Ten Big Game Changers: Indiana QB Ben Chappell

Published: August 17 2010 | 7:46 am - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 4:47 am in
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CHICAGO†ó There's a flip side to Iowa safety Tyler Sash's extraordinary 86-yard interception for a touchdown against Indiana last year.

Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell had the Hoosiers poised to pull the upset over then-No. 4 Iowa. The Hoosiers were on Iowa's 2-yard line, and Chappell dropped back to pass. He was smacked by Iowa linebacker A.J. Edds from the blind side just as Chappell's arm was going forward. The ball caromed off four players before Sash grabbed it in midair and raced for the score. Sash's touchdown cut Indiana's lead to seven points and kept Iowa within striking distance in an eventual 42-24 win.

Chappell, a fifth-year senior, said he's watched video of the play and tried to figure out exactly what happened. He said in early August that once camp starts, he's putting Indiana's bad offensive plays ó especially Sash's pick-6†ó out of his memory to concentrate on the season.

"Iíve seen them over and over again," Chappell said. "I watch all that stuff and seen what happened. Thereís several different ways you can rewind the film and say, 'How did this happen, how did this happen?' Or you can say, 'Shoot, I kind of dropped the ball on my release. I could have gotten rid of it a split second earlier and it would have been a touchdown.'"

Sash's interception was hardly the only negative game-changing offensive play for Indiana. Midway through the third quarter in a 10-10 game against Penn State, Nittany Lions linebacker Navarro Bowman picked off a screen pass and ran 73 yards for a touchdown. The play spurred Penn State to a 31-20 win and gave Indiana its seventh loss.

Chappell (6-foot-3, 240 pounds) said he had a difficult time mentally shaking off those plays in the off-season.

"It definitely takes a while, shoot, as you can tell, I still think about it right now," he said. "I think when you throw yourself into something like a college football season, 12 games, youíve got 12 games guaranteed, and when you throw yourself into something like that as full out as we do, itís tough when it comes down to one or two plays and you donít get it done. Thatís not an easy thing to deal with."

Chappell otherwise had a successful season. He threw for 2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns last year.†Outside of football, Chappell already has graduated from Indiana's prestigious Kelley School of Business and is working on his master's degree in accounting. He's passed for 3,956 and 21 touchdowns in his Indiana career.

This year, Chappell and his offense have worked more on situational football. The Hoosiers, which were second in Big Ten turnover margin at plus-seven,†have placed extra emphasis on third-down conversions. With an experienced offense and an overhauled defense, maintaining possession is crucial toward the Hoosiers' efforts in returning to a bowl.

"There were a couple of those games where it's third and 4, third and 5. If we convert and keep the football, it changes the game," Indiana Coach Bill Lynch said.

That's where Chappell hopes his four years of starting experience come into play.

"With this league the level of competition, most games are going to come down to four or five plays," said Chappell, a Bloomington, Ind., native. "Honestly,†you look at them, thereís four or five big plays, a turnover here, a sack, a red-zone stop thatís going to determine the game in most of these league games because of the competition."

The big plays went against Indiana last year. Chappell is trying to ensure the reverse happens this year.

INDIANA HOOSIERS

  • 2009 record: 4-8, 1-7
  • 2009 review:Indiana was perhaps the best and most unlucky 4-8 in the country last year. Bad calls in part helped derail the Hoosiers in losses to Michigan and Iowa, and Indiana dropped heartbreakers to Northwestern (29-28) and Wisconsin (31-28). Indiana's biggest problem was its inability to stop any of its opponents. Only once in Big Ten play did the Hoosiers allow less than 29 points, and Indiana allowed 171 points in its final five losses. The Hoosiers were putrid on third down, allowing opponents to convert 47.5 percent. Indiana gave up the most first downs in Big Ten play and†was 10th in scoring defense.
  • 2010 schedule:S2 Towson; S18 at Western Kentucky; S25 Akron; O2 Michigan; O9 Ohio State; O16 Arkansas State; O23 at Illinois; O30 Northwestern; N6 Iowa; N13 at Wisconsin; N20 Penn State (at Washington D.C.); N27 at Purdue
  • 2010 preview:The Hoosiers are built to compete offensively with any team in the league. They return their top three wide receivers, including Tandon Doss, who caught 77 passes for 962 yards and five scores last year. Quarterback Ben Chappell, who enters his third season as a starter, threw for 2,941 yards and 17 TDs last year and has a firm grasp of the offense. Indiana boasts eight returning starters on an offense that scored 20 or more points in seven Big Ten games. Indiana had deficiencies on defense last year and could have major problems there this year. The Hoosiers lost seven starters, including top defensive ends Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew, leading tackler/sacker Matt Mayberry, cornerback Ray Fisher and safeties Nick Polk and Austin Thomas. If they don't improve on defense, it's likely the Hoosiers won't improve on their record.
  • Making the rounds:Indiana should fatten up on its non-conference competition, playing three FBS schools with a combined 7-29 record last year. Even its opening opponent, Towson, posted a 2-9 mark in FCS play. The Hoosiers play Big Ten heavyweights Ohio State and Wisconsin on the road, while hosting Iowa. Indiana received a $3 million paycheck to play Penn State in Landover, Md. Indiana faces a brutal stretch of playing Northwestern, Iowa, Wisconsin and Penn State in consecutive weeks, which means it has to beat comparable teams like Michigan, Illinois and Purdue just†to get to 6-6. The Hoosiers also miss Minnesota and Michigan State, both 6-7 teams last year.
  • Bowl game if: The defense can quickly come of age. The Hoosiers lost two of the Big Ten's top defensive ends and three-fourths of its talented secondary. If Indiana can get a couple of stops in a handful of games, it has a chance to go bowling.
  • Home for the holidays if: If the defense struggles to improve. Period.
  • Quotable: "We were really 12 plays away from having an outstanding season and playing in a pretty good bowl game. And I think that's been the motivation throughout the off-season." -- Indiana Coach Bill Lynch
  • Prediction: 4-8, 0-8 Big Ten

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