Bloomington – The absence of some big names on offense paved the way for a big day for defensive end Greg Middleton and the Hoosier defense in Saturday’s scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.
With starting left tackle Rodger Saffold and left guard Pete Saxon sitting out due to minor injuries, Middleton totaled three sacks and six tackles to help the defense have its way with the offense for most of the afternoon in front of 1,500 IU fans.
“I have the same approach no matter who is in there, and that’s to get out there and compete and do the best I can,” said Middleton, who led the nation with 16 sacks last season. “Rodger was out, so I was able to do some things that maybe I wouldn’t be able to do when he was in there.”
In a scrimmage that generally featured the No. 1s going against the No. 1s and the No. 2s versus the No. 2s, the offense was able to muster only one touchdown – a nine-yard touchdown pass from Ben Chappell to Ray Fisher in the corner of the end zone late in the afternoon during red zone work.
The offense did produce another big play early in the afternoon when tailback Marcus Thigpen took a handoff up the middle and then bounced outside for a 57-yard gain, but otherwise it was the defense that dominated play for the nearly 100-play scrimmage.
“The defense was pretty good all day long and that’s what you’d hope,” said IU Coach Bill Lynch. “I’ve been saying all along I think we have a pretty good defense, I think we have some depth on defense. Other than the one big play early where Marcus got loose, I thought they did a really good job.”
Quarterbacks Ben Chappell and Kellen Lewis both had plenty of opportunities Saturday, with each working with both the No. 1 and No. 2 offensive units. Statistically Chappell had the better afternoon, completing 13-of-21 throws for 126 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Lewis, meanwhile, was 6-of-16 for 29 yards through the air and managed only eight yards rushing on 10 carries.
Lynch has yet to name a starter at quarterback, and the two figure to continue to compete for the job next week. While Chappell’s numbers were better Saturday, Lynch said that won’t weigh very heavily into the staff’s evaluation of how they each played.
“You take into account who’s in there with them, who they’re going against,” Lynch said. “Statistics are the last thing you look at. For those guys, as much as they’ve played, you take it in the context of everything we’ve seen.”
A couple of IU’s top wide receivers also missed the scrimmage, as Andrew Means continues to nurse a foot injury and freshman Tandon Doss was still out due to an academic matter that the university hopes will be sorted out early next week. Colin Taylor topped the receivers with six catches for 74 yards, while Fisher added six catches for 34 yards and the touchdown.
Other than Thigpen’s big run early, the offense wasn’t able to mount much of a ground attack either. Thigpen finished with 67 yards on six carries, while Bryan Payton (five carries, 11 yards) and Demetrius McCray (five carries, 10 yards) didn’t break off any big runs as well. The second leading rusher was actually freshman Darius Willis, who had five carries with the No. 3 offense for 14 yards and also had three receptions for another 35 yards.
In addition to Middleton’s big afternoon No. 2 middle linebacker Tyler Replogle finished with a team-high seven tackles and cornerback Richard Council produced the day’s only turnover when he intercepted a Chappell throw early on. Council was working with the No. 1 unit Saturday, but said it wasn’t an indication that he had moved ahead of the other corners fighting for the starting job opposite Chris Phillips.
“Today just happened to be my day to be with the 1s, so coach let me and Adrian (Burks) and Phillips rotate with the 1s,” Council said.
As is the case with the starting quarterback job, no timetable has been set for settling on a starter. But Council admits he’s anxious to find out how things will ultimately play out.
“I’m real anxious – I’ve been anxious since I got back for the summer,” Council said. “I’m working hard every day and trying to stand out.”
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