Indiana’s 2012 campaign will end, win or lose, in West Lafayette on Saturday. The Hoosiers failed to acquire the necessary six wins for postseason eligibility, and therefore the book will close on this season on Saturday.
However, IU coach Kevin Wilson said Tuesday that the atmosphere around Memorial Stadium this week doesn’t suggest that Saturday resembles an end point. It does for a relatively small group of graduating seniors, but the younger players who return see Saturday as another opportunity to build and grow towards the offseason.
“As young as our team is, I don’t think there’s a nostalgia of ‘This is it,'” Wilson said. “I just think out of respect for (seniors) Adam (Replogle), Will (Matte), Nick Sliger, Larry Black and those guys, you’d like to have a great week because those guys have been great leaders. But I don’t think the rallying point of our team is ‘let’s play well for those guys.’ I think we’re playing well for everybody. You always talk about playing well for everybody and the guy on either side of you. I don’t think we have a nostalgic group. We don’t feel like it’s over. You want to send some seniors out the right way because of what they’ve done for us, but I still feel that we’re just trying to continue to keep moving in a positive direction as we build. These seniors are going to end their career, but to me, it’s not like it’s over. These seniors are a big part of our start, and they’re going to continue to keep being a big part of our start in years to come.”
Wilson said that he does feel like significant progress was made this season, as the Hoosiers improved from 1-11 a year ago to 4-7 at this point, and he believes, set a standard and a foundation that the Hoosiers can build from.
“I think we’ve made some solid progress,” Wilson said. “I think we had some scoreboards that we needed to get on our side that we didn’t get to go this year. We didn’t manage the game right or call it right or execute it right or make a play. We went from not a good start, Year 1 numbers, but laying a decent foundation. Now the foundation’s taken off and we’re moving. We’ve had a little more success. We’ve got an opportunity this week to get a third Big Ten win and get a win in a rivalry game, so that would be a nice finish.”
Indeed, t helps that the last game is a rivalry game and a trophy game. Beating Purdue and taking back the Old Oaken Bucket would allow the Hoosiers to take additional momentum after making significant improvements since last season and would send them into recruiting and offseason preparations.
Wilson said it doesn’t make any difference to him that a win would keep Purdue out of a bowl game.
“My objective is not whether they go to a bowl game or not,” Wilson said. “My deal is we need to win the game. It has nothing to do with what it does for them, it’s about what it does for us. Winning is good for us. Winning builds us. Winning takes care of our seniors that we have a lot of respect for. Winning gives us momentum in recruiting. Winning gives us an opportunity to build in the offseason. I’ve never looked at it as, ‘This is what it does for them.'”
Other notes from Tuesday’s press conference
— Wilson said that freshman quarterback Nate Sudfeld will definitely be available for Saturday’s game. He suffered a concussion in against Wisconsin. Though he practiced during the latter half of last week and was cleared to play, he had also been limited to some degree, and Wilson said he’d decided to stick with Cameron Coffman throughout the game unless he was injured. Coffman finished 33-of-59 for 454 yards and two touchdowns but also two interceptions in the Hoosiers’ 45-22 loss to Penn State.
— Wilson said he thinks trusts in the Big Ten enough to believe that the additions of Rutgers and Maryland will be positive, but also said he isn’t sure if it will make a difference for Indiana in recruiting.
“Sometimes you say, ‘OK, they’re coming into our conference, we can go there and recruit,'” Wilson said. “But at $4 for a gallon of gas, it’s hard to drive a lot and have families go. We’re going to continue to start regionally and in our backyard and in the Midwest and we’ll complement that with states with great players. There’s great players in the D.C. area. There’s great players along the Eastern Seaboard. I always say, I’m from North Carolina, a guy will send me a tape and say, ‘Hey, here’s so-and-so, you know coach so-and-so from North Carolina.’ I go, ‘Yeah, but does he want to drive past that school, that school, that school and that school, and his mom and dad, for four years just to get to our place. At the end of the day sometimes, the farther you move away, are you really getting a quality product? Some states have enough talent that there are guys that don’t have any opportunity. That being said, just because you’re adding someone from that state, I don’t know that it really heightens your ability to go recruit there.”