Wilson trying to find proper balance in close losses

Indiana’s close, competitive losses to Michigan State and Ohio State have forced coach Kevin Wilson to walk a fine line.

There is much the Hoosiers could take to build on from those two losses, Wilson said. They were dealing with extremely talented teams and much more established programs, and losing by a combined seven points to the Spartans and Buckeyes is nothing for Indiana to be ashamed of.

But it’s also not anything to celebrate either, and with a historically downtrodden program, he’s seeing some of the latter.

“Too many people around here can congratulate you on almost winning because we have struggled,” Wilson said. “Because we have struggled. But at the same time, that needs to be a sign of confidence. You’re getting better. You should feel good about yourself, but you need to keep pushing.”

Wilson said he’s tried to explain to his team that they should take pride in the fact that they are moving but understand the fact that they’re far from where they need to be.

“I told the kids the other day as a team, ‘Don’t start asking like my kids when they were little and every time you were going somewhere, they were asking, ‘When are we going to get there?'” Wilson said. “I’d get that like 20 times. And two minutes after you just said it. ‘How long of a trip is it? Mommy, daddy are we there?’ My answer was we’re gonna get there when we get there. We gotta keep going, because we’re not gonna win, we’re not gonna get there until we get there, and you’ve gotta keep going. Just like my little kids complaining about it, if we stop, we’re never gonna get there. You gotta keep going. So quit worrying about it, quit complaining about it, let’s keep going down the road, let’s keep fighting and see if we can get there.”

— Kevin Wilson never circled this date on the calendar as a must-win game, but it still feels like it for the Hoosiers simply because they’ve been preparing for it since the spring.

Navy uses the wishbone formation and the triple-option offense, a system that has become an endangered species since the ’80s, but is still used by the service academies as well as Georgia Tech and remains dangerous in large part because so few teams do it. While there is at least some level of carry over from preparations among the Hoosiers’ Big Ten opponents, there is no one else Indiana plays that operates anything like Navy does, and therefore attempting to cram all of that preparation into one week is something Wilson considered foolish. Instead, the Hoosiers worked on defending the wishbone for most of spring practice, much of the bye week in September, and for about 15 minutes every Monday.

Because of all of that, the Hoosiers came into this week with at least a base understanding of what they’ll be dealing with, but it still won’t be an easy prep.

“These guys are in Chapter 20,” Wilson said. “We were in Chapter 1. Were in elementary. Play 1, Base 1, the base play. They can get the trap options, misdirections, broken bones, misdirection motions, we didn’t want it to be a waste of time for the offense. … We tried to introduce so this week wouldn’t be as hard, but it’s still going to be a difficult week.”

Wilson said he visited Air Force over the offseason just to get an idea how they run the offense so he could teach his offense to run it in practice and the scout team to do it this week.

Defending it, Wilson and his assistants said, requires the Hoosiers to be very much assignment and gap sound, to be prepared for frequent cut blocks, and to keep the Midshipmen off schedule, holding them to 1 or 2 yards on first down as opposed to three, because if the Midshipmen can get three yards a carry reliably, they will go for it on fourth and short and keep the chains moving.

“Where people get killed is when they don’t take the fullback away,” co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. “If you allow the fullback to continue to bleed ya, bleed ya, bleed ya, it’s going to be a long day. If you look at this offense too, if they gain three yards, it’s a positive play for them. Then all the sudden, it’s 2nd and 7, 3rd and 3, if you get them in 4th and 1, they’re going for it. You’ve gotta try to find ways to get them off track, you gotta get them behind target where they aren’t getting three yards a clip there. You’re getting them off track.”

— Wilson said safety Mark Murphy hasn’t practiced since suffering a shoulder injury in Saturday’s game. He said he hopes he returns to practice Wednesday and can play Saturday, but if he doesn’t the Hoosiers have Drew Hardin and Greg Heban available. Hardin was out last week because of a family emergency, Wilson said.