The Indiana offense leads the Big Ten in passing attempts (381) and passing yards per game (299.9). It is tied for second in the league with 19 passing touchdowns and third in scoring (33.1 points per game). Yet the Hoosiers (2-3 Big Ten, 4-5 overall) rank dead last in the conference in time of possession, averaging just 27:13 per game.
That has become the mantra in Bloomington, Ind., under second-year head coach Kevin Wilson. Throw the ball, throw it often and throw it quickly.
“They handle the up tempo offense as good as anybody,” Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said Monday in his weekly press conference. “You’ll see a lot of times on film where defenses don’t have their eyes in the right places just because they’re getting the ball snapped so fast.”
In preparation for the up-tempo attack, the coaching staff has implemented practice techniques used last winter leading up to the Badgers’ Rose Bowl matchup with Oregon. The period, dubbed “Supersonic,” is designed to force the defense to get a play call from the sideline and get aligned faster than usual.
“Our offense already knows the plays they’re going to run and they go through them as fast as they can,” sophomore defensive tackle Beau Allen said of the drill. “As a defense, that helps us get in our stance fast, get locked into all of our keys. That’s one thing that’s been really helpful during prep so far.”
Through nine games, the Hoosiers are averaging 77.4 plays per game. By contrast, Wisconsin (3-2, 6-3) runs 64.7 per game and averages nearly five minutes of possession more per game.
“A lot of teams like Indiana and Oregon and other teams that go at that supersonic pace rely on guys being misaligned,” redshirt junior middle linebacker Chris Borland said. “If you’re lined up and you have the call, you can play against anybody.”
Though IU throws the ball more than anybody in the Big Ten, Wilson—who directed prolific offenses at Oklahoma before coming to Indiana—is working with a group of young signal-callers.
IU Sophomore Cameron Coffman (1699 yards, 63.5 completion percentage, 10 TD, 4 INT) has started seven games since fellow sophomore Tre Roberson broke his leg on a horrendous play Sept. 8. Coffman has shared snaps with freshman Nate Sudfeld (632 yds., 63 pct., 7 TD, 1 INT).
Redshirt junior free safety Dez Southward said both play best when the Hoosiers start to get in rhythm.
“If you let those guys get rolling, and they have us on our heels, they can keep doing it all game,” Southward said. “If we get a three-and-out and our offense is on the field for five or six minutes, you don’t want to keep going fast and going three-and-out. It can change they way that they manage their game.”
The Sunrise, Fla., native started three games a year ago, including the Rose Bowl, when Badgers started a different combination in the secondary to maximize athleticism against the Ducks.
Oregon racked up 621 yards in a 38-31 win and did not push the pace to levels seen often this year, but Southward said the UW defense felt prepared for it and is similarly confident this week.
“What you see a lot of times when teams are really getting hurt by these guys is, Indiana’s lining up, ready to snap the ball and the whole defense is looking to the sideline waiting for the call,” he said. “You can’t defend an offense looking at the sideline.”