Bloomington, Ind.- Saturdays match up with Northwestern not only marks Homecoming and the first home Big Ten game for the Hoosiers, but it is also the start of the second half of the season. Despite a 1-5 record, the Hoosiers have shown improvement over last year in several categories most notably against the run. Indiana is only giving up 156.5 yards rushing a game in 2003 compared to 235 last year.
I would say we are a better team than we were a year ago, Indiana head coach Gerry DiNardo said. We have to work on pass offense, pass defense, sudden change (turnover or turnover on downs) in area three (when drive starts between midfield to opponents 25), goal-line offense. When a team starts in area three, 53% of the time they will score either a field goal or touchdown. Our percentages are well below that. If it doesnt happen all that often, we should still be scoring at a 53% rate, and we are nowhere near that. We didnt score last year either, so this has been a two-year problem. And when we are goal-to-go, we have to score.
Northwestern won last seasons shootout 41-37, thanks in large part to the 21-point third quarter. The Hoosiers running game had two 100-yard rushers against the Wildcats last season. Sophomore Chris Taylor rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown in what was his first career 100-yard game. Taylor leads the Hoosiers with 284 rushing yards in 2003. He is one third of a solid Hoosier running back trio that each have over 250 yards rushing. Freshman BenJarvus Green-Ellis adds 271 yards rushing, while Brian Lewis has 250.
The game will be at 11:10 a.m. on Saturday. It will be televised on ESPN-Plus and can also be heard on the IU Radio Network with Don Fischer (p-b-p), Dan Thompson (analysis) and Joe Smith (pre game, halftime, post game).
Northwestern leads the all-time series, 39-33-1. The series is even in Bloomington with the two teams winning 15 games apiece. Indiana and Northwestern first met in 1899.
The 33 wins against Northwestern is the second-most for Indiana against a single opponent. The Hoosiers 36 victories against Purdue is the top win total.
Indiana Senior cornerback Duane Stone hails from Evanston, Ill., with a total of seven IU players calling the state of Illinois home. Joining Stone from the Land of Lincoln are Victory Adeyanju (Chicago), Kenny Kendal (Chicago). Tyke Spencer (Naperville), Kenni Burns (Springfield), Jason Cartwright (Schaumburg) and Aaron Mitchell (South Holland).
The last five meetings between these two teams have provided some big rushing numbers. Last season the Hoosiers rushed for 232 yards while Northwestern had 263 yards on the ground. In 1999, Indiana gained 429 yards on the ground, with the Hoosiers attempting just eight passes. One year later (2000), Northwestern posted 417 yards on the ground. IU had 316 rushing yards in 2001, a game that saw Northwestern throw the ball 57 times.
Entering Saturdays contest with a 2-4 overall record and an 0-2 mark in Big Ten play are the Northwestern Wildcats.
Northwestern can run the ball. The Wildcats average 165.0 rushing yards per game, but have a hard time translating those rushing yards into points. Northwestern averages 18.0 points per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Northwestern is still trying to find itself. The Wildcats allow 162.2 rushing yards, 247.8 passing yards and 410.0 total yards per game.
Last Time Out for the Wildcats
Northwestern got out to a 14-0 lead at the end of the first quarter in last weeks home tilt againt Minnesota, but the Golden Gophers stormed back by rattling off 42 consecutive points en route to a 42-14 victory. Jason Wright was contained by the Golden Gophers, who held him to 51 yards on 15 carries (3.4 ypc).
Who To Watch
Running back Jason Wright is considered to be one of the most under-appreciated players in the Big Ten. Wright has carried the ball 132 times for 579 yards and nine touchdowns this year. He averages 96.5 rushing yards per game.
Quarterback Brett Basanez is solid, completing 94 of his 173 pass attempts for 169.3 yards per game. The interception has been a problem for Basanez, who has been picked off seven times. He has thrown only one touchdown pass.
The kick game has been an issue for Northwestern, as kicker Slad Larscheid has converted on only one of his five field goal attempts on the year.
DiNardo on Northwestern
Your defensive gameplan has to start with stopping the run, whether its the wishbone or spread offense. We always start our gameplan by stopping the run, and this week will be no different. As much as Michigan State throws the ball, we still defensively game planned them by first stopping the run and then stopping the pass. Its just the way we were taught to do it.