in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2, 2021.
- Weather: According to weather.com, at 7:30 p.m. ET in Lincoln, Neb. it's going to be 73 degrees with a 0 percent chance of rain and winds from the southeast at 10 miles per hour.
Three things I want to see from Indiana on Saturday
1. Offensive efficiency
Indiana's Connor Bazelak is third among Big Ten quarterbacks with 1,171 passing yards. He orchestrated clutch touchdown drives in the fourth quarter against Western Kentucky and Illinois, and he powered Indiana's offense to a 28-point third quarter against Idaho.
When Bazelak and the fast-paced Hoosier offense is clicking, they're difficult to stop. Even in the loss to Cincinnati, Indiana's pace led to an easy Josh Henderson touchdown, simply because the Bearcats couldn't line up in time.
But through four games, the offense has struggled to play in an efficient manner on a consistent basis. Bazelak is putting up big yardage numbers, but his 53.5 completion percentage ranks 13th in the conference. He set a school record with 66 pass attempts at Cincinnati, and he's thrown over 50 passes in three of four games. Bazelak's 202 attempts are the most of any quarterback in the FBS.
Against a Nebraska defense that has given up more passing yards (1,122) than any Big Ten team, another big game for Bazelak could be in store. But for Indiana to secure its fourth win and for that completion percentage number to go up, the Indiana offensive line will have to provide more time for Bazelak in the pocket after 12 quarterback hurries and five sacks last week.
2. Limit explosive plays
In last week's loss, Cincinnati quarterback Ben Bryant torched the Indiana defense for touchdown passes of 75, 34 and 32 yards in the first half alone. The Hoosiers were successful in their goal of stopping the run, as Cincinnati averaged 1.3 yards on 30 carries. But as Indiana loaded the box, its defensive backs were left on an island, and Cincinnati took advantage with big plays through the air.
Jones said Indiana made a few key adjustments at halftime that helped shut Cincinnati out until the final minute of the game, but at that point, the 28-point first-half deficit was too much to overcome.
"It starts with all of us," Indiana linebacker Cam Jones said. "Whether it's the d-line getting pressure on the quarterback, linebackers being able to get off blocks and get pressure on the quarterback so those deep throws can't get completed."
This weekend, the Indiana defense goes up against Nebraska quarterback Casey Thompson, who transferred from Texas this offseason. Thompson boasts a 65.0 completion percentage with five touchdowns and three interceptions. His favorite target is LSU transfer Trey Palmer, who broke past the Oklahoma defense for a 32-yard touchdown last week.
3. More looks for AJ Barner, Jaylin Lucas
Indiana tight end AJ Barner figured to take on a much larger role in Indiana's offense this season following the loss of leading pass catchers Peyton Hendershot, Ty Fryfogle, Miles Marshall and others.
Allen raved about Barner's potential this offseason, but over the last two games, he has just three catches for 16 yards. Barner's 43 yard touchdown against Idaho is prime example of the rare athleticism he possesses, but that play alone makes up the majority of his production this season. He's a tough matchup for any defense at 6-foot-6, and Indiana could benefit from feeding him the ball more often.
Running back Jaylin Lucas stood out as much as anyone during fall camp because of his speed and agility. It was unrealistic to expect a large workload right away for a 5-foot-9, 170-pound true freshman, but coaches and teammates have continued to recognize his talent.
On Tuesday, running backs coach Craig Johnson said Lucas has tremendous bounce and quickness, and he'll start to see the field more if his promising play in practice continues.
"We're trying to continue to find a way to put [Lucas] in the game," Johnson said. "The great thing that I feel about Jaylin, during practice he is going out and he has been very assignment-competent, which is key and gives me confidence I can put him in the game that he'll know what he's doing. I think his future is going to be bright."
Related stories on Indiana football:
- INDIANA WEEK 5 DEPTH CHART, INJURY NOTES: Indiana football (3-1) travels to Lincoln, Neb. on Saturday for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff against the Cornhuskers and interim head coach Mickey Joseph. Here's Indiana's Week 5 depth chart, as well as some quick injury updates. CLICK HERE
- CAM JONES PODCAST: On this week's Episode 5 of Hoosier Roundtable Podcast, Indiana linebacker Cam Jones was awarded the Terry Tallen Football Leadership Scholarship, and his reaction was caught on camera! Shot at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, take a look at the full podcast video, or read the transcript summary. CLICK HERE
- HOOSIERS ENTER WEEK 5 AS UNDERDOGS TO NEBRASKA Indiana football heads to Lincoln, Neb. for a Week 5 matchup with the Cornhuskers at 7:30 p.m. ET. Nebraska is favored by 5.5 points, according to the SI Sportsbook. CLICK HERE