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Picking up the pace

BY JACOB SHEYKO | OCTOBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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The typical thought is that a spread offense and passing go hand-in-hand. If this is so, then Indiana goes against the grain.

The Hoosiers’ offense moves at a fast pace, and Indiana spaces the field and puts up plenty of points. But unlike most conventional spread offenses, Indiana’s is built on the running game.

More specifically, it’s built on running back Tevin Coleman.

Iowa has already faced its share of talented backs this season, but the Hawkeyes haven’t faced one with the  unique offense Indiana possesses.

“That’s maybe a misconception about them is that they’re a throwing team,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “They throw the ball really well. They run it well. They’re tempo offense.”

Iowa’s bye week came at the perfect time for several reasons. The team had health concerns — specifically quarterback Jake Rudock. Also, with the announcement of the two-quarterback system, it gave the Hawkeyes a week to test the waters.

Even more, the bye week allowed Iowa more time to prepare for Indiana, which has proven difficult for other teams this season.

Indiana runs a lot of plays, fifth-most in the Big Ten, although the difference between fifth and third is just four plays. Nationally, the Hoosiers’ 405 plays ran ranks 38th.

To compare: Iowa has run 370 plays. 

“Obviously, you got to stop them,” defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat said. “We stop their offense, get our offense in a rhythm, I think you always get a team out of their tempo doing that.”

The aspect worrying the Hawkeyes more than the pace of play is Indiana’s ground game.

Of its 81 plays per game, just under 50 of those are rushing attempts. Not only do the Hoosiers run frequently, they run efficiently. As a team, they’re averaging 300 yards per game and 6.07 yards per attempt. 

For Iowa, defending the run is nothing new. The Big Ten is mainly built around its running backs, and Iowa slowed Pittsburgh’s prolific rushing attack to varying degrees three weeks ago.

The one thing that sets Indiana’s rushing game apart from anyone Iowa has played this season is Coleman — although, Ferentz is more worried about the rushing attack as a whole rather than just Coleman.

“Yeah, the running back is excellent,” Ferentz said. “You think beyond all three backs. They’re all really good.”

Maybe Ferentz was being general. Maybe the name slipped his mind. But that quote speaks to just how under the radar Coleman has gone this season.

“The running back” is second in the nation with 168.2 yards per game, and he averages just over 8 yards per carry, fourth among backs with 75 or more carries.

Coleman’s also a threat to catch the ball out of the backfield — 13 catches for 127 yards, something Iowa’s struggled defending at times this season.

In short, Iowa’s rush defense may get tested on Saturday more than it has all season.

“You got to stop the run, make them one-dimensional, make them pass it,” defensive tackle Carl Davis said. “And then start getting pressure on the quarterback, make him a little scared back there. Get him on his toes, having him scared to see who’s coming.”

Follow @JacobSheyko on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis of the Iowa football team.


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