High-scoring IU seeks efficiency vs. Navy

September, 5, 2013
9/05/13
2:30
PM ET
One stat that Kevin Wilson hardly ever cares about is time of possession.

The Indiana coach loves lightning-quick scoring drives by his offense and doesn't much worry about his defense spending more time on the field.

"As long as you score real fast, it's not a problem," Wilson told ESPN.com this spring. "The deal is points. As long as you score, life's good. They take yards off sometimes, but they don't take points off."

But Saturday's home game against Navy might be one time when Wilson gives more thought to time of possession. Well, sort of. He'll be more concerned with efficiency of possessions.

Wilson remembers all too well last year's 31-30 loss to the Midshipmen. Indiana had 11 possessions the entire game, and while it scored on six of its drives, that wasn't enough. Navy had three five-plus minute drives, keeping the Hoosiers offense on the sidelines. IU helped its opponent out by kicking three field goals and throwing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown.

"To win this game, it's not just stopping their option," Wilson said. "It's also how you play as an offense. You can drive the ball on these guys, but you need touchdowns not field goals. Last year, we kicked three field goals, and that's a formula to lose when you're playing an option team.

"Your negatives get magnified, because you don't get as many swings. You don't get as many at-bats."

In last week's 73-35 win over Indiana State, the Hoosiers had 18 possessions and had eight scoring drives that lasted less fewer 90 seconds. That's efficiency, and Indiana leads the FBS in scoring after one week. But Wilson said the FCS Sycamores loaded the box with at least seven defenders on most plays and featured man-to-man coverage in the secondary, leading to some IU deep strikes. He doesn't expect to see the same look this week.

"Navy is typically been more of an umbrella, soft coverage defense," he said. "They might give up some first downs, but they're not going to give up big plays. They'll keep playing and hope you screw up."

While Navy didn't dominate time of possession last year -- its average of 31:11 per game was 30th in the FBS -- its style of play usually shortens the game. Coach Ken Niumatalolo isn't afraid to go for it on fourth down, and the option game often puts the Midshipmen in manageable third- and fourth-down distances.

Indiana is still young on defense -- six true freshmen played on that side of the ball in the opener -- and that's a recipe for disaster against the triple option. But the Hoosiers did get experience against Navy last season and spent several practice periods this offseason preparing for the Midshipmen attack, with starters Tre Roberson and Kofi Hughes mimicking the option. Still, Navy didn't play last week, so Niumatalolo could throw out some new wrinkles.

"The unknown is, what's Navy going to do?" Wilson said. "Trust me, they're going to come out in some unbalanced and funky formations."

The Hoosiers have bowl aspirations this season, and to achieve that goal they have to win a game like this, especially at home. They'll likely get fewer chances to score this week, so they'll have to make the most of them.

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