Hoosiers stepping up to challenge of No. 6 OSU

With 24 straight wins over Indiana, history is very much on Ohio State’s side heading into this Saturday’s game.

But the Hoosiers weren’t overly concerned with the old on Monday.

Kane Wommack, the youngest defensive coordinator in the Power 5, thought about the players under his command. They are young, as well. And they aren’t so intimidated by the aura of the Buckeye program.
 
They came to Bloomington for games like this.

“A lot of it is you can’t get caught up in the pinstripes … like the Yankees of old,” Wommack said. “You have to lock in and focus on doing your job, and this group, I don’t have to worry about that too much, because they are a very young and very hungry group.

“Some of these guys, they came here to win games like this. We can’t guarantee a win … but I can guarantee them an opportunity.”

The challenge is immense. The No. 6 Buckeyes have scored 87 points in their first two games, including a 42-0 result over Cincinnati last week. Justin Fields, their dual-threat quarterback, has completed 76 percent of his passes. Running back J.K. Dobbins has collected 232 yards, or 6.1 yards per rush.

Wins over Ball State and Eastern Illinois were useful for IU, cleaning up some early season issues and moving to 2-0. But neither of those squads compare to OSU.

That’s something the Hoosiers have to embrace.

“I’ve been some places where you don’t have an opportunity to play many of those places and those teams,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “And it is a great chance for us to be able to take that next step as a program, as we always like to say, and those are definitely program-changing, program-defining wins that affect recruiting and affect the trajectory of your program.”

Recent results give the Hoosiers hope. IU trailed OSU, 28-20, at half last season. More than midway through the third quarter of the 2017 contest, the Hoosiers led 21-20.

Time after time, the Buckeyes have just been able to wear down IU late in games, taking the smallest of errors and magnifying them. The Hoosiers believe they can close the gap with their improved depth. Tabbing redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. at quarterback signaled a potential for more explosive plays.

Now it’s time for the Hoosiers to stand toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes again. And in Wommack’s estimation, IU doesn’t go into this matchup feeling dwarfed.

“For our guys, it’s important for us to understand, you have to keep chipping away,” Wommack said. “As talented as they are, the days of saying Indiana is just not there from a talent standpoint, or an execution standpoint — we’ve got the guys to compete with those guys.

“The goal is we have to line up and do it for 60 minutes. When we get them in those later rounds, these young guys will continue to build confidence, and that’s when you can take your knockout shots.”
From a defensive perspective, the Hoosiers made progress in Week 2. After missing 23 tackles in the opener, IU whiffed nine times versus Eastern Illinois.

That reduced the number of yards after contact from 181 to 31.

And the Hoosiers are mostly healthy. Sophomore linebacker Cam Jones, who missed the EIU game with a lower-body injury, will have to be re-evaluated later in the week, with a final determination most likely coming Thursday. Senior corner A’Shon Riggins sat out the EIU game, as well, but it was precautionary.

They will need all hands on deck to limit Fields and Dobbins in the run game.

“Don’t care who gets the credit. We want a lot of guys to play, we don’t want one guy playing all the reps, all the snaps,” senior linebacker Reakwon Jones said. “That means people coming off the field, you are splitting reps with people. You don’t care who gets the credit.”

Ideally, the Hoosiers will limit the Buckeyes early, keeping it close as they have in previous seasons. They just have to close.

But that’s easier said than done.

“We make no bones about the skill level and the firepower and really even the scheme Ohio State has, (which) we think is elite at just about every level,” Wommack said. “I think for us as a coaching staff, for our players, a young, youthful group that’s very hungry to take the next step in this program … we’re excited to find out what this opportunity will present.”

47 comments

  1. This game will tell a great deal, and if we’re close/there personnel wise to the big four in the eastern division. I don’t believe IU will be outclassed by first line talent, but depth could be a factor as much of or second and third string players are young, and inexperienced.

    I’m still waiting for Coach Allen to provide me with that aha moment that proves his coaching abilities are on par with the heavyweights. It is my opinion that he has simply been outcoached in several games that IU should have won. His coaching ability may be a deciding factor when he goes against Day. Day took over a loaded OSU program, and retained a majority of Meyer’s assistants. Day did add Greg Mattison from Michigan. I haven’t bought into the whole Ryan Day being as strong a coach as Meyer. I believe he is still learning, and hasn’t been placed under a pressure situation. You never know how a coach will react when he has to make a critical game deciding decision. I’ve seen Tom Allen in these situations and his average for making the proper call at the correct time has been lacking. Hopefully this has improved.

    A win would make this season all the more special. A close loss could provide a spark of confidence in the team going forward. A wide margin loss will only provide the naysayers with more ammo.

    Hoping for the best come noon on Saturday.

  2. This game is a good one to rate where IU stands in the development of their roster. Our new OC is showing he has the chops for the job and our defense stepped up, like IU hasn’t seen very often, last week. We are now seeing offensive explosiveness that has been absent for a few years that can keep OSU off balanced.

    This team seems different that we have seen in the past as for two games they made more plays in the 2nd half than the first half. IU has played tough with the “big” boys in the past but haven’t been able to finish; this group seems to be able to finish.

    I am looking forward to this game without thinking about the baggage of the past. I am not sure how good this team is but I am sure they will show us this game what to expect the rest of the season.

  3. SOSD,
    Agreed, OSU will provide a very good measurement regarding IUFB progress Saturday. One thought regarding your comments on TA decisions. There is something new into the mix this year in that TA is concentrating solely on HC duties, and is not splitting time handling the DC job. I caught one of his press conferences, I believe after the BSU game, and was impressed with TA’s in-game management philosophy.

    TA made a very strong statement on how he handles the coordinators. His approach is to stay out of their way as much as possible to allow them to be able to actually be able to think without the HC micromanaging, especially when the ball was in their court. TA said he had seen situations where that was not the case and it was very difficult to handle your role as a coordinator. So I am wondering how this affects the decision making both ways for the coordinators and the HC.

  4. Much hesitancy …and hedging per usual as Indiana approaches the mighty Buckeyes.
    There is never any true confidence from the fan base(nor anyone here willing to put their blogging credibility on the line) going into these games.

    We have played two teams a notch above a decent large high school from Indy. You don’t paint by number to become van Gogh. You don’t claim you can stand with OSU until you play competition to prepare you for OSU.
    People always claim our philosophy is no different than any other quality football program which schedules very soft in the nonconference slate.

    Somebody please clue me in to when we earned the right to handle our football program like any other solid Power 5 team? The fans should not have to endure this guessing game year after year after year(e.g. The hype because we manhandled some ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’….heading into the kingpin of the BigTen ‘Murderer’s Row.’). It’s cruel and unusual punishment to a fan base to do this. It’s akin to Michael Vick allowing a group of Yellow Labs to frolic in a green field together…and then locking them into a cage with a starving Pit Bull bred to be a killer.
    We need to be honest with our Yellow Lab fan base…and stop teasing them with false hopes before we’re fed to beasts of vicious defeats.

    OSU 63
    Indiana 14

  5. V13, the team has definitely made more plays on both sides of the ball, it’s the competition level of the teams that they made those plays against that will be scrutinized. OSU is not BSU or EIU, they are a whole nother level of talent.

    If IU can make those same explosive plays against OSU then we have a legitimate shot at being a conference contender. If they don’t…well IU has away to go to compete with the big four of the eastern division.

  6. Reality check. OSU game will provide no more or no less a measure of improvement for IU football than Eastern Illinois or Ball State. (that could be a good thing for IU) OSU is an elite program. IU situation is that improvement is or will be a measure of outcomes for the whole season. That includes one game this Saturday. Win or lose. The barometer that will measure improvement (negative or positive) including consistency and stability of IU football will provide a reliable picture up to thru and after old oaken bucket and thereafter (if there is a bowl game). Then, realistically it will be known where the football program is at for 2019 and 2020 (if bowl game). Then, it will transition into 2020 season (2021 if bowl game).

  7. t, this team is different about scoring in the second half as adjustments are made, back ups come in and play hard to save a shut out, etc. Yes there are questions if IU is good enough to beat a team like OSU but if they do, I think it will set the tone for this team that if they keep play hard enough they will beat every team they face. Getting close to OSU will also show them they are good enough to be the rest of the teams on the schedule.

    Fans aren’t ready to believe this team yet but are willing to be shown we should believe in them this year.

    1. The level of competition afforded by BSU and EIU really doesn’t reveal much of anything, especially that IU is “different”. This weekend will tell much more than the first two games combined.

  8. I think this game will be determined by which team can run the ball. I think OSU will break off some big runs and IU will be stopped at the line of scrimmage. Hope I’m wrong. I still worry that IU will try to arm tackle Dobbins while our line won’t open holes for Stevie Scott. OSU is good enough to make any team look bad so a lopsided loss doesn’t mean IU hasn’t improved. OSU playing more zone this year….IU’s best hope is Penix picks them apart.

  9. we have lost to OSU 24 straight years. Yet another loss to them this year will tell me we are not improving.

  10. A loss to OSU doesn’t mean IU hasn’t improved. And a win vs OSU doesn’t mean a win vs UCONN (growing pains). Again, my point is evaluation of improvement of IU football or level of play for a final grade 2019-January 2020 will take entire season to give a final grade.

  11. If you let a team beat you 25 out of 25 times, you are not improving. Fans do not care about level of play anymore. Beat these teams or stop whining about fans and revenue.

  12. Sort of with Cali on this one…(and with BearDown). Level of improvement means nothing. OSU can have up and down years(though still light years ahead of what most have us have witnessed comparatively to IU).

    There are only two letters that matter…Those are the letters ‘W’ or ‘L.’ The stands didn’t fill in Memorial because of the moral victories during any of the last 30 years. All we heard about is “breakthrough”… If that terminology doesn’t mean a ‘W,’ then our leaders are doing the fans and the school an injustice.

    The level of play against OSU means nothing. Board the bus with a victory, and then, quietly, get back to work to beat someone else. It’s one win …or it’s one loss added to the hundreds of losses you’ve fed the beyond patient IU fan base. Please don’t even act like one win against OSU makes up for decades of selling and con jobs which never amounted to a hill of beans. I remember it wasn’t so long ago when a kid named Gunner was going to rock and change our world….Next act Michael Penix. Prove me wrong. Prove you are for real in this never ending room of trick passageways and mirrors known as Hoosier Football. You remain microscopic in deeds and a giant in empty claims.

  13. H4H,
    You said, “If that terminology doesn’t mean a ‘W,’ then our leaders are doing the fans and the school an injustice.” I happen to agree with your sentiments, but with a caveat. It is one thing for this statement to apply to a specified period of time, maybe a few years, but when being mired in such a woeful state continues over an extended period of time there is a problem. It finger ceases to be pointed at the inept leadership and toward fans who would allow themselves to be treated in such a manner. Which brings one back to the simple fact that the root cause of IUFB and to an extent BB futility rests at the feet of Hoosier Nation itself. It always has.

  14. Example: If IU wins 8 games this year regardless of a win or loss against OSU…Would that = Improvement?
    If IU beats OSU and lose rest of games this year…Would that = Improvement?
    If IU would only lose to OSU and win all other games this season… Would that = Improvement?
    Realizing IU football the next game is enough to focus on let alone rest of this year, the next year, and the next and on and on and on…

  15. Depends on what you want to base improvement on. I’m looking for consistency. Beating OSU would be a historic moment, but if IU then goes on to lose the next 9 games that wouldn’t show any improvement. Why would a win against the conferences most elite team, followed by losses to the rest of the teams on or schedule be considered improvement? People would be even more frustrated and irritated with the IU program? It would show we can compete, but it would also show IU is unable to handle success.

    A 5-7 record would indicate IU is maintaining status quo. Six wins or more and that is a sign of improvement even if IU lost to OSU, PSU, UM, and MSU to go 8-4. It would show improvement, but also indicate that we are not championship material, yet. Championship teams maintain a level of consistency for the most part. They may play one or two games a season where they struggle to win against a lesser opponent, but the fact is they still win. That is why OSU got left out of the playoffs last two years. Their horrible loss to Iowa in 2017, and Purdue last year eliminated them from contention because a contender should never lose to a lesser team.

    We’re not OSU, we’re IU and just getting to .500 is a struggle. Consistency means not getting blown out in any of their games against the big four, and managing to win three games against either Northwestern, Nebraska, Maryland, or Purdue that would be a sign of improvement. I would hate to have Rutgers as the only conference win.

    1. SOSD,
      I don’t necessarily disagree with what you or “t” have said or the other posts on this thread. What I do think would be interesting to consider, is how would IUFB perform if it had anywhere near the level of support across all categories which the so called “Big Four,” possess?

      1. thinkaboutit, if support is what is required to get wins then Gary Barnett would have never won at Northwestern. Fan apathy was rampant, and attendance was non-existent. Visiting fans outnumbered Wildcat fans. Barnett slowly built that program without support, and since then Walker and Fitzgerald expanded support to the point that now they have one of the finest football/athletic complexes in all of college.

        IU football has received substantial support from the university/administration, as well as donors. Fan support is still less than respectable, the first two games are evidence of that.

        I doubt a victory against OSU will create a sufficient buzz if IU plays a lackluster game against UCONN. A win over OSU, UCONN, and MSU you would think would drive attendance up and make a ticket to Memorial Stadium a hot item.

  16. t- “Win Today”…was how many years ago? “Breakthrough” now simply means a marginally better season and not taking down any of the premier teams in the conference? This program has been taking a slow boat to China….and they keep moving China.

    thinkaboutit- You are correct. Much of the blame does rest with the fan base….I think the fan base has changed along with how sports functions in the daily lives of students’ priorities and things they ultimately care about. I had a lengthy post on another thread detailing what may be creating the differences in caring/passion/fervor/education/cultural influences throughout various sections of the country. Undoubtedly, sports does not operate in a bubble. There are multiple influencing factors…

    All those changing cultural influences and evolutions of fan bases still might mean hogwash if true dominance or consistent winning would come to nest at one of our major sports programs at IU. But as losing continues(or simply low bars of success…e.g. lower tier bowls in football and shallow runs in the NCAA tournament), the cultural differences and changes ….along with the distractions of social media and a world at any youngsters fingertips(along with not so wholesome enticements) via a phone, device or computer, pull what is likely the future fan bases further away(moving the ports of China though we’ve never stopped trying to make our programs relevant).

    Shifting gears….And maybe just some good old fashioned “shock treatment” cures much of this long term illness in our fan base and smacks the doldrums in the face? Could simply beating OSU in football be the beginning of a new era? I don’t really care if we lose a few after such an event. Wouldn’t it just be marvelous to stun the world by taking down the Buckeyes? Been a very long time since IU TEAM has made any headlines in either sport.

    1. “Close games or “almost victories”” are more often than not no more than an illusion. As I have said before most of those games were not as close as some believe they appear to be. Usually, opponents had games under control and IU had a very slim chance of winning the game.

    2. SOSD,
      If we are going to cite Coach Barnett, we need to give the full account. It wasn’t until the 4th year that Barnett had breakout success for two years, 10-2 (L – Rose Bowl), 9-3 (L – Citrus Bowl). After that the program tanked his final two years there going 0-8 in the B1G his final year. Went to Colorado for some good years before multiple scandals took him and the program down.

  17. If we took the Buckeyes down to the wire does it really change perceptions? I tend to believe many of the fans who have tuned out …see close games or “almost victories” as more of the same. Beat the Buckeyes and suddenly the name “IU Football” is a headline on ESPN. Beat Michigan and you start to turn a few more heads. Belief is a smoke….And where there is smoke, fire is not far behind.

  18. Talk is cheap. Come to play boys. It doesn’t get any bigger than Sat. The Hoosiers are carrying a huge albatross around their necks. Hope they bring bolt cutters. Purdue gave them a butt-whoopin’ last year. It can be done. IU has to stop treating OSU like they are an NFL team. Sounds like the coaching staff is trying to re-enforce just that.

    With that said, I expect a sea of red at Memorial Stadium, where the visiting team in scarlett comprises 60% of total capacity. Where all the kids who go to school at Indiana University and grew up in Ohio, will show up to the game with their student tickets wearing Ohio State gear.

    Would be awesome to finally finish them off in a close game. In ’96, I’ll never forget the humiliation after giving them a “hard fought,” “tough game” in Mallory’s last home game. We earned their complete respect and were rewarded by their fans when they stormed the field and tore down the goalpost on our own field. Riding that wave of deep respect, they were hungry for more and went to tear down the other goal post. Our football team remained on the field and guarded it. Like Chamberlain standing firm on the Union’s far flank on Day 2 at Gettysburg, they held and didn’t get to tear that one down. That’s the best win I’ve seen at Memorial Stadium in 25 years.

    If Allen pulls off a win this weekend, I will build a Burning Man sized statue to him. Invite everyone here and serve free fries from Trojan Horse just so Harvey will show up. Since Knight is back in Bloomington, I’d even invite that Ohio State Alumnus to come and help dedicate it.

    If we lose a close one, Tom Crean can come back and make all the players cut down the nets with tears in their eyes. We can hang up a separate banner for our 4 point loss.

    Jokes folks. Jokes. Go Hoosiers.

  19. I would actually prefer the fried pork tenderloin with pickles and “dry” bun(meaning no butter spread applied at griddle). I’ll do my own ketchup topping ….while Hoosiers likely do little catch-up when falling behind to OSU on the gridiron.
    Dill pickle spears would be my opening play …with a frosty mug and Bud.
    I’d then open thing up with a large basket of TJ fries. Fries are frequently mocked …but the product is there. Much like our soggy NCAA results under the stagnant oily Crean, it wasn’t Jordy “Small Fry” Hulls hatred of properly draining a basket causing the poor results.. TJ fries can be very special. Banner worthy….down to the last crispy crumb when crisp and well-coached.

    For some reason I thought we were on the road against OSU. Now that I realize we are at home, I’d like to modify my final score prediction(if that’s o.k.).

    OSU 57
    IU 10

  20. Two things could allow IU to beat OSU on Saturday. Luck and a superior passing game.

    If Penix has a career day and the receivers catch his passes, and IU gets a few lucky breaks, a miracle could happen.

    Don’t count on IU running the ball effectively. They won’t, not against this OSU defense.

    Don’t count on IU getting any close calls from the refs, because the refs are predisposed to OSU being the superior team and their calls will reinforce that belief, especially on defensive holding and pass interference violations.

    Don’t count on IU stopping OSU’s offense very often. They’re just loaded with more speed and power.

    If IU wins, it will be a shootout that comes down to a last second score.

  21. Despite all the passing hype. IU will have to run the ball to beat OSU to establish some ownership/control of game. The pass will have to be effective but IU and Penix needs to keep OSU offense off field as best it can. Thus, run the ball and mix passing game in. Patience. If IU over depends on passing game OSU wins. Plus 3 or 4 field goals needed with 3 or 4 tds. Rest is on IU defense.

  22. IU’s passing game will have to create opportunities for the run, but it won’t be the other way around on Saturday.

  23. Passing game will be a key. Less opportunity for OSU offense increases IU chances. Plus run game decreases qb sacks and interceptions even if Penix (smartly) runs himself a couple to few times. If situation arises towards late in game IU will have to run the ball for a first down.

  24. A very good passing game can create openings for the running game, IU needs to be effective enough in one part of the offense to force OSU to over commit to stop the bleeding. If IU can do enough to make OSU’s defense be off balanced they have a shot at winning.

    IU has played hard enough to give OSU a scare over the past few years. I expect they will play hard enough to do that again and will we have the depth now to get to the end of the game winning it in the end. Penix gives us enough explosive plays to give OSU fits. The fact that Day recruited Penix shows they believe he is good enough to win games in the B1G.

    1. I expect they will play hard enough to do that again and will we have the depth now to get to the end of the game winning it in the end.

      V13- Am I reading that as a prediction of victory? “Oh, my!” as Dick Enberg used to say.

  25. So, I think what everyone is saying is: in order to beat Ohio State at football, we have to play football better than them.

  26. Pretty clear to me the consensus is that IU’s team is going to get it’s tail handed to them. Might as well throw in the towel, play the 3rd stringers, and save the starters and second stringers for the rest of the schedule. I mean hey, all IU did the last time they played OSU at home was take them down to the wire. Apparently OSU has gotten bigger and stronger to the point of near football deity status, such that IU doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in the underworld. Geez….

    1. Ummm, yeah, OSU didn’t stop recruiting so we could catch up. Hate to interject a sour note here but I mean hey, they have only beaten us 24 times in a row.

  27. While having a strong armed QB in Penix is a plus, he will only be as successful as the OL play. The OSU front four is light years ahead of BSU’s, and they did a very admirable job against IU, even with them being undersized. OSU is not undersized on defense. We will be able to determine how this game will play out within the first couple of offensive series. If IU’s OL dominates the LOS they will win. IU’s OL holds the OSU to a stalemate we have as good of a chance to win as they do. If IU’s OL gets completely manhandled it wouldn’t matter if we had Tom Brady as the IU QB we would lose.

  28. Suppose it depends on how “taking them down to the wire is defined.” IU very seldom takes anyone down to the wire in its losses. Give them a good game or competitive; yes. Down to the wire; very seldom.

  29. 49 to 26 is hardly down to the wire material. More IU football hallucinations. Sure it was competitive or a good game for 3 quarters. Game was never in doubt and controlled by OSU. OSU then shifted into a higher gear when needed not matched by IU. If this or that.LOL.

  30. t, you’re forgetting a couple games against Michigan over the last three or four seasons that went down to the wire. You’re also forgetting a game against OSU a few years back that went down to the wire.

  31. So how many of these so called games that went down to the wire did IU win? Michigan won by a td 7 in ot a couple times within last 4 years. OSU 52 to 49 in 2012. IU came within one td 2015 are the seldom times IU was close.

Comments are closed.