Bill Lynch could celebrate after a Big Ten game, an “I” link from the Old Oaken Bucket hanging around his neck, Hoosier hysteria rolling across the Ross-Ade Stadium turf in a wave of emotion.
Richard Council could run from Hoosier to Hoosier, hugging a trail of joy, eyes red and filling.
This is what beating Purdue can do.
Fred Glass surveyed it all, enjoying the moment, declining to steal from it, keeping whatever decision he will make to himself. Indiana’s athletic director was all about praising the coaches and players for beating a rival that has dominated the last 13 years.
A decision on Lynch’s coaching future?
That’s for another day.
Yes, this Oaken Bucket battle went to overtime for the first time in series history. IU’s 34-31 victory came when redshirt freshman kicker Mitch Ewald capped an unexpected season of opportunity by drilling the game winner from 31 yards.
It seemed a chip shot, but ask Boise State’s field goal kicker about that when the pressure is on.
Ewald never flinched.
“I’ve done it a million times before,” he said. “So much credit goes to the snapper and holder.”
That would be Jeff Sanders and Teddy Schell, unsung heroes in a brisk day full of them.
There was battered quarterback Ben Chappell, his body a walking bruise, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns to clinch the Big Ten passing title. His 3,295 passing yards set an IU single-season record.
“Chappell is unbelievable,” Lynch said. “No one will ever know how bad he’s been hurt over the last five or six weeks, and how bad he was hurting today. You couldn’t get him out of there. He made play after play.”
There was linebacker Jeff Thomas, a junior college transfer whose overtime interception gave IU a chance to win it in the first overtime period.
There were receivers Terrance Turner (10 catches, 100 yards), DaMarlo Belcher (eight catches 83 yards) and Tandon Doss (eight catches, three touchdowns) coming up big.
There was linebacker Tyler Replogle who had 11 tackles, including one for a loss.
There was an offensive line that gave Chappell enough protection to drive the Hoosiers into overtime.
Finally, there was Lynch, whose team earned its biggest come-from-behind victory under his watch (at one time it trailed 21-7). It was IU’s first win at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1996 and snapped a 12-game Big Ten losing streak. It was Lynch’s 100th career victory and gave the Hoosiers a 5-7 record, one more win that last year.
He didn’t want to talk about it. It was about the players, you see. It was for the seniors, most of whom will never again play an organized football game.
“It’s all about listening to those guys jumping up and down,” he said. “We’ve had a few weeks where it’s been pretty quiet in there. You need rewards for all the hard work and they’re getting their rewards.”
For Lynch the reward would be getting the opportunity to coach the final year of his four-year contract. That is what Glass will decide and don’t expect it to take long. There’s no reason to drag this out. If Lynch is staying, announce it to end the speculation. If he’s gone, the sooner the search for a new coach begins, the better.
As we’ve said before in earlier blogs, the fair thing would be to let Lynch coach the final year of his contract because, in so many ways, he is the ideal man to coach the program. The players were in full support.
“He’s been fighting for us all season,” senior safety Mitchell Evans said. “He stood up there when a lot of times it was our fault and he took the blame for it. I loved playing for the guy. It was great to get this win for him.”
But in this bottom-line world and profession, being fair doesn’t always mesh with reality. Glass’s priority has to do what’s best for the program. One way or the other, we’ll soon know that.