Football Q&A with Indiana columnist/former beat reporter Chris Korman of the Bloomington Herald-Times
Each week, AnnArbor.com will have a chat with a beat writer/radio personality from the team Michigan is facing to get a feel for what's going on in Kalamazoo, South Bend or Champaign.
This week, Bloomington (Ind.) Herald-Times sports editor Chris Korman joined us to chat. Check in with him and Indiana beat writer Dustin Dopirak at The Hoosier Scoop.
Michael Rothstein: The main thing about Indiana has been this pistol offense they installed. Is it working?Â
Chris Korman: “It’s a good question. We were actually talking about that the other night. It’s so hard to tell. It’s just a part of their offense. They are still pretty multiple. They’ll still run a five wide receiver set, they run a lot of two tight ends, non-shotgun formation. It’s just another part. It’s an element that mixes things up. What they want to do is run downhill, they just want to have a guy start when he gets the ball but you can’t do that when you have an off-set back and that’s really what they were going after. They don’t have a fullback so they can’t run I. It’s really been the big story but it really, the way it’s played out, is that it is just another formation. So to say it’s really been the difference, has it confused defenses, has it given the backs the room they need to gain yards, it’s just tough. The Wildcat, which they run with Mitch Evans, you look at that and say ‘OK, that really sort of gets a defense on edge more so than the pistol.’ But it’s hard to tell exactly.”
MR: I was watching the Western game and their defense looked really susceptible to being gashed up the middle and they looked not very strong at all in run support. Is that their biggest problem?
CK: “Yeah, absolutely. Indiana has five defensive tackles that play but none of them played a snap at the position before the season. One is a true freshman, three are redshirt freshmen and another here moved over from the offensive line. Their linebackers are average at best, (Tyler) Replogle is a pretty good rush linebacker but otherwise they have guys who run themselves out of position, aren’t exactly as big as you’d want a Big Ten linebacker to be so it’s just not there. Like you said, they get gashed a lot and they haven’t played a real good running team. Akron just had no running attack and that’s where that game got away from them. But Michigan and those big backs, you just wonder how Indiana is going to stop them. They haven’t stopped someone who wanted to run the ball since I’ve been here, three years. They’ve never put it down and stopped a team.”
MR: Following on that, with saying they haven't stopped a team that wanted to run the ball, how legit is this 3-0 record?
CK: “Oh, I don’t know. The Akron game was certainly a legit win. They went into a decent MAC team, I don’t know how good Akron is going to end up being and they were without their starting quarterback, but a decent MAC team, a well-respected program, playing in a new stadium and they pushed them around. But you contrast that with Western Michigan and that Eastern Kentucky game, Indiana was awful and barely squeaked out a win there. A lot of people say ‘Well, it’s the first week,’ but Indiana really should have been able to push them around and it just didn’t happen. It’s tough to tell. I think what everyone is looking at here is that Indiana is getting better. If that continues, hopefully you can project that Indiana would have a chance against some teams that you thought they wouldn’t. But what happens, going into the Big House and you forget a lot about improving and what your coaches tell you that week. It’s a tough place to play.”
MR: Getting back to that. How does Indiana win this game?
CK: “Oh, uh, it would have to be, really have to be, the two defensive ends are really the key. If they can get some consistent pressure, shake up Michigan’s offense, get to the young quarterbacks and certainly Michigan is going to be smart enough to try and run the ball a lot but if Indiana can get a few stops and then force a 3rd-and-long and you go back and get to the quarterback and that makes it a lot easier. Indiana had four interceptions this week and they were all coverage interceptions with the quarterback being under pressure. That is how they are going to have to win. That and they have to run the ball well. They ran it well against Akron where they seemed dedicated to it and gave it to their two big backs, Darius Willis and Trea Burgess, who are both 215-pound, bigger Big Ten backs that wears down the defense. That’s about the only chance Indiana has, to play old fashioned, keep-it-close, win with defense.”