BLOOMINGTON — After Indiana’s 35-0 win over Rutgers on Saturday, defensive coordinator Kane Wommack went over the stat sheet with his dad, former Ole Miss and Arkansas defensive coordinator Dave Wommack.
The Hoosiers had just held Rutgers to only 1 yard on 5-of-13 passing.
“He figured out it was something like 3.6 inches per pass or something like that,” the younger Wommack said. “So any time you can measure passing yards in inches, it was probably a pretty good day in the passing game.”
IU (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) will look to continue defending the pass at a high level when it plays Saturday at Maryland (3:30 p.m., BTN).
Wommack said players addressed pass defense during the bye week after allowing 300 yards through the air in a 40-31 loss at Michigan State. A relentless pass rush also helped. IU sacked Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan six times and added three more quarterback hurries. IU sophomore defensive tackle Demarcus Elliott set the tone on the opening play with a sack and forced fumble linebacker Reakwon Jones recovered for a 17-yard touchdown.
“Everybody was locked in,” IU sophomore linebacker Cam Jones said. “Everybody was focused. Everybody did their job. Our coaches hold us accountable, we hold each other accountable and we knew what we had to do coming into the game.”
Linebackers accounted for four of IU’s six sacks against the Scarlet Knights. Cam Jones had two sacks, while Reakwon Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Casey each had one sack.
“We’ve got some big linebackers, but we’ve also got some fast linebackers and Coach Kane, he uses that to our advantage,” Cam Jones said. “So any chance we can get to get to the quarterback, get to the ball, he makes sure our linebacking corps gets to it.”
With 16 sacks through six games, IU is on pace to surpass its total of 22 in 12 games last season.
“Some of the technique with our defensive line, particularly our defensive ends coming off the edge, we’ve tried to make them a little bit more aggressive,” Wommack said. “I think we’ve done that. We’ve created not only sacks but pressure in the backfield, and we get the quarterback off his spot.”
The return of sophomore defensive back Reese Taylor added another athletic element to IU’s secondary, while freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen continues to excel in nickel and dime coverages. Cornerbacks Andre Brown Jr., Raheem Layne and Jaylin Williams were solid in man coverage.
Taylor, a former high school quarterback who switched from offense to defense during the season, has dealt with injuries on and off throughout the 2019 season, beginning with a hand injury in fall camp.
“He brings a quickness and a toughness to us that we have to have,” IU football coach Tom Allen said. “Just a really good athlete on the field that can make plays and we can bring pressure with and he can cover, and his man coverage skills are excellent and will only continue to get better the more he works at it and gets a chance to learn to play the position because he hasn’t played it very long.”
Allen said IU senior center Hunter Littlejohn is dealing with a lower leg injury but is probable for Maryland. Littlejohn limped off the field during the second quarter against Rutgers and did not return. “Any time with linemen, they don’t heal as quickly as skill guys sometimes with lower leg injuries,” Allen said. “But (he’ll) just be doing his rehab, and we’ll get him out there as much as possible, and he’ll get ready. But I expect him to play. He’s a tough guy.” … Allen also confirmed senior cornerback A’Shon Riggins, who has been dealing with injuries, has decided to retire from football. “Just had a lot of injuries that have mounted for him,” Allen said. “He’s an awesome young man. He and I sat down and had a really heart-to-heart about it, and he’s going to continue to help the program and be with us.” Allen named junior wide receiver Whop Philyor (10 catches, 182 yards) and sophomore running back Stevie Scott (12 carries, 164 yards) co-offensive players of the week for Rutgers, while defensive tackle Demarcus Elliot (three tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble) and safety Khalil Bryant (three tackles) were named co-defensive players of the week. Taylor was named special teams player of the week for his role in kickoff coverage.