LINCOLN, Neb. — All the Nebraska defensive coaches insist that Indiana isn’t Oregon.
Yes, they both run high-tempo offenses. And yes, they both gain a lot of yards and keep you on your heels.
The main difference is that Indiana is Oregon on a leash. The Hoosiers are a more controlled, methodical Oregon, that will hit you hard, and hit you fast, but on their terms.
“Oregon, they’ll hit you inside and all of a sudden they’ve got all that speed and they’re going to the outside in the run game,” Nebraska defensive coordinator Mark Banker said. “(Indiana) truly controls the game and they do a nice job.”
The Hoosiers are likely the most complete offense Nebraska will have faced this season. They’re currently the No. 1 pass offense in the Big Ten and are fourth in total offense, averaging 453 total yards per game. It’s an offense Nebraska coach Mike Riley loves watching.
“It is one of those that I kind of watch, and I look at their film with a lot of admiration because you can see a flow to it, what they’re doing in the running game, how they pressure with the running game and the play-action and what that puts on the defense,” Riley said.
The key to the Indiana offense is how fast they get back to the line of scrimmage after big plays, a trait Oregon has built a brand on.
For an example, against Ohio State after a 32-yard screen pass, Indiana lined up pretty much right when the ball was set for play again.
By the time Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow received the snap, only three seconds ticked off the game clock.
But that’s not what’s special about Indiana, Nebraska defensive backs coach Brian Stewart said. What’s special is how they can throw off a defense by rushing up to the line of scrimmage then shutting their tempo down.
“Their QB will get you lined up, can tempo you, but he can also get you lined up and then look across and get the call and change,” Stewart said. “Oregon wasn’t as much change-at-the-line as these guys. These guys want to make sure they get into a good play.”
Later against Ohio State, the Hoosiers converted on a third-and-6 and hurried to the line for first down, only to pause and call a new play.
There’s no real knowing of when Indiana will go fast or hit the brakes. Some of it might have to do with the way the opposing defense lines up, and whether or not they know what the defensive call is.
More than anything, Banker said, Indiana is going to rely on the defense making mistakes and biting on play fakes. And if that doesn’t work, they’ll try something else at a tempo they want.
“If they’re not ahead or they don’t like what they have going in the course of the game, then at some point in time in the second half, they’ll have to come after you differently,” Banker said.
It’s not any better than Oregon, or worse. It depends on who you ask, Nebraska linebackers coach Trent Bray said.
“I think there are arguments either way of which is tougher, but the thing that they do is they know what they do and they’re confident in what they do,” Bray said. “And they’re going to keep doing it until they get you.”