Indiana Football – the wait for early success has been long, can Saturday be the big payoff?

by Kent Sterling

Kevin Wilson has the Hoosiers right where he wanted them - undefeated awaiting the arrival of the nation's #1 team.

Kevin Wilson has the Hoosiers right where he wanted them – undefeated awaiting the arrival of the nation’s #1 team.

Indiana University’s football team has won five games in a row – for the first time since 1987.

Indiana University’s football team has started the season 4-0 – for the first time since 1990.

That’s almost as long as IU basketball fans have waited for a sixth national championship, and top ranked Ohio State will come to Bloomington this Saturday to try to throw a giant bucket of ice cold water on this party built on wins against Purdue, Southern Illinois, Florida International, Western Kentucky, and Wake Forest.

The last time Indiana won six straight?  I think that game is depicted in a mural at the Union right next to a lithograph of Herman B. Wells at his graduation.

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The goal for the Hoosiers this season has never been a bowl, which seems gaudy and generous considering Indiana has gone bowling exactly once in the past two decades, No, players during media day expressed a little annoyance with people who asked whether they thought a bowl might be possible.

Defensive lineman Darius Latham and quarterback Nate Sudfeld were among those who claimed a visit to the Big Ten Championship Game and maybe even the National Championship were in their sights.

Nobody had the stones to ask “Seriously?” but everyone in the room thought it.

This is Indiana.  Indiana doesn’t go to the Big Ten Championship game.  Can’t happen.  Not when Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan are all in the same division of the Big Ten as the Hoosiers.

Believing in Indiana Football excellence is like believing in Santa Claus, except it’s not nearly as quaint.

This is year five of the Kevin Wilson rebuilding project, the fifth such rebuild since the dismissal of Bill Mallory after the 1996 season.  Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Terry Hoeppner, and Bill Lynch have tried, and with the exception of Hep’s rejuvenation of the program, all were failures.

Wilson was given unprecedented resources to recruit staff and players, and was paid a reasonable wage when he agreed to leave Oklahoma as the offensive coordinator for the head position at a program where coaching careers go to die.

The next Indiana coach to leave IU and serve as head coach for another FBS school will be the first since John Pont who presided over the dumpster fire of Northwestern in the mid-1970s after leaving IU.

Fans were told that it takes time to get the recruiting foundation laid, and the Indiana culture had not been prosperous in so long that extra patience would be required.  Five years seemed reasonable.

After a close call in 2013, a potential bowl season halted because of an ill-fated backward pass against Minnesota, and the shoulder injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld in 2014, it appears Indiana might just get to a bowl this season as a validation for Wilson’s continued grinding.

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As for whether Indiana can somehow overcome a sixty minute test administered by a foe they have not vanquished since, well, a very long time ago, (I thought maybe IU beat the Buckeyes in the magical Rose Bowl season on 1967, but the two teams did not play each other), that’s for Wilson and the Hoosiers to prove Saturday.

The experts have Indiana as a 17.5 point underdog, but sports books don’t determine the outcome of the game – players do.

If Indiana can win, unbridled joy will be unleashed on Monroe County in a measure unseen since IU’s last basketball championship in 1987.  At least I assume there would be glee – the territory into which a win would thrust Indiana football fans would be entirely unprecedented.  Maybe they would simply head back to their dorms and frats.

Let’s not even talk about what might happen beyond that.  Talking about being undefeated facing what would likely then be the #1 ranked Michigan State Spartans would be incredible – as in completely not credible.

I’m treating this as I will the Cubs trip to the playoffs.  A positive resolution is impossible to contemplate, but I’ll be at Memorial Stadium just in case.

Only two things we know for sure about the Hoosiers, they have lost zero games so far, and you can’t lose less than zero, and they don’t need to be the better team Saturday – just the team that scores more points in 60 minutes.

4 thoughts on “Indiana Football – the wait for early success has been long, can Saturday be the big payoff?

  1. Gordon Whitecotton

    Indiana will win 6 games this year. But one of those won’t be on Saturday vs. Ohio State!!! IU has beaten Southern Illinois by 1, a very fine Florida International team, Western Kentucky and went on the road and beat traditional power Wake Forest by 7, before countless dozens!!! Don’t get your hopes up for more than 2 or 3 more wins in Big Ten Play!!!

  2. Pauly Balst

    I am fairly certain IU beat Ohio State 3 years in a row in the late 1980’s early 90’s timeframe. That was not THAT long ago, and yes, that’s football. One of those wins was at Ohio Stadium, where the Hoosiers hadn’t previously won since the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the fall of 1858.

    A win is a win is a win, I’m proud of our guys, keep grinding away. I’ll take 6-7 wins and any bowl. It’s a process, not an event.


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