Labor Day or not, Indiana held its first media availability of the week on Monday morning. The Hoosiers defeated Florida International 38-28 in Miami on Saturday, in a game where Tom Allen managed his two quarterbacks effectively. Donavan Hale snagged two touchdowns, Jonathan Crawford had a pick-six, and Indiana started its season 1-0. It will get tougher this weekend, albeit at home against Virginia. What we learned on Monday:
Cole Gest tears ACL, out for season
Days after being named the starter in the absence of suspended running back Morgan Ellison, Cole Gest has torn his ACL. Allen announced the news Monday morning, after Gest ran five times for 17 yards against FIU before suffering the injury.
It’s the second consecutive year that Indiana has lost a starter on offense during the season opener, as wideout Nick Westbrook tore his ACL on the opening kickoff last season. Gest suffered a season-ending injury in 2016, missed two games due to a concussion in 2017, and will now miss the entirety of 2018. A medical redshirt would allow for Gest to retain his sophomore eligibility status for 2019, but he already used a medical during his freshman year. Something to keep an eye on.
“I know how hard he’s worked and played extremely well when he was in there and great, great person,” Allen said. “He works unbelievably hard and, obviously, has a setback now he has to handle and we’ll be with him side by side through this whole process and he’ll come back stronger than ever and he’ll be with us again in the future. So thoughts and prayers with him through this time.”
It’s next man up for Indiana at running back. Without Ellison and Gest, it would be senior Mike Majette as the starter for Saturday. But he only carried the ball five times against FIU, as true freshman Stevie Scott led the Hoosiers with 20 carries for 71 yards. Scott is not IU’s best option at catching balls out of the backfield, but Majette is certainly able there. Expect both to split time, with more playing time for fellow senior Ricky Brookins. Allen also mentioned true freshman Ronnie Walker as another running back that must step up in the wake of early attrition.
“Stevie Scott got a lot of work on Saturday night and showed some good promise as we saw in fall camp,” Allen said Monday. “But he needs to continue to develop and grow. Mike Majette, obviously, has to expand his role. And really want to see Ronnie Walker step up and other guys and really feel like that we have a group in that room of young men that will be called upon now.”
It’s incredibly unfortunate luck for Gest, who really was primed for a big 2018. He was the Hoosiers’ quickest option at running back and seemed to have made strides with his vision and patience in the backfield. Fortunately for Indiana, it has more depth there than it has in recent memory .
“It’s tough, Ramsey said. “Man, he’s one of the hardest working guys on our team. He’s improved so much, you saw it for however long he was in there, just his burst. It’s sad for a guy like that, because of how hard he works and the kind of person he is.
Coach Tom Allen announced today running back Cole Gest has torn his ACL and will be out for the season.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 3, 2018
Allen’s evaluation of defense vs. FIU
Indiana played 16 players on Saturday night that had never played a snap of college football. Many came on defense, with the graduations of longtime starters Rashard Fant, Tegray Scales, Nate Hoff, Chase Dutra, and Chris Covington. Granted, FIU showed a rather effective running game, but IU’s defense played on its heels for multiple drives. The Panthers gouged Indiana for 170 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, including a 36-yard score from FIU’s Anthony Jones.
FIU really struggled to throw, and Indiana’s three takeaways really mitigated the damage FIU could have done. It will be interesting to see if Indiana can continue forcing takeaways on defense, and if Allen would rather trade yards for those big plays. Either way, Allen was less pleased with his defense after watching the film than he was postgame in Miami.
“I did not think we played well defensively,” Allen said. “After watching the film, I obviously saw it live and didn’t feel great about it. Really disappointed in our fits. I know we got a lot of new faces and I get that, that’s part of the growth. But I expected to have some of those issues, but I felt like there were too many and just didn’t feel like that we were able to get off the field.”
2018 is the opposite of 2017 for Indiana. A year ago, the Hoosiers boasted endless returning production on defense, but had to introduce new faces offensively. It’s switched this season, and it showed in Miami. Allen was not pleased with IU’s defense on first down, which made it easy for FIU to stay on the field and convert shorter downs. The best part of IU’s defense on Saturday was its limitation of big plays — specifically forcing FIU to endure a 16-play drive that took 6:28 off the clock in the third quarter. All four FIU scoring drives took at least 3:30 to complete.
“We didn’t give up a ton of big plays,” Allen said. “They kind of just dinked us a little bit, and we made them earn it. And especially that last one. You want to get off the field for sure, but with the lead that we had, you want to make sure that you’re maximizing burning up the clock as well in terms of you don’t want to just give up a cheapie. So our guys were keeping things in front of them and tackling pretty well.”
Allen expects IU’s defense will improve as the season goes on — and with his track record defensively, there should be optimism with that sentiment. But regardless, it likely won’t be what it was last season. As long as the Hoosiers force more takeaways in 2018, it should be good enough.
Early look at Virginia
Allen said Monday that he expects a big crowd for the home opener Saturday night, as Indiana will debut the south endzone enclosure at 7:30pm vs. Virginia. The Cavaliers defeated FCS opponent Richmond 42-13 in Charlottesville, and boast a new junior-college quarterback in Bryce Perkins — who threw for 185 yards and ran for 108 as well. He appears to be an upgrade from what UVA had last year, when IU won 34-17 on the road. Virginia has running back Jordan Ellis back as a senior, and he ran for 146 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday. Leading receiver Olamide Zaccheaus, a 5-foot-8 tailback by trade, caught six passes for 101 yards against Richmond and had a solid game vs. IU in 2017.
“They’re very good on defense,” Allen said. “they have added a new dimension offensively with a junior college quarterback that is a very gifted athlete. So we’ll have to improve from week one in order to play an ACC opponent here at home. Excited about our home opener and the opportunity for our fans to see the south end zone and all the hard work that’s gone into that and just really excited about being able to be at home.”
Virginia should be an improved team than its 6-7 team from a year ago that was blown out by Navy in the Military Bowl. We’ll have more on the Cavaliers as the week progresses.
“I remember a lot, that was a good one for me,” Ramsey said with a laugh. “But they’re a good defense, they do a lot. It’s going to be a matter of film and catching their tendencies because they’re really sound on defense.”
The Hoosiers will look to move to 2-0 when the Virginia Cavaliers come to Bloomington for a 7:30pm kickoff on Saturday.
— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) September 3, 2018