IUSportCom copy editor Ben Baroff and lead football reporterÂ Jimmy Cavanaugh offer differing takes on the UVA game:
â€œAttitude reflects leadership, captain.â€
One of my favorite movie quotes (Remember The Titans) appeared evident just moments after Edward Wright-Bakers early third quarter interception Saturday night against Virginia.
As Kevin Wilson was regrouping with Wright-Baker, and as the scoreboard ticked to 23-3 in Virginiaâ€™s favor, the rest of the IU offense was sat down on the bench and was subject to a fiery speech from an assistant coach.
As players would attempt to stand up, they would be pushed back down by coaches or another teammate. As one would attempt to speak, they would be silenced by an overpowering voice.
Jumbled in-between a barrage of words I cannot repeat was this message, â€œForget! Regroup! Attack!â€
The message was infallible, reaching all the way into the first few rows of what was left of the crowd as they started to cheer on the group of players being berated in front of them.
With fans leaving and coaches screaming, it was once again time for Wright-Baker and his offense to take the field. 28 unanswered points later, the Hoosiers found themselves in more than a favorable situation: up 31-23 with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
That moment on the bench, for me, encapsulated Saturday nightâ€™s game against Virginia.
Although IU lost 34-31, and Kevin Wilson doesnâ€™t take anything from a loss, but well, a loss, that doesnâ€™t mean we canâ€™t, and the team didnâ€™t.
Success is a function of the quality of the organization, and down 23-3, with fans strolling through the exits and out to Kirkwood, along with an 0-2 record seemingly imminent, nobody would have been surprised if IU threw in the towel.
Instead, the coaching staff and players held themselves accountable, changed their attitude and attacked with a ferocity that we now know exists in this team â€“ and we should expect to see at a more consistent rate.
After the game, attitude and accountability continued to be the mantra.
â€œTheyâ€™ve been doing everything weâ€™ve asked them to,â€ Kevin Wilson said of the team. â€œEverything we expect them to do, now we as coaches need to do everything they expect us to do. Three or four plays executed better and three or four plays called better by the coaching staffÂ and weâ€™re in an excellent position to win this game.â€
Out of all of the negativity that can be made of an 0-2 start â€“ a sometimes lethargic and overmatched defense and an inconsistent and inept offense â€“ there is enough to be optimistic about to dispel any notion that this program is headed nowhere.
As a sophomore quarterback, Ed Wright-Baker â€“ while still raw, inaccurate and inconsistent â€“ plays with poise and confidence, but more importantly, has the teams trust as its commander.
Freshman running back Matt Perez provides a much-needed spark at running back and has a knack for finding the end zone, and the defense has the ability to shake up games with their big play ability.
All of which builds on top of the strong level of mutual respect between players and coaches, which is paramount to building a solid foundation and a new era of Hoosier football, which is the goal, right?
Thereâ€™s no denying that the outcome of this contest is disappointing, but considering how this team looked against Ball State and for the first half against Virginia, Iâ€™m willing to take the good with the bad. Six quarters of consistently mediocre play will do that.
Thatâ€™s really what weâ€™re talking about here â€“ a comprehensively underwhelming performance against Ball State, and a first half against the Cavaliers that wasnâ€™t that much better. Ed Wright-Baker overthrew his receivers early and often, the offense couldnâ€™t score touchdowns and the defense appeared either listless (Ball State) or overmatched (Virginia).
Heck, when IU fell behind 23-3 and fans started heading to the exits, I started to question whether this team was capable of winning a game.
The 28-0 run brought me down from the ledge, and showed that this is a team that can, in fact, play football and even play it quite well at times.
The coaches and the players alike deserve a level of commendation for continuing to plug away and refusing to go without a fight. Between the 12:59 mark of the 3rd quarter and the 6:34 mark of the 4th, Indiana didnâ€™t just outplay the Cavaliers â€“ they beat them handily in every facet of the game. They got stops on defense, made plays on offense and looked nothing like a team that lost by a touchdown to a lower level MAC team only a week ago.
Kevin Wilson made it clear after the game that heâ€™s not interested in moral victories â€“ and as the head football coach he shouldnâ€™t be â€“ but for Indiana fans, it has to be encouraging to see their team dominate for such a stretch against a Virginia squad that many were expecting to win in a blowout.
I expect the offense â€“ and Wright-Baker in particular â€“ to develop more consistency as the season wears on and I expect the defense to play every week with the energy that they showed for most of the game against Virginia.
(It would also be a pleasant change of pace if Wilson elected to kick a field goal in a goal-to-go situation, because Mitch Ewaldâ€™s pretty freaking good and IUâ€™s offense isâ€¦ wellâ€¦ not as good. Just my two cents.)
Overall though, I have faith that this coaching staff can bring the best out of this team, and tonight we saw an indication that this teamâ€™s best isnâ€™t all that bad.