On the backs of Peyton Ramsey and the offense, the Hoosiers bounced back after an early deficit to become bowl eligible for just the third time in five years. Their 38-31 victory against the Cornhuskers answered a number of questions about this Hoosier team, including the sustainability of the offense for either quarterback under center and the reliability of Peyton Ramsey as Indiana’s backup. Finally, Indiana had a second foe (the first being Maryland) worthy enough to prove the capabilities of this team.
While Michael Penix Jr. has been getting the national attention, Ramsey has improved in his own right and has played well under Kalen DeBoer’s offensive architecture.
Below we break down the film for Indiana’s red-zone offense in Lincoln, Peyton Ramsey’s accuracy, and some secondary breakdowns against Nebraska QB Noah Vedral.
Peyton Ramsey’s accuracy.
The story going into the Saturday in Lincoln was the quarterback situation for both teams. Ultimately, both Indiana and Nebraska started their backup quarterbacks despite sending out their starters for warm-ups in full pads.
Ramsey for the Hoosiers played well all afternoon. While he does not have the same zip and velocity that Penix Jr. has shown, Ramsey remains as one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the Big Ten and in the country.
The first play we have for review comes in the second quarter after Indiana recovered a fumble for over 90-yards to be in scoring position. Indiana identifies a match-up that they liked: Ty Fryfogle against one of Nebraska’s shorter defensive backs. In this simple, yet effective play, Ramsey finds the match up and airs one to the edge of the end zone where only Fryfogle can make the play. The result is a touchdown for the Hoosiers and the lead.
We now look at two receptions to Indiana’s receiver Whop Philyor. As two of 14 receptions on the day for Philyor, Ramsey threads the needle to find his star receiver between two Nebraska defensive backs on the first play. He finds Whop on the run in the second play. Whop is not the tallest receiver, so passes to Philyor cannot be jump balls.
Ramsey’s pass frankly does not have the same speed as a Penix pass; however, his accuracy on the afternoon more than compensated for that. Ultimately this great throw and a great move from Philyor gave Indiana two first downs.
Late into the third quarter, Indiana decides to run up TE Peyton Hendershot right up the middle. With a spread Stevie Scott who Indiana was hitting earlier in the first half, the Husker defense has to respect the screen pass. With just a little bit of hesitation, the defense decides to stay back instead of tracking down Hendershot.
Ramsey hits the wide open Hendershot with an accurate pass over his left shoulder for an easy play to move the chains.
For this last play that unfortunately was ruled out of bounds, Ramsey feels the pass rush right away from the Nebraska front-line. The result is that he is in scramble-mode for the majority of the action. That does not stop Peyton Ramsey from making an impressive throw on the sideline while on the move. He finds Hendershot on the move and athletically throws while under pressure. Look at exactly where Ramsey places the ball. Hendershot has multiple defenders on him, but Ramsey is able to accurately drop the ball in the basket.
Hendershot is able to complete the diving catch, but unfortunately he was ruled out of bounds before he had possession of the ball.
Indiana’s efficient red-zone offense.
The Hoosiers have scored just as many touchdowns this year relative to the entire 2018 season in red-zone scenarios. Indiana currently sits at 25 touchdowns on 37 red-zone attempts (67.5%), while they finished last year with 25 touchdowns on 44 attempts in side the 20-yard line (56.8%).
Here’s a look at some of the offensive sets for Kalen DeBoer in the red-zone that has improved Indiana’s effectiveness in scoring positions.
Indiana spreads the offense with three-receivers on right. Scott takes away one of the defenders with a convincing fake run. Hendershot motions over to the left and looks to be a potential lateral option. Either way, the Hoosiers are in a 2-on-1 scenario. They accomplished this by stacking the receiving core up top, faking the run, and motioning Hendershot.
The defender decides to play in the middle of the two players with hesitation. The result is an untouched run into the end-zone for Ramsey.
Ellis lines up as a receiver on the left of the box, and he is motioned over by Ramsey. The Huskers remain packed in the box and decide to play Ellis man-on-man. With momentum moving to the edge, the speedy Ellis has no problem sneaking into the end-zone for six points.
On the following two-point attempt, the Hoosiers run a very simple route for the trusty Hendershot. While the play looks very similar in setup to the Ellis touchdown right before this, Indiana decides to change it up by moving Scott to the edge. Hendershot does not make any blocks on the line and instead runs straight into the secondary. With his size, he is a very easy target to hit especially with his ability to hold position using his frame. Hendershot makes an athletic catch mid-air and shakes off a hard hit.
One of the key touchdowns for the Hoosiers to take the lead in a tie-game situation, once again, displayed the Hoosiers’ willingness to use their tight ends. Sophomore Matt Bjorson lines up in the backfield with Ramsey as if he were planning to make the block for a quarterback sneak or jet-sweep. Instead, he finds the edge of the end-zone using a direct route. Nick Westbrook and Hendershot do a great job of blocking and jamming the the zone.
No problem for Ramsey to make the pass. Hoosiers take the lead and never look back from that point forward.
Some concerns in the secondary… still.
To be completely fair to Indiana’s defense, they are still an improved team overall. While they seem to be consistently out-shined by the offense – and make no mistake, Indiana is winning the games through their offense – the defense has kept Indiana in the game when it mattered the most.
On Saturday, there were a number of issues in the secondary that the Hoosiers need to resolve if they are thinking about nine or ten win seasons. Generally throughout the day, Indiana did not have any major concerns except for the early lead by Nebraska and a number of quarterback sneaks with Luke McCaffrey in the game for the Huskers.
Indiana rushes four in one of the first plays of the game and the linebackers are stalled because of a fake run. Nebraska has a number of options down the field because the Indiana secondary hesitated for just a step. JD Spielman runs straight up at Juwan Burgess on a very simple route that catches Burgess off-guard momentarily.
On the second view, you can see the Indiana clearly miscommunicates and both defensive backs move-in on the bottom of the screen. Instead, one of the two players should have fallen back into the safety position with No. 3 of Nebraska running past them. Overall a very costly secondary breakdown.
Right before halftime, Indiana gave up a wide open touchdown to WR Kanawai Noa. When the run game via running back or quarterback is working, lanes open up for the receivers as even the secondary has an eye out for the potential run. That’s what happened on this play for Marcelino Ball. He decides to hang around for just a second too long, which was enough time for his assignment to brush past him into an open end-zone.
McCaffrey recovers from a low snap in the shotgun to start this play. While the coverage was fairly solid for the Hoosiers, Ball is unable to disrupt the pass for the receiver to make the catch. Again, the mindset for Nebraska is to directly attack the defense by running straight ahead into the zone.
Thankfully Ball is able to make the solo tackle. If he missed, that could have been an easy run-in for another six points for Nebraska.
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ