BOZICH | No Coleman, no problem; Indiana's Jordan Howard leads n - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | No Coleman, no problem; Indiana's Jordan Howard leads nation in rushing yards

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After 3 games, IU halfback Jordan Howard leads the nation in rushing yards. After 3 games, IU halfback Jordan Howard leads the nation in rushing yards.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Tevin Coleman is the best running back that Indiana University has produced. No, I have not forgotten Anthony Thompson.

Coleman was always one twitch and go from giving the Hoosiers an extra 10, 20, 50 or 80 yards. He ran for more than 2,000 yards last season when Indiana had zero ability to pass the football over its last six games. Coleman will do wonderful things for the Atlanta Falcons.

But Indiana does not miss Tevin Coleman the way the Hoosiers should miss a player of his considerable skills.

Credit Jordan Howard -- and his offensive line.

Howard won’t accelerate from 0-to-80 as dynamically as Coleman. But after three games, including the Hoosiers’ 38-35 win over Western Kentucky Saturday, Howard leads all FBS backs in rushing yards with 507.

His per-game average of 169 ranks second to Leonard Fournette of Louisiana State – and Fournette is the Heisman Trophy frontrunner.

“Jordan's strong,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said. “He's matured. It's kind of how he played last year. He's a guy that gets stronger as he goes.”

Here is my advice: Stay out of Howard’s way. He’s just as durable as Coleman and could flatten a mailbox.

Jordan Howard is not simply a guy who put up jumbo numbers against modest competition at UAB before transferring to Indiana.

Ask Western Kentucky, which watched Howard bounce over, around and through the Hilltoppers’ defense for 203 powerful yards as the Hoosiers rallied from an 11-point halftime hole to beat WKU at Memorial Stadium.

Ask Mitchell Paige, an Indiana receiver.

“He runs so hard,” Paige said. “He runs so hard. I sure wouldn’t want to tackle him. He lowers his pads. He’s always getting yards he shouldn’t get.

“He hasn’t really gotten those 80-yard touchdown runs Tevin used to get. But he gets four, five, six, even when there’s no blocking or we miss blocks. He’s a really good running back. Happy to have him here, that’s for sure.”

Indiana has Howard because UAB disbanded its football program after the 2014 season. IU assistant coaches were in Birmingham 4.38 seconds after that news broke. The Hoosiers were the first Power Five conference program to offer Howard a scholarship.

The sell was easy. Indiana returned a powerful offensive line, one that some analysts have ranked one of the 20 best in the nation. Wilson knew IU simply needed somebody to handle Coleman’s workload.

It’s only three games, but here is how Howard compares to Coleman.

In 2014 Coleman ran for 569 yards and six touchdowns in IU’s first three games. After three games, Howard has romped for 507 yards and three touchdowns, giving the Hoosiers at least 145 yards every game. His per carry average is a solid 6.5 yards.

Better than that, Howard has helped bump Indiana to 3-0 with a trip to Wake Forest this Saturday. You know what six wins would mean to this program.

I asked Howard if he believes that he has shown the world what he can do.

“I feel like we’ve shown people what we can do,” Howard said. “It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us on the offense as a whole. It feels very good (to be 3-0). Try to get to 4-0 next.”

Howard won’t beat Coleman over 20 yards, 40 yards or 75 yards, although he ran a 4.39 40-yard dash last spring. But I like his chances to knock more people down.

As a freshman at UAB playing for current Louisville offensive coordinator Garrick McGee, Howard ran for 881 yards, averaging more than six yards per carry. Last season, Howard bumped that total to 1,587 and 13 touchdowns. He ranked seventh nationally in rushing.

Although he did not score a touchdown against the Hilltoppers, Howard did something that was more critical to secure the victory: Grind minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter.

Western cut Indiana’s lead to 38-35. There were 5 minutes and 56 seconds to play when IU started its final drive of the fourth quarter from its 21-yard line.

Jordan Howard ran the ball seven times for 40 yards on the final drive. He carried it on Indiana’s final three offensive plays. The Hilltoppers were out of timeouts, time and hope the final time they tackled Howard at the WKU 2.

One more snap and Indiana had another touchdown, but Wilson ordered quarterback Nate Sudfeld to take a knee.

Ball game.

“I guess the defense gets tired of tackling me with the pounding I’m giving them and I just love doing it,” Howard said.

“It was just like, let’s finish this out. We knew they weren’t going to stop us. We knew they were getting tired. Me personally, I love a four-minute drive.”

Tevin Coleman could not have done it – or said it – better.

Copyright 2015 WDRB News. All Rights Reserved.

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