Hoosiers looking to snap six-game road skid

They dressed themselves in sweat suits and polo shirts awash with Indiana colors, black bags and backpacks slung over their shoulders and headphones nestled snug in their ears.

As they boarded buses outside Memorial Stadium early Friday afternoon, primed for the four-and-a-half hour drive to Bowling Green, these Hoosiers remembered what it was to be in a road game routine. Nate Sudfeld likes the feeling, the close camaraderie that the highways and foreign locker rooms bring to a team of 70 men together in the pursuit of one goal in a hostile environment.

“I enjoy the bus ride,” Sudfeld said. “It’s fun, you and your brothers taking on the whole stadium. It’s a lot of fun.”

But the road has been unkind to Indiana football over its last six games outside of Memorial Stadium. Not since a thorough win at Illinois in November 2012 have the Hoosiers claimed a victory away from Memorial Stadium. They can change that Saturday at noon at Doyt Perry Stadium.

For Indiana, it marks the beginning of a six-game stretch that will take the program through the non-conference schedule and straight to the heart of Big Ten play.

It’s also the first of six games away from Bloomington, and an opportunity to develop some early momentum at an important juncture in the Kevin Wilson era.

“I like our team and I like getting started with this team,” Wilson said. “Really get started now for a great run. So, I like where we’re at (and) know we’ve got an awesome challenge. Looking forward to seeing a lot of our fans in Northwest Indiana and our Ohio fans getting over there. Like I said, again, we know this team well because whether it be the Ohio kids we recruit so hard, the Indiana kids, and then they go down and recruit Florida and Georgia just like we do, so it’s a lot of kids you know, it’s a great program.”

The Falcons haven’t hosted a Big Ten team since 2008, when they fell to Minnesota. Indiana will be only the fourth Power Five conference school to play at BG since 2000.

So, that fact alone is reason enough for the folks at Bowling Green to be excited for this one.

“What a blessing,” Falcons coach Dino Babers said. “It really is something special to have a Big Ten team coming in here to The Doyt. It’s a really nice deal. It’ll be outstanding for the community. It’ll be great for the player to have an opportunity to play a team like that in front of their family and on their homecourt, so to speak. For the coaches who gotta go coach this game, it’s not so exciting. We’ll see what we can do. We know they’re a good football team and we’re gonna give them our best shot.”

Exactly how good of a football team Indiana is at this extremely early juncture of the season is up for debate. The Indiana State season opener two weeks ago did not reveal much of anything the Hoosiers could call an identity. Their passing game was limited and their defense was seldom challenged.

Bowling Green should provide at least a better glimpse of what kind of team IU seems to be.

In his first season at the helm of the Falcons, Babers inherits a team coming off a Mid-American Conference championship last fall. But he’s brought his own offensive approach to the program — one of the no-huddle variety that seeks to run a play every 10-15 seconds.

Of course, Indiana has its own experience with the up-tempo offense under Wilson. But the Hoosiers weren’t necessarily focused on running practices at a frenzied pace this week. Part of that reasoning comes from a young, and relatively new, defense still looking to find its footing.

Wilson wants to establish defensive fundaments and help players grasp assignments before running things at top speed during the week.

“We have not majored ourselves in being as hectic in our practice because we really want to see our defense make some strides with the new system and communication and all that,” Wilson said. “We’ll try to do it, and at the same time you’re going to see it from week to week, it’s a part of football. Again, their attack is very, very sound, very aggressive, and has the ability to go fast.”