College Football Preview: Virginia vs. Indiana

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 9, 2011

Associated Press
BLOOMINGTON, Ind.ó Indiana coach Kevin Wilson has spent the last week making corrections.
He’s trying to build a stouter defense, get more consistency on offense and allow his players to worry a little less and play a lot harder.
On Saturday night, against Virginia, the Hoosiers will get show everyone what they’ve learned.
“I think if you’re a good coach, you put yourself in the position of your kids and say ‘What can I tweak?'” Wilson said.
In this case, there’s plenty to fix.
The Hoosiers (0-1) ran for a meager 3.2 yards per carry and didn’t score a touchdown in the second half during last week’s season-opening loss to Ball State. Indiana gave up 210 yards rushing, had no pass rush and couldn’t seem to get off the field.
And if the Hoosiers don’t make drastic improvements in Week 2, well, the home opener could wind up looking a lot like Week 1. Indiana hasn’t started 0-2 since 2003.
The tweaks start on defense, where the Hoosiers have to get stronger against the run. Wilson expected the deep rotation of experienced defensive tackles to be one of Indiana’s strengths this season. That wasn’t the case last week.
Returning starters Larry Black Jr. and Adam Replogle and backups Mick Mentzer and Nicholas Sliger remain the top four players on the depth chart, so Wilson is looking to give them some help from the back seven.
“I remember (Oklahoma coach) Bob Stoops used to tell his defensive backs, ‘Don’t be worried about getting beat deep,'” Wilson said. “The message was that if you can’t stop the run, you’ll have a bad night.”
It’s something that should resonate with the Hoosiers after watching tape of Virginia (1-0).
Second-year coach Mike London believes Virginia’s offense is similar to that being used by Ball State and new coach Pete Lembo. London and Lembo coached against one another in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The numbers reflect the similarities.
Virginia used a three-man rushing attack to churn out 254 yards and four scores in a 40-3 rout of William & Mary in the opener. Redshirt freshman Kevin Parks ran for 114 yards, averaging 7.1 yards per run, while junior Perry Jones and true freshman Clifton Richardson each topped 50 yards. The combination opened things up for Michael Rocco, who completed his first 11 passes and finished 21 of 29 for 174 yards in his first career start.
Of course, the Cavaliers piled up those numbers at home against a perennial FCS playoff contender.
This week’s challenge is winning on the road, something London couldn’t accomplish in five tries during his first season in Charlottesville. But that’s not necessarily the focal point this week.
“We’re going to play a team that’s known for being physical, tough, in a physically rugged league,” London said. “We’re going to have to ask for the same type of effort from everybody again — even to play better.”
The Cavaliers certainly have the size to get physical.
Virginia’s offensive line averages 6-foot-5, 306 pounds, and that’s bigger than any of Indiana’s starting defensive linemen.
But to London, the Cavaliers line has to do more than just mash defenders.
“When it’s time to throw the ball, the offensive line has to provide protection, to open it back up where they have to play with two safeties and go seven-man box,” he said. “It’s elementary. But as elementary as it sounds you have to be efficient and you have to execute. ”
The Hoosiers have lots of motivation, too.
Last week’s loss ended a seven-game win streak on opening weekend. Indiana has won nine straight home openers, and some players are still motivated by the 47-7 drubbing Virginia delivered two years ago in the only other meeting between these schools. Plus, the Hoosiers want to prove that last week’s dismal opener was an aberration.
“I just remember that we lost and we owe those guys big time,” receiver Damarlo Belcher said. “Hopefully, we can give those guys a good game this weekend.”