BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Through three games this season, Indiana's offense has not looked on track.
It hasn't been one thing dooming the Hoosiers, either. The run game has struggled to get going, the offensive line hasn't protected up to its standard, Michael Penix Jr. has made poor decisions when under pressure and, a common theme from last Saturday, the receivers had uncharacteristic drops.
Whether it was reigning Big Ten Receiver of the Year Ty Fryfogle or Texas A&M transfer Cameron Buckley, there were some missed opportunities down the field for the Hoosiers.
"You go through and look at the film, we had several drops which were uncharacteristic for some of those guys, but they dropped it," Indiana coach Tom Allen said. "They did not catch the football well as a group."
The one guy who had a productive game last Saturday for the Hoosiers was Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews. Matthews had five catches for 120 yards and provided Indiana's offense with some explosive plays down the field.
"We knew he was a special player," Indiana wide receivers coach Grant Heard said. "He brings a little something different to our room. We need to get him a couple more touches, because he's an electric player."
As for Fryfogle, he had just one catch for 13 yards against the Bearcats and had three dropped passes.
But the coaching staff is anything but worried about Fryfogle.
"He had multiple drops in that game, which is not him. I don't know, he's never had a game like that since he's been here,'' Allen said. "We talked to him and sat him down because he's really practiced awesome. I've told you that. He's had a great mindset, so (the drops) really kind of caught me off guard.
"To me that just was a hiccup for him because that's not him. It's not like he's had an issue like this in the past and had to overcome it. It's been one of his strengths is going and getting the ball. I don't expect that to be anything moving forward, but he just needs to rise up and relax and just be Ty Fryfogle."
Heard isn't concerned, either. Fryfogle brings the same demeaner to each practice.
Heard called him the steadiest guy he's ever been around, using the analogy that you wouldn't know if he won the lottery or someone shot his dog.
"He's gonna be the same guy every single day," Heard said. "He's just gonna come out and work. He's just not making the plays we're used to him making. Some of the plays he made last year were spectacular, they really were. He's just got to get back into his groove and just keep harping on the little things. I expect him to have a big game this week."
As for some of the other receivers, guys like Miles Marshall, who seemed like he could take the next step this season, had one catch for 11 yards against Cincinnati.
Buckley and Javon Swinton had some targets on Saturday, but ultimately no catches from Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr.
"As a group, we've got to play better," Heard said. "We've got to provide something to this offense from top to the bottom. We've got to make more plays, help Mike out at times and make him right. That's our job. When the ball is thrown to us, we've got to make more plays, and hopefully this weekend we do that."
There isn't one person or thing to blame about Indiana's offense. It has been a collective struggle, but one thing the Hoosiers are looking for is to create more explosive plays.
Heard pointed out that it's hard to only do 10, 11 and 12-play drives for touchdowns every game. Last year, Indiana could strike quickly with pushing the ball down the field, and that's the big key for the Hoosiers going forward.
A lot goes into that. Penix has to have time to throw, he has to make a solid throw, and for Heard, he tells his guys that when the ball is thrown their way, they need to be ready.
"We've got to give that explosion to the offense," he said. "If we're called playmakers, we've got to go out there and make plays."
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