Hoosier Scoop Sage Take of the Day, Nov. 16, 2012

Let’s be honest here, Hoosier fans.
At the start of this current football campaign, you would have taken the following Indiana results, especially if informed that quarterback Tre Roberson’s season would end in the second quarter of the second game:

4-6 record to-date;

Back-to-back Big Ten wins recorded;

Big Ten’s leading passing team;

Just one blowout loss, with Indiana extremely competitive in every other game;

49 points scored against Ohio State;

Such clear overall progress that it engendered serious recruiting momentum, including the “flipping” of more than one four-star prospect from Indianapolis to IU;

Ranking third in the league in sacks against, despite starting two true freshman offensive linemen, including the left tackle;

Overt strides made in terms of soundness, if not significant enough ones as yet, on defense.

You would have taken all that, right? Especially coming off last year’s 1-11 downer, when it was so crucial that this season showcase progress?
Gladly. In a heartbeat. Damn straight.
So, sure, Saturday’s horror-show performance against Wisconsin stunk to high heaven. And, yes, it came at the worst possible time. It did wide-ranging damage off the field as well as on, in terms of very much letting the air out of what had been a burgeoning Cream and Crimson balloon.
And, to be sure, Indiana still ranks last in the league in rushing, total defense and scoring defense. And it’s entirely possible that the Hoosiers won’t win either of their last two regular-season games, Saturday at Penn State — where they are almost three-touchdown underdogs — and the following Saturday’s sojourn to West Lafayette.
The Old Oaken Bucket game is always important, of course, and will loom even larger if the Hoosiers don’t pull off a big upset today in Formerly-Happy Valley.
Purdue will likely enter the Bucket fray off two straight wins, last Saturday’s acutely rejuvenating victory at Iowa and a likely win Saturday over Illinois. And the Boilermakers will have to know that the game against IU will likely fit one of two scenarios: either they’ll be playing to preserve coach Danny Hope’s job, or they’ll be playing in his final game. Either way, they’ll be sky high, even by Bucket standards. It’s basically the same dynamic that worked in Indiana’s favor with Bill Lynch in 2010.
But if this Hoosier team finishes with five wins, with the final one coming over Purdue at their place, that should serve to really enhance what would remain a positive context this coming off-season regarding the overall direction of coach Kevin Wilson’s program.
And even if the Hoosiers finish 4-8, that will not and should not completely obscure Indiana’s total body of work this season.
Part of that equation depends upon just how Indiana plays these final two games, however. Many fans’ faith in Indiana football is inherently fickle, which is not their fault. There has simply been too much trial and tribulation, too much heartbreak and just plain too much losing over the decades, for it to be otherwise.
Fans want a team that not only will win more often but will fight the good fight even if it’s going down. They didn’t get that last Saturday. They had gotten it every Saturday before that this season, though. They need to get it these last two games.
If they do, and if this season ends 5-7 or 4-8, I think they’ll take it and look forward to the future with some hope and some good vibes.
Of course, there is also this:
If Indiana wins Saturday, becoming the first Hoosier team to defeat Penn State in 16 tries, the damage done by the Wisconsin game would be largely mitigated. And then the Bucket game would be for bowl eligibility.
Something tells me you Hoosier fans would happily take that, too.


  1. Definitely making some good points. Unfortunately the Wisconsin game erased nearly all of the good will and visible progress that the defense had been making in the previous 2-3 contests. Suddenly IU’s rushing defense is 118th out of 120 FBS schools.

    Here’s to a strong finish, a successful signing day and continuing work to get this thing turned.

  2. I hope PUke is sky high for the Bucket. I’ll enjoy their pain even more. Much like their BB team suffered last night in NY City. That team was slower than a cow wearing hip boots against the Wildcats.

  3. I was disappointed by the Wisconsin blowout, but I was not at all surprised.

    Wisconsin is HUGE, the biggest team in the Big Ten. IU is the smallest and youngest team in the Big Ten. Wisconsin just bull-dozed IU and, I dare say, physically intimidated our young players, on both sides of the ball. While IU’s defense has improved over the last month or so, our players have not gotten bigger. If we really want to measure our progress as a team, our play against Wisconsin should be one of the key measuring sticks.

    It is unlikely that IU will defeat Penn State Saturday. Maybe next year, but not tomorrow. However, we absolutely can beat Purdue and get the fifth victory of the year. That would erase the blow-out to Wisconsin and signal enormous progress for this young team.

    Wilson has and must continue recruiting bigger players, especially for the O and D lines. And I think that means continuing to recruit with a very wide net. beyond the Midwest. Yes, conditioning is very important, but conditioning does not overcome a 40 pound weight differential on the O-line. While I think the score would have been closer had IU played Wisconsin earlier in the season, you could see that IU’s young team was a bit worn down. And Wisconsin, having a relatively bad season, was highly motivated for that game. It all added up to a disaster.

    But IU has improved significantly and if Wilson and staff can sign the guys that have verbally committed, we will have taken a few more steps forward. But the losses to Navy and BSU still hurt.

  4. Out of 120 FBS schools, IU ranks 118th in rushing defense. The Hoosiers are last in the Big Ten in rushing defense, last in total defense (yards per game) and last in scoring defense. I’d be a lot more encouraged about this season if IU wasn’t still terrible on defense.

  5. From my (admittedly limited) understanding, defense is a lot about size, athleticism, and experience. 3 things IU currently lacks (realtive to the competition). You have to be able to impose your will if you really want to get things done. On offense your can scheme and use more trickery, and you also can be pretty effective if you have a couple really talented players.

    I guess I just feel like IU knew they had to concentrate on offense if they wanted to be in games this year, and then compete hard for bigger and more athletic defenders going forward. They are so young that by the time more talented players come in the less physically talented one will at least have some good experience and understand the system well.

    I’d guess IU is still 2 years away from having a competitive defense.

    Back to basketball, before I get my lunch money taken…

  6. & those are certainly valid points Big Red, the bottom line is after all, the bottom line. That being said, the r eason that I have optimism for even the defensive side of the ball, is that 1)-believe it or not, this seasons defense is marketdly better than last, which illustrates how incredibly bad the D was last year, 2)the coaching staff has done an excellent job recruiting defense-we’re getting perhaps our best class ever defensively in 2013, which obviously should help with our worst area-physical talent, & 3) & most of all, I’ve seen guys more often than not, & MUCH more often than last year, in proper position pretty consistently-& that’s on big plays allowed that I’m speaking of. We simply don;t have the personnel to execute tackles, but that shoulkd start to change in 2013. As for the offense, look the Bleep out in 2013!!! The o-line 1 year older, bigger, stronger, 10 starters returning & Tre Roberson, I expect the offense to join elite status next year. Seriously, 35+ points per game. At least.

  7. There presently are 3 linemen 300 or over on the IU roster. With an off season to mature(not including any of the 2013 commits)I would project there will be 9-11 veterans over 300 lb. or seriously close to it for season 2013. In contrast Oklahoma’s roster presently has 13 over 300 lb and Wisky has 19. In the future, with the style of play, I would expect our line roster will look more like the Sooners than the Badgers. They are recruiting talent even more than size. Proving the staff knows exactly what they have needed most since last season.

  8. HC, if your stats are accurate, those young men on IU’s O-line must have gained significant weight since the first roster was posted on this site back in late August, because I don’t remember IU’s starting O-Line averaging over 300 when the season began. But you make a good point comparing Wilson’s ideal O-line (Oklahoma) to Wisconsin’s behemoths.

    No question the staff knows what it needs, but can it sign enough of those players? And, can they get big and strong enough to physically compete with Wisconsin, Ohio State, MSU and Michigan? Two years from now, Wilson needs to produce a winning season and lead IU to a bowl game. If he does not, he’s going to be hobbled in his efforts to transform the program (he may not lose his job after the fourth year, but he will be confronted with the law of diminishing returns in the recruiting battles).

    Having said all that, if IU beats Purdue, in will have been a successful season, IU will have momentum going into 2013, and we can all sit around and do the “if only” game. If only IU had beat Ball State, if only IU had defeated Purdue, etc.

  9. Come on, Po. Almost no one thought we’d win a Big Ten game, let alone 2…or 3…or maybe 4.

    Nobody thought OSU would come down to the last possession. Sure, we got our hopes up last week when the thought of Roses was still possible this late in the season but the Hoosiers have outperformed and are a handful of plays from ridiculously outperforming.

    Fred Glass is dancing on his desk.

  10. Po, I think you should re-read the stats and the entire post over again as you have understood it wrong and are a bit off target by inserting O/L when I am saying roster. By the way Oregon has 7-300 pounders+, K State has 12 and ND has 12. We do not have to be Wisky to succeed.

  11. I know the defensive numbers look bad, but there is also signs of life on that side of the ball. I posted on my FB page, the day of the Illinois game, that if we had just and average D we would be one of the best in the B10. The team then held the Illni in the 2nd half. Had a strong showing against Iowa, and well not often, they did make some plays against the Badgers(we don’t need no stinking Badgers,) especially in the 2nd quarter. I love were Wilson is talking this team. He seems to have recaptured some of the momentum which Coach Hep had been building before his passing. I think we are still about 2 years away from being on par with the mid teams in the B10. Not sure we can ever be on par with OSU.

  12. Po, I was disappointed in the Wisconsin game as well. However, the biggest problems are not in the defensive trenches…I see them more in the defensive backfield and in the corners, soft at the defensive ends and perhaps still need another linebacker (of course, having more would be great). We don’t always fill the gaps, or support the linemen to stretch the play. I don’t think we’re a bad team in terms of our defensive line’s fight or even their ability. Perhaps we are not very good, but I wouldn’t say they’re bad.

    And, I agree with Chet and HC. This team has earned we respect their season (and we can maintain our disappointment against Wisky). I’m still very pleased with the progress and look for a good future.

    And…Andy, I agree…you nailed it.

  13. HC, when you wrote, “There presently are 3 linemen 300 or over on the IU roster,” I assumed you were discussing the O-line. (Do we have any D-linemen over 300 pounds?) Anyway, I agree with your main point (regarding an Oklahoma-type line vs a Wisconsin-type line), and I agree that IU does not have to resemble Wisconsin’s behemoths in order to “succeed.”

    Chet, I don’t understand your complaint in #12? Did you read my post? It basically says everything you wrote in #12. Here it is again. “…… if IU beats Purdue, it will have been a successful season, IU will have momentum going into 2013, and we can all sit around and do the “if only” game.” That was intended as a positive statement, suggesting that IU has exceeded most people’s expectations, and were very, very close to becoming bowl eligible. For the record, before the first game, I predicted IU would win four games this year, thought one of them could be a Big Ten win, and said we had a chance to win five. Regardless, IU has exceeded my overall expectations this year and have shown significant improvement.

    Tsao, did I write anything that came off as disrespectful? I did not intend to. I agree, the effort that these players have put in this year, the fact that they have never quit in a game, over-coming the loss of their starting QB, is worthy of great respect. They certainly have my respect.

    My only significant disappointment about this year’s team was the Wisconsin blowout in Bloomington. I did not expect IU to beat Wisconsin, but getting blown out on your home field was a very big negative to the program. It’s a big negative because it reinforces the negative image that a lot of people, (especially a lot of IU fans) have about IU’s football program. It makes it harder to recruit the quality players we need to transform this program. It was a damaging loss. And besides that, I just hate Wisconsin!

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