BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana's defense got on track against Bowling Green. Now, the Hoosiers will find out if that unit can build some consistency to support the team's explosive offense.
Indiana will host Missouri, a Southeastern Conference team with a 2-0 record, on Saturday. Missouri averaged 48 points in wins over Murray State and Toledo.
The Hoosiers (2-1) gave up more than 400 yards rushing against Navy's triple option, but responded in the 42-10 victory over Bowling Green last Saturday. They shut out the Falcons in the second half in one of the best defensive efforts of the Kevin Wilson coaching era.
"That's letting us know how good we can be if we come together," defensive tackle Bobby Richardson said. "If we can trust the offense, and have the offense trust the defense, we'll be dominant."
Still, Wilson curbed the optimism at Monday's weekly news conference.
"We've got a lot to work on," he said. "We've got a long way to go. Instead of going up and down, we've got to stay the same week to week in preparation to keep moving forward. College football defense is very, very difficult because you have to adjust week after week to the different styles going on."
Indiana's offense has been rolling, averaging 50 points per game. Nate Sudfeld passed for 335 yards and two scores against Bowling Green, making a statement in the quarterback race.
But the defense is trying to put two good weeks together. The defense was the big question mark heading into the season after the team stayed in many games a year ago but couldn't get stops. Defensive end Nick Mangieri said he hopes the effort against Bowling Green marks the start of a turnaround.
"We have a lot of confidence right now," he said. "We've just got to keep building on that confidence and go out there and play our game."
Mangieri is one of the main reasons the Hoosiers have a chance to improve their defense. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound sophomore leads the team with 2 1/2 sacks and 3 1/2 tackles for loss. The coaches named him the defensive player of the game against Bowling Green.
"Mangieri has been a very good player," Wilson said. "He's got a lot of growth potential. He's a long way off from being an upper-level D-end. But he's off to a good start."
Even though Bowling Green's offense failed to score a touchdown, Indiana still gave up 409 yards.
"It's a work in progress," defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. "There's a long way to go. They moved the ball. We control how long we are on the field. There are times we've got to get off the field earlier. For field position we've got to do better getting off the field."
Missouri presents a challenge, with dual threat James Franklin. He has passed for 530 yards and run for 121 this season.
Indiana also will have to deal with Missouri receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, a former blue chip recruit who has caught nine passes for 134 yards and a touchdown this season.
"We know he's going to be out to try to make plays," Mangieri said. "That lets us know on the D-line that we've got to go after the quarterback even more so we can shut that down."
Mangieri said Indiana has the makings of a good defensive team, despite what critics have said.
"All that stuff outside the program, we don't pay much attention to," he said. "We're a good defense. We just have to go out there and do our thing."
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