Image courtesy of IU Athletics
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, Indiana was trailing in the 4th quarter, mounted a comeback, but came up just short.
This has been the case now three times this year as it happened against Ball State, Northwestern, and now tonight against the 8th ranked team in the country, the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Coming into the game, most people didn’t give Indiana a chance, after having watched Ohio State dismantle Nebraska in Lincoln. After several points in this game it looked as though this view was accurate. However, IU never stopped fighting, never stopped believing that they could win this game.
They kept their foot on the accelerator for as long as they could, but came up just a little bit short, losing 52-49.
Each of the Hoosiers’ last four games – all losses – have been decided in the final quarter of play leaving people scratching their heads as to what they should be scratching their heads about.
First it was the defense not being talented enough, then it was the inexperience, then it was the offense falling asleep for portions of the game. After tonight, is it all the above or was it just Indiana (now 2-4/0-3 in B1G play) getting beat by the better team?
The defense certainly didn’t play well for stretches, but wasn’t awful the whole game. The offense scored in every quarter of the game, and certainly didn’t show any inexperience leading to a collapse like the one we saw last week against Michigan State.
So what is it with this IU football team? Is it finally time to stop making excuses for this team? I don’t know if I can answer that, but going up against three straight good Big Ten teams, the Hoosiers gave them all that they could handle. The Hoosiers haven’t rolled over against anyone; you can easily make the argument that this team could have 2-3 more wins.
There’s a ton of fight in this team, there’s no doubt about it. By describing what’s going on with this football team by simply saying “Its Indiana” just doesn’t fly anymore. With tonight’s showing, you’re seeing a team that’s in the process of something special. It may not have been as obvious as what the Indiana basketball team did last season, but this is certainly a different animal then last year.
Even if you make the argument this is a down year in the Big Ten, this is not the team that lost 6 games last year by 14 or more points. The players in that locker room wont have that, they may not win, but they certainly wont get embarrassed.
I have been critical of coach Wilson this season I wont deny it. There have been points where I feel like he’s been outcoached and its cost Indiana a chance at winning the game. One thing I can’t deny though, is the attitude that he and the other coaches have instilled in this team – an attitude that wasn’t here last year, an attitude that can be seen in the players fight and heard in Kevin Wilson’s speeches.
“ I was coming through today and somebody was talking about an upset or a shock, and I told the team, the only thing upsetting or shocking is if we don’t come play hard.”
From watching the games, isn’t this exactly what we’ve seen? Coach Wilson knows that playing hard doesn’t replace wins, but with a team that has eight scholarship seniors – only five of whom originally came here on scholarship – it’s tough to expect anything more from a college football team.
By no means do I think this team is perfect, I’m just at the point where I don’t think excuses can be made anymore and I certainly think this team is heading in the right direction. Did IU learn a lesson against Ohio State? I think so. I think this team learned something very important to its development. Excuses don’t need to be made for them anymore, they’re a better team then they’ve been given credit for.
Indiana has the players to compete with the best of the conference on a week-to-week basis. They may not come out on top but they can definitely hang around which is far better then they could have done last year.
One of the upperclassmen feels the same way. Junior cornerback Greg Heban believes that his team has a real shot these next six games, to make some noise.
“The physicality of our team is still improving, and our team in general is improving,” he said. “We’ve got a six week stretch coming up that we feel like we have a good chance to go out there and get some wins.”
These six weeks will say a lot as there are games on the calendar that Indiana should do better then just hang in them, they should win. Hopefully, everyone else can begin to form some expectations about the team instead of falling back on the same excuses. It doesn’t help anyone, especially the team, if the fan base doesn’t believe they can go out there and play tough against anyone for 60 minutes.
I said on twitter earlier tonight that there’s tons of fight in this Indiana team. Although they’ve come up short week after week, they will be on the other side of these games eventually.
If they play the way they played against the Buckeyes, wins will come sooner rather than later.