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One Day Later: With Ohio State coming, are IU’s improvements the real deal?

Head Coach Tom Allen celebrates with linebacker Aaron Casey during Saturday’s 52-0 win over Eastern Illinois. (Jared Rigdon/HN)

Yesterday, IU cruised past Eastern Illinois 52-0 in the home opener, the largest margin of victory in Memorial Stadium’s history, which stretches back to 1960.

It was an all-around complete performance. If anything, the only flaw was the loss of the 19-game turnover streak.

It was a game that saw all three quarterbacks play given the lopsided score, but nothing is changing with the order in the quarterback room.

Peyton Ramsey was fantastic in relief of Michael Penix. He was 13-for-14 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. That’s compared to Penix’s 14-for-20 performance for 197 yards and two touchdowns.

Ramsey was more efficient than Penix, but Ramsey didn’t come in until the game was long over. Yes, it was long over in the second quarter.

And no matter what Ramsey had done, he wasn’t going to come anywhere close to unseating Penix.

Penix is the guy for this football team, and while his numbers might not have been as good as Ramsey’s Saturday, they were still quite good. Penix has proven in two straight games to be the spark that gets the IU offense rolling. He went 5-for-7 passing on IU’s first drive leading to the opening touchdown pass to Miles Marshall.

If anything, getting Ramsey in Saturday was simply because of the score and getting him a chance to play as well. Allen didn’t want Ramsey’s first action to come in a crucial Big Ten game.

In fact, Penix cleaned up his mistakes from a week ago. He didn’t have the same mental mistakes that led to the two interceptions he threw against Ball State.

His yardage numbers weren’t as good as last week, but he didn’t even play a full half. And even then, Penix had more touchdowns in this time against Eastern Illinois than he did against Ball State.

Ramsey was great Saturday, but it was against Eastern Illinois, already up big. This is Penix’s job and he only tightened his grip on it with his strong first two weeks.

But against an opponent like Eastern Illinois, it can be tough to tell what’s real, and what isn’t.

“We play who is scheduled on our schedule, and don’t take anything for granted,” IU head coach Tom Allen said.

On paper, Eastern Illinois might be the weakest team on IU’s schedule. It certainly looked that way on the field Saturday. Eastern Illinois is an FCS team that won just three games last year, has a new head coach and simply doesn’t have the type of team it had in the days of Tony Romo or Jimmy Garoppolo.

The strength of the passing game was real. Penix and Ramsey both shredded Eastern Illinois as the team put up 441 passing yards. That’s pretty much right on line with what IU did against Ball State last week, especially if the two dropped touchdowns at Lucas Oil Stadium had been caught.

There is a clear difference in the passing game from Mike DeBord’s offense to Kalen DeBoer’s. DeBoer’s system is a significantly more dynamic attack stretching the field in ways DeBord didn’t.

The question is, what’s real on defense?

The mistakes were absolutely cleaned up. Missed tackling wasn’t an issue. IU didn’t allow Eastern Illinois to break over 100 total yards until about midway into the fourth quarter.

Missed tackles will likely be a focus yet again in practice as the talent IU will face on offense next week is about to take a massive step up.

A top-five Ohio State team comes to Bloomington next weekend, by far the best team IU will have played so far.

IU didn’t have to make a ton of tackles in the open field against Eastern Illinois, but that might not be the case next week with Ohio State’s weapons on the outside, and J.K. Dobbins in the backfield. IU swarmed in the backfield all game long Saturday, but against an offense line with NFL talent, will that happen again?

The defense was nearly flawless against Eastern Illinois, a massive improvement from a Ball State game littered with flaws. Is the real IU defense the one that had the imperfections against Ball State, and are these improvements a mirage from a weak opponent? Or is this real, did the defense take the step from week one to week two with a game now under their belts?

Allen’s word of the week for Eastern Illinois was consistency. It will be hard for IU to remain consistent with the performance it had against Eastern Illinois especially against teams like Ohio State.

Can the strength of the passing game remain consistent and can the defense continue to consistently improve? IU got the best momentum boost it possibly could have gotten ahead of facing the Buckeyes. This team will continue to prove what was real for Eastern Illinois and what wasn’t in the weeks to come.

“I think we all know what is coming,” Allen said. “So I think to be able to have a game like this after week one and be able to address the things that we addressed and to see them improved upon, which is the key, that was real important for us.”

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