What went right and what went wrong in Indiana Football’s 23-20 win over Illinois

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Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak led a two-minute 75-yard drill, and Shaun Shivers advanced for the game-winning touchdown to beat Illinois 23-20 on Friday night.

Indiana coach Tom Allen acknowledged areas for improvement needed after the game, but he was proud of the character, tenacity and courage his team showed in overcoming adversity.

“We’ve got a lot to work on, there’s no doubt about that,” Allen said. “But there’s a lot of power in finding a way to win a game like that. There’s so many positive things that it creates in your team, the belief. What we went through last year, finally getting a Big Ten win in our first is just huge. I can’t put enough words into the importance of this game and the importance of finding a way to win.

This game will be remembered for Bazelak’s insurance as he led the Hoosiers on a two-minute 75-yard drill, which ended with a two-yard touchdown from Shaun Shivers to win the game. But there were plenty of storylines that played out at Memorial Stadium before this ride, both positive and negative, and we’ll detail them below.

What went well

1. Indiana has found its leader

There was skepticism going into the game about how Indiana’s offense would gel with a new coordinator, quarterback and a handful of new running backs and wide receivers.

Tom Allen said at fall camp that anyone who started at quarterback should earn the trust of the locker room. After Friday’s win, it’s clear that Connor Bazelak did just that. Wide receiver Cam Camper said he built trust and chemistry with Bazelak this offseason, but saw a different side of him on Friday.

“Honestly, it’s kind of the first time I’ve seen him speak in person, and I was happy to see that,” Camper said. “It was good to see him keep us awake. After some games he would say ‘We’re good, we’ll get the next one.’ He just came out being a leader, honestly.”

Allen said balance is one of Bazelak’s best qualities, which became evident as he calmly led the Hoosiers down the field to win the game.

2. Explosive point guards

Throughout the offseason, Allen said Indiana has focused more on making explosive plays. This seems obvious at first glance – big plays make it easier to hit and therefore more points. But when DJ Matthews went down with a torn ACL in Week 4 of last season, a player with that kind of game-changing talent was nowhere to be found.

Matthews returned to full form on Friday against Illinois and, coupled with junior college transfer Cam Camper, Indiana appears to have two big game threats for Bazelak.

Indiana scored 16 points in the first half on Friday, already more than eight of its nine Big Ten games overall in 2021. Camper led the Hoosiers with 11 catches for 156 yards, followed by Matthews, who had seven receptions for 109 yards and a touchdown.

“That was my goal,” Camper said. “Come in and try to be the guy.”

3. The defense regains an identity to take away

The turnover margin contributed to Indiana’s drastic slump from 2020 to 2021. The Hoosiers finished second in the nation with 17 interceptions in eight games in 2020, but had just five assists in 12 games l last year.

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Allen cited frustrations with Indiana moving away from basic defensive principles in 2021, so he decided to take on defensive call-to-play duties this season. And if Friday night was any indication, it could mean a return to Indiana’s ball-peddling ways.

Lance Bryant delivered a big hit to force a fumble, which was recovered by Cam Jones in the first quarter. Noah Pierre collided with an Illinois receiver on a back pass and pounced on the ball for Indiana’s second turnover of the game. And with the game on the line with less than six minutes remaining, Josh Sanguinetti dived to intercept Tommy DeVito’s knockdown near the goal line to keep Indiana in the game.

“In this game, the way it’s played today, they’re going to gain yards,” Allen said. “You have to stop them from scoring touchdowns and you have to get takeaways, and that’s what we did tonight.”

What went wrong

1. Offensive line, start play

Indiana had just 32 yards on 26 carries Friday. Winning a game with 1.2 yards per carry is a rarity, especially in the Big Ten, and the Hoosiers have a chance to start 1-0 in that regard. But when it mattered most, the offensive line got perhaps its best push of the night on Shaun Shivers’ game-winning two-yard touchdown.

Allen said Illinois played a stacked defensive pattern to stop the run, but he acknowledged Indiana needed to improve in that area of ​​the game. The stat sheet will show that Bazelak was only sacked once, but he felt pressure throughout the night, especially in the third quarter when Indiana had four straight possessions.

“Not good enough to win games consistently,” Allen said. “But we won this game.”

Senior right tackle Matthew Bedford was injured on Friday, and Allen said they will know more about his status in the coming days. Losing a four-year-old starter like Bedford would be a huge setback for an offensive line that struggled in Game 1.

The offensive line was arguably Indiana’s biggest concern at the end of the 2021 season, but the personnel is largely the same this season. At this point, Indiana can only hope for internal development from this unit.

2. Run the Defense

Allen admitted he was concerned about Indiana’s tackling ability during an 80-90 game that started Friday. Due to the plethora of injuries suffered by the Indiana defense in 2021, Allen took a more conservative approach to spring training and fall camp.

“We’ve attacked live less in the history of my coaching career,” Allen said.

Illinois running back Chase Brown carried the ball 36 times for 199 yards on Friday. Everyone knows he’s the go-to guy for the Illini, but that doesn’t make stopping him much easier.

“Chase Brown is a very good running back,” Allen said. “He’s put together, he’s fast and he’s explosive, and I think he’s one of the best running backs in the Big Ten without a doubt and we didn’t tackle him very well.

While Indiana’s defense struggled to stop Brown for most of the night, the Hoosiers made two saves at a crucial fourth quarter moment. With 10 minutes left in the game, Illinois handed the ball to Brown at third-and-base from the two-yard line, but he was immediately stuffed by Cam Jones and Josh Sanguinetti. The Illini decided to go for it, trusting their All-Big Ten running back, but JH Tevis burst down the middle of the line and Aaron Casey crashed from the edge for a three-yard loss.

  • BAZELAK LEADS INDIANA TO A WINNING DRIVE In his first game in an Indiana uniform, quarterback Connor Bazelak led the Hoosiers 75 yards downfield, eventually feeding the ball to running back Shaun Shivers for a 2-yard touchdown to give Indiana a 23-20 win over Illinois in their season. opener. CLICK HERE
  • WHAT TOM ALLEN SAID AFTER INDIANA WINS OVER ILLINOIS Indiana beat Illinois 23-20 Friday night in the Hoosiers’ season opener at Memorial Stadium. Here’s what Tom Allen said after the match at the press conference. CLICK HERE
  • PHOTO GALLERY: Check out 30 photos from Indiana’s first win over Illinois, the Hoosiers’ first Big Ten victory in two seasons! Relive the magic inside Memorial Stadium under the Friday night lights. CLICK HERE
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