Indiana football quarterback Connor Bazelak was missing his top two receivers last week against Nebraska. When he needed a play, he turned to the team’s remaining receivers.
On the ground, the Hoosiers only averaged 1.5 yards per rush, excluding one long run late in the first half.
The offense has struggled this season — it ranks 10th in total offense in the Big Ten and 13th in rushing offense — largely due to an absence of consistent playmakers.
Indiana welcomes No. 4 Michigan for its homecoming on Saturday, and if it wants any chance to stay competitive, it needs the playmakers to show up.
Cam Camper and D.J. Matthews
While Emery Simmons caught six passes for 57 yards Andison Coby caught five for 54 yards, the absence of Cam Camper and D.J. Matthews Jr. left the offense clearly desperate for options.
Camper missed the game with a non-COVID illness, while a lingering hamstring issue Matthews sustained at Cincinnati kept him out. Both are questionable to return against Michigan.
“It's always difficult when you lose two guys that have been your most productive playmakers, but at the same time other guys have to step up,” head coach Tom Allen said in Monday’s press conference. “I think we had five drops, which is something we can't have. We needed those catches in those situations and challenge those guys to step up in that. And that's part of the execution piece to help a quarterback out and help our whole offense out.”
Camper has been Indiana’s best receiver by far this season, leading the team in every category but touchdowns. He’s caught 33 passes for 418 yards, roughly double Matthews’ second-place production.
His connection with Bazelak have allowed the two to continually bail out Indiana’s offense. On average this season he’s been targeted 11.1 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, and he’s caught 33% of contested passes.
Matthews, meanwhile, has seen decreased production since a 109-yard performance against Illinois. Against Western Kentucky, his last full game, Matthews had just five catches for 41 yards, but his counterbalance alongside Camper has helped Indiana.
Whether the two leading receivers play or not, offensive coordinator Walt Bell wants to make sure Bazelak gets comfortable with the rhythm of the offense.
“There’s no substitute for easy completions,” Bell said. “We’ve gotta continue to do that, continue to manufacture easy throws.”