Questions from the other side: the Indianapolis Star’s Zach Osterman

Indiana comes to Minnesota off a 33-28 loss to No. 17 Penn State.

Miami carries the ball on Saturday, Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Courtney Deutz

Miami carries the ball on Saturday, Sept. 15 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

by Jack Warrick

For each home game, the Minnesota Daily interviews a reporter covering Minnesota’s opponent for the week. This week the Daily spoke with Zach Osterman, a University of Indiana insider who covers the football team for the Indianapolis Star.

What is Indiana’s offensive game plan in general, and what do they need to do this week to beat this struggling Gophers’ defense?

“They’re a no-huddle team. … They are very much one of those run-pass option teams in terms of what they’ll put on a quarterback to read at the line, even what they’ll put on the quarterback to read at the snap. They can run the ball. They’ve got a really experienced offensive line. It’s frankly been a little bit up and down at times this season, but they can run the ball when they’re really committed to it … with [running back] Stevie Scott. You’ll see a lot of the game plan built around [quarterback] Peyton Ramsey, who is obviously their leading passer, and at this point kind of their only passer because of what’s happened with [injured quarterback] Michael Penix. He’s not a guy who goes downfield a ton, he’s much more kind of a short and intermediate passer.”

What challenges does running back Stevie Scott present the Gophers’ defense?

“He’s big — I mean, he’s really big. He’s [6 feet, 2 inches or 6 feet, 3 inches], 235 pounds. And I think the thing that stands out about him is sometimes when you see freshmen — particularly that aren’t necessarily elite runners — that were four- or five-star prospects coming out of high school, you see them get into college and they’re 230 [pounds] or above. I think a lot of times at least some of that is bad weight, or weight that was just sort of added for the sake of having weight. … It’s just about all good weight with him, and he knows how to use it. He doesn’t lose many yards. He’s one of those guys that, when he gets hit, he finds a way to drive forward for the extra yard.”

What is there to know about the passing game: Peyton Ramsey and his receivers?

“[Peyton Ramsey] is very much a short and intermediate passer. It’s kind of been a weird year for Indiana in that regard because on the one hand, I think they’ve wanted to be more explosive than they have been. If you look at [it], Indiana’s got four guys that have between 24 and 28 catches this season and another one, Whop Philyor, who’s got 22. Some of that is that Ramsey does like to spread the ball around, some of that is that Luke Timian missed some time with an injury. Whop Philyor still is a little bit limited by his injury, [but] he’s been working slowly back from it [over] the last few weeks.”

The Penn State game last week and the Virginia game, what went into those games to make for a close game against Penn State and a good win over Virginia?

“The Virginia game was real weird. The Virginia game was played in a driving rain storm: there was horrible wind and just awful conditions. That was the game where Stevie Scott rushed for over 200 yards. Frankly, a big part of that was that nobody really wanted to throw the ball. … But we’ve seen Indiana do this a lot in the last seven, eight, even 10 years, where they play a team like Penn State — a ranked conference opponent of obviously higher stature like Michigan State, Penn State or Wisconsin — and they play them real tough and they keep it close, but then they just make enough mistakes and miss enough opportunities at critical times.”

What does Indiana do this game to pull off a victory?

“I think if you can really establish the run with Stevie Scott and some of the other guys they have, then Indiana can basically get that efficient offense that’s … served them well this season. And then, defensively, I think the biggest things are to keep forcing turnovers and find a way to limit explosive plays. The thing that … changed the most with [head coach] Tom Allen when he came in 2016 as defensive coordinator, was he limited explosive plays. He limited the number of really big chunk plays, momentum-changing plays Indiana surrendered; they’re in the bottom half of the conference in most of those types of plays this season.”

Quick Answer:

Final record: 6-6 if Indiana beats Minnesota. 4-8 or 5-7 if the team loses.

Best offensive player: Wide receiver Nick Westbrook, in terms of pure talent.

Best defensive player: Linebacker/defensive back Marcelino Ball

Under the radar player: Punt returner/wide receiver J-Shun Harris

Score prediction: Indiana wins 31-26 or 34-26.