Hoosiers running out of opportunities

MINNEAPOLIS — As his crestfallen teammates filed through the bowels of TCF Bank Stadium late Friday night, Peyton Ramsey tried keeping hope afloat.

Indiana’s season is unraveling further each week, but its quarterback is trying to take a long view. He sees the upcoming bye as a chance to regroup and recover, both physically and mentally. He sees the final three games as opportunities to make good on IU’s postseason goal.

Altogether, Ramsey sees something few others do.

“I think this team is different,” the redshirt sophomore said after Friday’s 38-31 loss to Minnesota. “I really do.”

Although the optimism is admirable, particularly after four straight losses, there’s not much evidence to support such a claim. Not right now, at least.

If this IU team is, indeed, different from so many of the disappointing versions that came before it, these Hoosiers are doing a poor job of showing it.

Opportunities to back up that belief are quickly dwindling. After IU returns from next week’s bye, it will have only three final games to find the two wins needed for bowl eligibility. Efforts such as Friday’s don’t engender much hope those victories will be found.

“We don’t have a lot of margin for error,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “We have to play at a fever pitch every time we take the field. If we don’t, it shows. I know that’s hard to do every single time you take the field, but that’s how it has to be. That’s where we’re at.”

In yet another winnable, important game for Indiana, the Hoosiers stumbled. It’s a troubling trend that stretches back to last year, when empty performances in big games against Maryland and Purdue doomed IU’s postseason chances.

Friday wasn’t the first time Indiana failed to rise to the moment this season, either. IU plodded through earlier home losses to Michigan State and Iowa, and went to Minneapolis this week recognizing that a win was crucial to the direction of the final month.

The stakes were obvious, yet across four full quarters, the team failed to author the necessary effort to earn a win.

“To me it was pretty clear what was at stake,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “Thought we had a great week. It was one day short, but it was the same for both teams. Didn’t necessarily match their energy in the beginning.”

That’s what’s concerning about this program. It has made a habit of playing up to the level of the top teams on the schedule, and in games against Ohio State and Penn State this month, the Hoosiers came out eager to fight. But when it’s come to battling comparably-built competition, Indiana often looks flat. Given some of the steps IU’s program has taken in recent years, it’s hard not to see that as a step backwards.

You can blame youth, but only to a degree. Minnesota has one of the youngest rosters in the nation, with 51 percent of its squad comprised of freshmen. Yet the Gophers, who entered the week winless in Big Ten play, took it to the Hoosiers.

Defensively, some of IU’s best, most experienced players once again failed to play well when they were needed most. Offensively, stalled drives, a lack of explosive plays and questionable calls continue to hold that unit back.

A bye week alone won’t fix every issue Indiana has, but the Hoosiers hope it could be a start.

“I think we just need to press the refresh button and let guys heal, let guys recover a little bit and just get our minds right,” Ramsey said. “We’ll come out and continue to prepare, finish off the last three games the way we started out the year and play like we know how to play. It’ll be a nice little refresher to get our minds back.”

When the Hoosiers return to action in two weeks, they’ll get Maryland at home. It’s the kind of matchup — featuring comparable talent in a must-win situation — that has stymied them before, including on Friday night.

For Indiana to back up Ramsey’s assertion that this team is different, it has to start there.

“It’s hard,” Ramsey said. “The first thing you have to do is recognize how close you are to correct those mistakes and be able to make plays when you have opportunities to. I think the guys in the locker room see that. They understand that and understand there are plays to be made. Everything’s right there in front of us.”

10 comments

  1. Through IU football history one thing seems to be stated is that if this or that ____ IU was close to winning ____. Outside of a handful of games in reality IU football has not been close to winning that many games. If they were they would have won more of them. Common sense.
    Minnesota debacle compares to Rutgers comeback against IU not long ago. Difference is IU let off gas (like IU didn’t know how to win) and Rutgers completed comeback with a Rutgers win. IU didn’t complete comeback against Minnesota resulting in IU loss. As the history of losing continues. What a tradition IU football is for what is supposedly a major university. Is Rutgers better at football than IU? (IU struggled to hold off Rutgers 2018).

  2. When IU gets one notable qb commit IU fans latch on to make believe excitement (or one notable player at any position especially skill positions) not understanding or hopeless for a stable of quality quarterbacks needed. (usually at least 3). Look at production from this year’s stable. Pretty much all Ramsey that began last year. Same old thing.

  3. It’s a monumental task regardless, but Allen just isn’t getting it done. The trend of underwhelming play against the lesser opponents on the schedule that the article points out is pretty damning evidence of that. Inconsistent and sloppy. He’s gone from preaching the breakthrough/signature win to this team has no margin for error as quoted here. Yes it’s a flawed team, but we’ve been in the last two games despite it, just can’t make a winning play when the game’s in the balance. Questionable play calling and egregious errors in execution and fundamentals are a major factor. Ultimately, the coach has to answer to that.

  4. That is a fallacy and always regarding how close . In reality IU was not close to beating Penn State. In Minnesota game IU was close to winning for about two minutes of a forty minute game. This thinking of being close in games has always been flawed thinking.

    1. IU could have won both games had they made timely plays. In other threads I have stated that they only reason it was even possible was due to poor play by the opponents. When you have a mediocre team and an abysmal program historically, you can’t look a gift horse in the mouth. You win one or both of those games and you are bowl eligible or have a chance. You go bowling – even if a joke of a bowl and you’re the worst bowl eligible football in D1 – you lose less of your commits and hopefully keep some recruiting momentum. Baby steps. However, Allen and this team can’t even take charity. It’s way worse than Allen wants to let on. He’s in way over his head.

  5. I saw two college football games this weekend, the IU game on TV and then the Louisville/Wake game on Saturday in person. My son goes to Louisville and it was parents weekend. If you compared the two teams right now they are very similar. It looks as those both head coaches have lost their respective teams. However, at this point Louisville may get a little of a pass as they are trying to transition away from one of the best college QBs in the last 10 years and had a great one prior to that in Bridgewater. Also, I see Louisville willing to spend the money and do whatever it takes to get a top coach in there. Talking to some alum before the game and after, they are willing to pay Brohm whatever it takes to get him to U of L. Not sure Purdue will be willing to get into a bidding war with them.

  6. I don’t think the U of L athletic piggy bank is a position to go on an emotional
    Cash Chase for a football coach. U of L Athletics have lost a lot of donor support from the still evolving basketball cash to play, large cash settlement former A D, and a conflict from its University President and the U of L Foundation. Two season ago U of L had 11 NFLpicks on their team. Bobby P will reload theU of L Football Program, no need to panic.

  7. “IU could have won both games.” Lol. That story is as old as (not the current rock) but as old as the old tenth street stadium…And is just plain laughable.

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