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Tackling key for Hoosiers; Navy will present challenge

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Indiana fans certainly liked the most important number that came from the season-opening win over Indiana State.

Seventy-three. As in 73 points.

Headed into Saturday’s home game against Navy, Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson is more concerned about another number: 17.

“We had 17 missed tackles,” Wilson said. “You’re always going to miss a few, but that’s a little more than we want. It’s probably less than it’s been, but it’s more than we want.”

Considering that Navy racked up 257 rushing yards last season in a 31-30 victory over the Hoosiers, Wilson has every right to be concerned. Plus, Navy runs an option offense that Indiana won’t see at any other time in 2013.

Even more alarming is that Wilson said his

defense had communication problems in the opener, and stopping an option is about assignments and communication.

“We did have some miscommunication with our defense, just getting calls and getting guys lined up,” Wilson said. “If we can continue to communicate better and get our alignments better, and tackle better, the defense will continue to improve.

“It’s got a chance to be better, but we have to clean those areas up.”

Indiana will be chasing Navy sophomore quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who rushed for 66 yards in the Midshipmen’s win over Indiana last season.

“Going into Navy, we’re their opener,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a decent feel for them. I’m sure they’ve got a great feel for us and probably a better feel because they’ve seen us play.

“They have a lot of guys back on their team, a lot of starters from the bowl team (Navy lost 62-28 to Arizona State in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl). I think they’ve been to bowls nine of the past 10 years, and they won the Commander in Chief trophy eight of the last 10. So it’s a quality, winning team.”

Because of the way Navy grinds out yards, Indiana’s number of offensive possessions will be limited unless the defense steps up.

“Last year we had 10 (possessions) for the game,” Wilson said. “If we get more than 12, either they’re scoring fast or you’re playing good defense and they’ve turned it over. It’s a short game, and what that does is minimizes your opportunities so your errors are more exposed. You are not going to get many swings, so you had better be productive.”

Wilson called Reynolds an awesome talent.

“For a freshman (last season), he was very calm,” Wilson said. “I think he throws the ball better than most option guys. He is very smart, a coach’s kid, a quality player.”

Indiana’s defenders know what is coming at them. It’s just a matter of stopping it.

“They’re going to get the ball on the perimeter, cut you down with their speed sweeps, lull you to sleep and take shots over the top,” Wilson said. “It’s a tremendous offense led by a great quarterback.”

Wilson said the chess match nature of the game is an equalizer when Navy can’t match up with a team in terms of athletic talent.

“That’s the essence, the more you coach and the more adjustments you make, the more you think,” he said. “That’s a part of their offense. They make you play assignment football, they make you think.

“I think it was Marshall Faulk at the combine when somebody ran a 4.23 who said, ‘That’s great, but the best way to slow a fast man down is to make him think.”

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