by Jonah Rosenblum (@jonahlrosenblum)
Snippet of the Day: A Bite-Sized Challenge
For those of you who didn't read Monday's Snippet and Stat, one of the things I pointed out was that Indiana's offensive line was far smaller than Northwestern's offensive line. The Hoosiers' heaviest starter, after all, weighs in at just 299 pounds, a pittance compared to the 315-pounder and three 310-pounders that make up the Wildcats' offensive line. Color Brian Arnfelt, the defensive tackle who looks to be one of the primary beneficiaries of such a diminutive offensive line, unimpressed, however. The senior captain said that regardless of size, Indiana boasts an impressive offensive line, one that he has great respect for. In fact, he hadn't even noticed a few inches and a few pounds here and there.
"We're focused on what we're doing," Arnfelt said. "Like I said, on film, they look like a real good offensive line so we're just trying to prepare for them."
And for that matter, Arnfelt has a point. The Hoosiers are first in the Big Ten in passing yards per game and second in total offense, buoyed by an offensive line that has surrendered just five sacks in three games, a mere half of what Northwestern's offensive line has given up thus far this season.
"You have to prepare for their schemes, their players, what they do," Arnfelt said.
But don't expect too many new wrinkles out of Northwestern's defensive line on Saturday.
"It's something that we work on every day, attacking the line of scrimmage," Arnfelt said. "We're not going to do anything on Saturday that we haven't practiced day in and day out throughout the season and throughout camp. It's all about consistency."
For Northwestern, just continuing what has worked so well the last four games would be a positive start. After finishing dead last in the Big Ten in sacks last year, the Wildcats are back in the middle of the pack this year, and more important, they've been forcing quarterbacks out of the pocket with surprising frequency. Arnfelt credited all of that to an increased energy along the line.
"It just comes from our energy," Arnfelt said. "We come in day in and day out and just bring great energy to practice and a lot of that leads into the games. I've been here for five years and this team is the most excited to come in and prepare every day that I've ever been around."
Stat of the Day: Growing Gains or Growing Pains?
Pat Fitzgerald has let several true freshmen see the playing field thus far this season, but that's nothing compared to what Kevin Wilson did in Bloomington.
Last season, the Indiana coach played 30 freshmen, the most in the country, including 16 true freshmen. These freshmen didn't just stand around either. Overall, Indiana's underclassmen contributed 101.3 percent of the team's rushing yards, 100.6 percent of the team's total yards and all of the team's rushing touchdowns, completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. Underclassmen also accounted for nine of Indiana's 10 receiving touchdowns, 1,803 of Indiana's 2,393 receiving yards and 152 of Indiana's 211 receptions.
While quarterback Tre Roberson, running back D'Angelo Roberts and wide receiver Shane Wynn highlighted the Hoosiers' then-freshmen class, 11 true freshmen made it into the starting lineup, along with six redshirt freshmen and 10 sophomores.
Indiana's youth presumably played a part in its winless Big Ten season and 1-11 record overall. Another year of experience could lift the Hoosiers to new heights, and indeed, the added experience already seems to be paying off for wide receivers Cody Latimer and Shane Wynn, two of the team's leaders this season, as well as their trio of quarterbacks, which has just one pick thus far this season, compared to 11 last season.