Indiana’s defense allowed a concerning success rate by Western Kentucky
As we do here at Crimson Quarry every week, we analyzed the play-by-play data from Indiana’s latest game in order to calculate advanced metrics and contextualize the Hoosiers’ season as a whole. On Saturday, Indiana (2-2) climbed back to .500 with a 33-31 road win at Western Kentucky.
Here’s what you need to know from Week 4.
Note: Success rate is defined as gaining at least 50 percent of the yards needed for a first down on first down, at least 70 percent of the necessary yards on second down and 100 percent of the needed yards on third and fourth downs. End-of-half kneels were not included in this analysis.
Indiana’s defense is on a concerning trajectory
After Indiana’s loss to Cincinnati, we covered the dramatic difference that linebacker Micah McFadden’s ejection had on the game. Cincinnati’s success rate for the game climbed from 20.8 percent prior to McFadden’s ejection to 56.8 percent after.
Since McFadden was sidelined after that targeting penalty, Indiana’s success rate allowed for the season has increased from 35.8 percent to 43.8 percent, as Cincinnati exploited Indiana’s defense without the Hoosiers’ All-American middle linebacker present, then Western Kentucky’s pass-happy offense did the same in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in Week 4, even with McFadden playing.
At their most efficient, the Hilltoppers were achieving “success” at nearly a 75-percent clip. In one stretch, starting on Western Kentucky’s last drive of the first half, the Hilltoppers had a successful play on 11 out of 12 snaps, which included back-to-back touchdown drives that were separated by halftime.
For the game, Western Kentucky’s success rate was 53.1 percent – by far the worst of the season for Indiana’s defense, behind its performances against Idaho (36.1 percent), Iowa (41.3 percent) and Cincinnati (44.1 percent).
Here was Western Kentucky’s success rate by down:
- 1st down: 53.3 percent
- 2nd down: 59.1 percent
- 3rd down: 40.0 percent
- 4th down: 50.0 percent
- Overall: 53.1 percent
The Hilltoppers were particularly efficient on second down, where they achieved success nearly 60 percent of the time, including 11 first downs and a touchdown on 22 second-down snaps for nearly a 55-percent first down/touchdown percentage on those plays.
With Indiana resuming conference play against Penn State, followed by a bye week, before matchups against Michigan State, Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan, the Hoosiers will face the best offenses the division, if not the conference, has to offer in a classic Big Ten East gauntlet.
Where does Indiana go after D.J. Matthews’ knee injury?
Matthews, who has been Indiana’s most electric playmaker on a per-touch basis, suffered a knee injury against Western Kentucky and he was later seen with crutches on the team’s sideline. The nature of his injury and his potential timeline for a return to the field are unknown.
Luckily for Indiana, its top receiver, Ty Fryfogle, had his best game Saturday since his seven-catch, 218-yard, three-touchdown game at Ohio State last season, which solidified him as an all-conference wide receiver.
In the six games in between Indiana’s trip to Columbus last season and its road game at Western Kentucky, Fryfogle had a total of 17 catches for 205 yards and one touchdown, or an average of 2.8 catches and 34 receiving yards per game.
On Saturday, Fryfogle had 10 catches for 98 yards – nine of which resulted in a first down. Five of his 10 catches came on third down. On those third-down receptions, Indiana’s average yards to gain for a first down was 6.2 yards and Fryfogle’s average catch went for 10.6 yards.
Even with a healthy Matthews, Indiana needed a fully operational version of Fryfogle, who struggled with drops against Cincinnati. If Matthews is to miss any extended amount of time, the need for Fryfogle to become more consistent is even more urgent.
Like Fryfogle, on Saturday, Miles Marshall had his best game since his performance at Ohio State in 2020. He caught five passes for 64 yards, as he was an early-down receiving threat, with three catches on first down and two receptions on second down. His five catches resulted in four first downs.
Marshall averaged 13.7 yards per catch on first down as he was responsible for three of Indiana’s 13 first downs that came on first down.
Stephen Carr has already rushed for a season-high number of attempts
Saturday marked several firsts for first-year Indiana starting running back Stephen Carr, who transferred from USC in the offseason. His 109 rushing yards against Western Kentucky gave him two 100-yard games in a season for the first time in his career and his 87 carries this season represent a new career-high, surpassing the 81 carries he accumulated in nine games as a sophomore.
So from here on out, Carr’s workload on the season will be unprecedented for his college career.
Here’s a look at how Indiana’s rushing attack has fared this season based on its average yards per carry and success rate, by the yards to gain for a first down.
While Indiana has been successful in short yardage situations, converting on 12 of its 13 attempts when it has needed one yard to gain for a first down or touchdown and it has achieved success on 71 percent of its 42 attempts when it has needed four yards or fewer, the Hoosiers have had just a 27-percent success rate when it needs between eight and 10 yards. Carr’s 3.9 yards per carry this season is nearly a yard below his career average of 4.7 yards per carry.
Here’s the same data shown above, only this time displayed on a scatter plot on a per-carry basis. For the season, Indiana has had a 41-percent success rate on true rush attempts (not counting sacks).