<
>

Planning for success: Indiana

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson glanced down at his notes and circled back to Iowa for more than two-and-a-half minutes Monday afternoon until he finally addressed the news that everyone awaited.

Quarterback Nate Sudfeld was out for the season.

“I’ll give you 20 seconds to tweet,” Wilson said, glancing up at reporters. “OK, it’s out.”

The news greatly alters Indiana’s plan for success. Before, the Hoosiers could keep teams off-balance with a mixture of timely passes and rushes from one of the nation’s best running backs in Tevin Coleman. If everything went according to plan, Indiana would win in a shootout once its defense made a few key stops.

Now? Sudfeld’s injury creates a ripple effect on this team’s identity. Defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said his unit will focus on creating more turnovers, and an even greater emphasis will be placed on a rushing offense that already ranks No. 6 nationally.

The situation at Indiana is so dire that Wilson even had to entertain questions on whether the offense’s identity would change schematically, whether it would resort more toward an option attack.

“We’re not going to sit here and just run every play,” Wilson said. “Maybe the quarterback runs a little bit more but, you know, we’ll play to our strengths. ... The quarterback now is a little bit more of a runner than a thrower, but we’ll keep throwing. We’re not going to throw five passes.”

This isn’t the era of Tre Roberson and Sudfeld; there is no solid Plan B. Freshman athlete Chris Covington will line up under center, and he began the preseason at linebacker. His first career start couldn’t come at a worse time, either: Michigan State looms on the schedule Saturday afternoon.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Johns kept a steady tone and tried to sound optimistic Monday, but there was just no hiding just how much Sudfeld’s injury negatively impacts this team's plans going forward.

“It’s really going to be a lot of fun because now I get to coach and teach kids just the basic fundamentals of the game,” Johns said. “Not that it wasn’t fun to coach Nate Sudfeld, but Nate was on a different level. Now it’s like you get to go back to Square One, which for us as coaches is exciting.”

That phrase was actually spoken in a sincere tone, although it would’ve made just as much sense if Johns sarcastically talked about how much he looked forward to starting from scratch. Because that’s basically what Indiana is forced to do now.

Covington isn’t ready. He finished 3-of-12 for 31 yards and two interceptions in Sudfeld’s absence against Iowa. But there’s really no one else. Freshman Zander Diamont weighs 160-some pounds, according to Wilson, and Nate Boudreau is a walk-on redshirt sophomore.

It’s Covington or bust. The Spartans boast the nation’s No. 5 run defense and will dare the Hoosiers to pass. And that challenge wasn’t lost on Wilson, who’s well-aware of the series history in the battle for the Old Brass Spittoon.

“Our last win is, what, 2006?” he asked. “So they have a nice long run. Didn’t play them every year but since ’93, I think [Indiana is] 2-14 in that series. They have controlled it, and they have this Spittoon and we need to go get that thing.

“And if we don’t play hard and play well, they will keep it.”