Jackson had been competing with Brendan Sorsby throughout the offseason and the first two games for the starting job. Both are second-year players who threw only a handful of passes as true freshmen, and both made their first career starts this season.
Sorsby got the first shot in a season-opening 23-3 loss to then-No. 3 Ohio State. Jackson started last weekend’s 41-7 victory over Indiana State. While neither has thrown a touchdown pass yet, Jackson ran for one score in Week 2 and appeared to energize the Hoosiers’ offense in both games.
Allen saw it similarly heading into Saturday’s showdown with unbeaten Louisville (2-0) at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
“We’ve got two quarterbacks I believe can both successfully lead our program and do great things on game day,” Allen said. “I felt like we needed to get full game evaluation because it was so close and to be able to see, ‘OK, who moves the ball down the field and scores points?’ That’s really what it comes down to at the end of the day, and there’s a field presence you have during games.”
Jackson went 18-of-21 with 236 yards against the Sycamores, an FCS program, while Sorsby was 9-of-16 with 108 yards.
Against Ohio State, Sorsby was 8-of-16 with 58 yards while Jackson went 1-of-6 for 24 yards and led Indiana to its only score — a 42-yard field goal in the second quarter.
Sorsby signed with Indiana as a highly touted recruit out of Texas and made one relief appearance with the Hoosiers last season.
Jackson, the brother of Indiana basketball All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis, chose to attend Tennessee after leading Center Grove High School to two straight undefeated seasons and consecutive Indiana state championships. He then opted to transfer to his home-state school.
“I’ll say it was close without question, but at the same time, this is where we are,” Allen said. “That’s really what it comes down to, being able to score points, and I think both guys can do it at a high level. I really do. I think you saw that from both of them.”
If recent history is any indication, the Hoosiers (1-1, 0-1 Big Ten) might need both this season. Indiana started six quarterbacks and used seven overall during the previous two seasons and hasn’t had a quarterback open and close the season as the starter since Peyton Ramsey in 2018.
A third candidate could also join the mix next month — if healthy.
Dexter Williams II started Indiana’s final two games last season, his third in the program, before dislocating his right knee in the season finale against Purdue. He needed offseason surgery to repair “significant structural damage” and was initially expected to miss all of 2023. But in June, Allen told reporters Williams’ recovery was ahead of schedule and he could be available around midseason.
Williams also missed the entire 2021 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
For now, though, Jackson is QB1.
“I know they both want to be the guy, I get that,” Allen said. “You’re competitive. You want to be in this position. But Tayven knows he’s got to perform, and Brendan knows he’s got to be ready. That’s the reality of competition and performing at an elite level.”