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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hoosiers look for perfection at Murray State

Friday, September 5, 2008


AP Sports Writer

BLOOMINGTON -- Winning just isn't good enough for Indiana any more.

Yes, coach Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers saw quarterback Kellen Lewis redeem himself by tearing through an opposing defense last week. Yes, they watched an improved run defense allow just 63 yards on the ground. Yes, they delivered a convincing win over a Western Kentucky -- seven-win team from last season.

But these Hoosiers expect all that every week -- and a little more. The next test comes Saturday against Murray State.

"There are areas where we have to improve, and things that we've got to do better as we get ready to play Murray State," Lynch said. "We had two three-and-outs in the game -- the first series of each half. That's a point of emphasis; you really don't want to do that."

Lynch understands that the Hoosiers' quest for back-to-back bowl games, something they haven't achieved since 1990 and 1991 has begun.

They must get things fine-tuned before the Big Ten season opens Sept. 27, and there are legitimate concerns after Saturday's 31-13 victory.

Aside from Lewis' masterful performance against Western Kentucky, the Hoosiers ran 32 times for 112 yards -- a slightly below average 3.5 yards per carry.

They'd like to force more than one turnover per game, as was the case last week, and when Indiana (1-0) had a chance to put the game away early, they couldn't quite seal it until a 62-yard TD run from Lewis.

Call it confidence or nitpicking, but the players understand they can perform better.

"It's a good start," defensive end Ryan Marando said. "We made some mistakes, but overall it was a good game and a good win."

Getting defensive end Greg Middleton, the nation's sacks leader last season, back should help, too. Middleton was suspended for disciplinary reasons next week.

They face a Murray State team (1-0) that defeated Lambuth (Tenn.) 24-3 last week for its first season-opening win since 2004. That's also the last time the Racers posted a winning season, and Indiana is wary of this Football Championship Subdivision team.

"Offensively, they do a lot of things as far as bursting out of formations, and they'll line up in one formation and then turn to a different formation," linebacker Geno Johnson said. "I think that is the amazing thing about their offense. They are fast."

The Hoosiers aren't even sure which quarterback they'll see.

Starter Jeff Ehrhardt was injured in the second quarter, and backup Nico Yantko went 10-of-15 for 156 yards with two touchdowns.

Not bad for a junior, who spent last season playing defense.

"They really exploded in the second half," Lynch said. "Their quarterback got hurt and they put another guy in who played very well. I think they're athletic and they have a real good grasp of how to defend the spread."

But defending Lewis is tricky for Big Ten teams, much less an FCS team.

After serving a four-month suspension for violating team rules, Lewis opened fall practice in a quarterback competition.

He won that battle, then was sensational last week. Lewis, a second-team all-conference choice in 2007, rushed nine times for 185 yards, became the first player in school history with two TD runs longer than 60 yards in the same game, and threw for 144 yards and two TDs.

What does he do for an encore?

"I want to cut down on the mental mistakes," Lewis said. "I had that one interception where I put the ball on the front shoulder instead of the back shoulder. So I want to cut those down."

No, the Hoosiers aren't complaining about already having one win on the board.

They just expect to see consistent improvement all season long.

"There are things you can point out and work off of now that we've played a game," Lynch said. "Up until you've played a game, you are just working off of practice tape and what happened in practice. Everybody in America goes through the same thing."

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