Football (both kinds) under a gray sky

While Dustin tried to avoid the flooding in San Juan — seriously, it took him two hours to drive five miles through torrential downpour — I visited Indiana’s respective football teams to check in as they prepare for the stretch run.

The men’s soccer team watched film and held a team meeting before a brief workout Wednesday. They’ll host Louisville at 7 p.m. Thursday in a first round NCAA Tournament game. These Hoosiers, much to their credit, seem to appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given after going 10-9-1 in the regular season. Playing an extremely difficult schedule — and fighting through a Big Ten that uncharacteristically got a lot of respect from the selection committee — allowed them not only to make the tournament but also host the first two rounds (should they advance).

Louisville beat Indiana 4-0, finished 13-2-4 and is ranked No. 6 by the coaches right now. They’ll be thrilled getting on the buses headed north.

There’s really no magical twist to this story: either a talented Indiana team comes together immediately or it becomes the first in program history to lose 10 games in a season. Head coach Mike Freitag is hoping an arduous regular season has melded his team into one that can make a deep run.

Jeremy Price will be at Armstrong Stadium to find out, and he’ll of course be live blogging.

As for the football guys who wear pads, well, the story isn’t much more complicated there. Indiana will host Purdue at 3:30 Saturday, with nothing but pride and an Old Oaken Bucket at stake. It’s an emotional week, with 21 seniors preparing to play one final time in an Indiana jersey.

Indiana head coach Bill Lynch continued to emphasize the similarities he finds in the Hoosiers and Boilermakers. Both have had ups and downs, but were competitive in every game but one (Wisconsin obliterated Purdue). Of course the Boilermakers were able to beat Ohio State, while Indiana never finished off an upset.

Much of my focus this week has been on figuring out where the program is heading now. Obviously this senior class — made up of fifth-year guys who signed just a few months after Terry Hoeppner became coach and fourth-year guys who were part of the group that became the first to be targeted and signed by the Hoeppner staff — has had a major impact on the program. They’ve talked a lot about culture change, and have largely succeeded in giving the program a more professional and determined feel. Now the question is: will it last?

We’ll have coverage of this and more both here and at HoosiersHQ.

5 comments

  1. “Of course the Boilermakers were able to beat Ohio State, while Indiana never finished off an upset.”

    This is where the comparisons stop.

  2. I am excited about the game. I am taking my kids and meeting many to tailgate for fun. I am tired of going into this game for “pride”. I want to enter the game on the verge of getting a bowl bid or already have won six games. How many years do I have to feel like this??? Arghhhhhhhhhhhhh

  3. JPat- I know the feeling, and I have only been a Hoosier fan for four years. The company lines are “hang on, we’re almost there,” “we improved so much this year,” “just give it a little more of your time (and money).”

    I’ve seen a half-dozen “basketball schools” turn the corner in football over the last 5 years, and they’ve all done it through coaching changes. The lastesy example is Brian Kelly at Cincy, who was 53-11 at Grand Valley State, took 3 quick years to achieve 9 wins at Central Michigan, and is now 32-6, I repeat, 32-6 at Cincy, not exactly a premier destination for Midwest talent.

    We now have no choice but to accept the opposite philosophy -that leaving a mediocre coach in place long enough will eventually create the stability needed to develop the program into a winner.

    I wonder if I could try this strategy at home. My furnace is pretty old, but if I leave it there for long enough, and instead spend my money on blankets and sweaters, maybe in the meantime the furnace will become new and high-efficiency.

  4. lastesy? That one is embarrassing. If I leave it there, though, maybe it will self correct and become “latest.”

    Have fun at the game, J Pat.

  5. I agree whole-heartedly. That said, the Bucket means more than the Little Caesar’s Bowl to me. Unfortunately, I’m not that optimistic about Saturday.

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