Formerly pass-happy Hoosiers now run the ball with authority
IOWACITY, Ia. – Forget everything you thought you knew about Indiana's offense.
The Hoosiers still use fancy formations, but their football success hinges more on ferocity than finesse.
"This is a new challenge for us," said Carl Davis, Iowa's senior defensive tackle. "I don't think we've seen a team like this, that spreads it out and can run or pass very well."
The Hawkeyes will get an up-close look during Saturday's 11 a.m. showdown at Kinnick Stadium.
It's their first meeting with Indiana since 2012, when the Hoosiers averaged 311.2 passing yards in Kevin Wilson's second season as coach.
Now, Wilson's team is flipping the statistical script and averaging 300 rushing yards per game – eighth-best among 125 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision programs.
"A misconception about them is that they're a throwing team," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "They throw the ball really well (and) they run it well. They're a tempo offense. They really make it tough and they're playing better on defense than they did a year ago."
Tevin Coleman is the catalyst. The junior tailback ranks fourth nationally with 841 rushing yards in five games – behind Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah (878), Pittsburgh's James Conner (874) and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon (871) – giving the Big Ten's West Division another premier ball carrier.
"You don't hear about him a lot," Davis said, "but I noticed watching him last week, he is a good back. He's big and he's shifty. He can make people miss."
Coleman, who ran for 958 yards in nine games a year ago, is netting eight yards per carry with eight touchdowns.
"Their (offensive linemen) are veterans," Ferentz said. "They've got seven or eight guys who have started and played really well. They're strong, cohesive, very well coached.
"The quarterback does a great job and they have good receivers. They make you defend everything, plus they have tempo on top of it."
Even with a more ground-oriented approach, junior quarterback Nate Sudfeld is completing 61.4 percent of his passes for 213.2 yards a game. Four of his primary receivers average more than 10 yards a catch.
Despite all of this, nobody was taking the Hoosiers seriously until they upset Missouri 31-27 on Sept. 20, notching what is arguably the Big Ten's best nonconference victory this fall.
Indiana (3-2) is scoring 33 points a game and gaining 513.2 total yards.
Davis was entertained last weekend as Coleman and company rolled past North Texas 49-24 on the Big Ten Network.
"Everybody would be spread out and they'd be trying to find a seam to run through," Davis said. "They've got a good offensive line. They can block well. They get up to the next level."
The last time Iowa and Indiana met, the Hoosiers threw for 406 yards (including 91 by Sudfeld) and won 24-21.
During his weekly press conference, Wilson was asked if he saw things playing out in a similar manner this time around.
"We threw it a lot that day, didn't run it very well," he said. "So, you know, we're kind of different."