BLOOMINGTON — Indiana’s defensive line responded to its first test of the season by providing solid pressure on the quarterback in IU’s season-opening win against Ball State.
More will be expected from the defensive front going forward, beginning with IU’s home opener Saturday against Eastern Illinois (3:30 p.m., Big Ten Network).
IU finished with three sacks and four quarterback pressures in the Ball State opener. Junior defensive tackle Jerome Johnson led the way with 1.5 sacks.
“Jerome has a chance to be a dominant player,” IU football coach Tom Allen said. “That’s my challenge to him. I think he can be really, really special.”
Johnson also is being counted on to lead an inexperienced unit as Allen and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack continue to develop a dependable rotation up front.
“We had some good pressures, but I think we could do better,” Johnson said. “The game we started out slow and progressed throughout it, but I think we need to start faster and finish even stronger.”
Allen felt sophomore defensive tackle Demarcus Elliot played well up front, while redshirt freshman defensive end Shamar Jones showed some quickness. Junior defensive end Mike Ziemba chipped in with a tackle for a loss.
“He’s still got to be more consistent but flashed in making some plays,” Allen said.
Johnson said he’s continuing to push the rest of the younger players on the defensive line who aren’t getting as many snaps as they would like.
“Just try to encourage them to keep getting better, show coach why he should be playing them,” Johnson said.
IU’s defensive line also helped stop the run. As a team, IU limited Ball State to 100 yards rushing on 2.5 yards per carry. The run fits up front, Allen said, contributed to the effort.
“It was solid,” Allen said. “I didn’t like our goal line front. I didn’t think we were as physical and confident in our fits that we need to be in the starts up front, so I want to see that get better. But they were two-and-a-half yards a carry, which is what you want.”
Wommack didn’t want to show too much in the first game in terms of blitzing and was pleased with the pressure the defensive line provided.
“We did some very good things from a four-man rush standpoint, better than where we were a year ago,” Wommack said. “We didn’t always get the sacks in the four-man rush, but the pressure was there so that the quarterback could get the ball out.”
Wommack said IU’s pass rush could be helped by the secondary playing tighter coverage on third down. The first-year IU defensive coordinator would like to see defensive backs take more calculated risks in those situations.
“On third down, when you have to get off the field, that tight coverage also improves our pass rush,” Wommack said. “But for Week 1, very encouraging to build off of.”
Indiana will honor the 40th anniversary of its 1979 Holiday Bowl-winning team at Memorial Stadium during its season opener. Allen recalled being in the stands as a 9-year-old, watching the Lee Corso-coached team during its 8-4 season. IU beat BYU 38-37 in the Holiday Bowl on Dec. 21, 1979, winning its first bowl game in school history. “Coach Corso is what I remember the most,” said Allen, who grew up in New Castle. “I remember watching his coach’s shows. It just was, I was a kid, for sure, but they were entertaining. His energy that he brought.” Corso won’t be at the reunion because of his responsibilities with ESPN College GameDay, but all four team captains will be there, including quarterback Tim Clifford and defensive lineman Terry Tallen, who recently made a $2 million donation toward IU’s $8.5 million football locker room and player’s lounge complex. … Former Indiana running back Ivory Winters has found a new home at Southeast Missouri State. Because Winters transferred before the start of classes, he’ll be eligible to play immediately there this season.