Indiana preview: Last game before Sun Belt play

GS sophomore wideout Obe Fortune lines up to the left of Shai Werts on the offense against Auburn. Fortune has caught three passes for 21 yards so far this season.

Thomas Jilk

Normally we preview each team separately leading into a Saturday game, but this week we wanted to try to preview the game in terms of the keys to success for Georgia Southern.

Maybe if we change our style, it could change the result of the game. We at the George-Anne are advocates of wishful thinking.

‘Where are we?’

Saturday will be the first time Georgia Southern and Indiana face off in football, and in fact the first football game Georgia Southern has ever played in the state of Indiana.

Bloomington, Indiana’s Memorial Stadium holds more than 52,000 fans at capacity, but “it’s not often that the student section is filled to the brim,” according to Cameron Drummond, sports editor for the Indiana Daily Student.

Either way, it is a Big Ten program and a more prominent athletic program than that of GS, albeit more known for its basketball team.

Indiana this weekend will be honor the anniversary of the death of Terry Hoeppner, former IU head coach, who passed away 10 years ago from brain cancer after reviving the Hoosier program back to contending status.

Emotions will be high, and the Hoosiers are a 24-point favorite going in.

That is all to say that Georgia Southern will be in an unfavorable place. The fans will we raucous and ready, and the Indiana offense will come out firing just like Auburn did. The Eagles – and in particular the defense – had better be ready to slow the momentum built by emotion on the Indiana side.

G.A.T.Q.?

Getting after the quarterback has been a struggle for these Eagles, and it is a familiar issue for GS fans in years past. It is especially important in Saturday’s matchup.

The Indiana offense has struggled mightily to run the ball this year, granted their first game was against Ohio State’s powerhouse defensive line. Junior starting running back Mike Majette has not had a 10-yard run all season, and he has only managed to gain 29 yards on 19 carries over the first two games.

In all, the Hoosiers have failed even to reach 200 rushing yards as a team this season, which Georgia Southern, with all its issues, has already bested (303 net rushing yards).

Indiana’s passing game, however, is a different story.

Georgia Southern defensive backs have shown promising signs this year, but in all the pass defense has been insufficient. GS corners Monquavion Brinson and Kindle Vildor – and the rest of the secondary – will need to be at their best Saturday to try to slow down IU junior receiver Simmie Cobbs, Jr., who has accrued 16 receptions for 211 yards and a pair of touchdowns already this year.

The Eagles must get after IU senior quarterback Richard Lagow if there is hope of winning. The veteran has weapons on both sides in Cobbs and junior receiver Luke Timian. Given time, he will shred the Eagle defense. GS linemen like Logan Hunt and defensive end Randy Wade, Jr. need to get pressure on Lagow to put doubts in his mind.

Getting a push

There hasn’t been much room for Georgia Southern to run the ball this season, and the offensive line has probably underperformed its talent level thus far.

The inconsistent defense and the stagnant running game have combined to influence an 0-2 start, including the recent loss against FCS New Hampshire that head coach Tyson Summers took responsibility for in a Monday press conference.

“We don’t have any excuses for what we had the other day,” Summers said. “I’m as upset and ticked off as I can possibly be about it … and ultimately, that’s me. I’ve got to do a better job of getting our football team ready to play.”

He added, “We’ve got players that I believe in, and I know what they’re capable of … We’ve got to do a better job of improving our scheme and our execution.”

Execution for the Georgia Southern offense would involve opening holes for talented and experienced backs L.A. Ramsby and Wesley Fields, as well as quarterback Shai Werts, to run through.

So far, Werts has battled relentlessly, gaining 240 yards on the ground while also losing 100. He cannot do it all himself.

Werts’ 54 rushing attempts are more than double the amount for the next Eagle (26 for Fields). He has to find a way to shoulder less of the rushing load even within the gun-option offense.

Summers said he’s sticking with the redshirt freshman on Saturday, but said he would consider using multiple signal-callers if the situation is appropriate.

“Shai will certianly be our starter ,” Summers said. “If we wind up playing another quarterback, we’ll have different reasons, and it could be either LaBaron [Anthony] or it could wind up being Kado [Brown] as well.”

How to watch/listen

The Big Ten Network will broadcast Saturday’s game on television live at 3:30 p.m.

Georgia Southern Sports Radio will broadcast coverage online and on 102.9 FM with Danny Reed.