Friday, November 26, 2010
Oaken Bucket Drama: Key Matchup; Lynch Saga
Here comes the annual Oaken Bucket battle with its job-saving potential, bragging-right possibilities and disappointment-softening prospects, and for those thinking that football’s Grim Reaper hovers over Bill Lynch like an invisible shadow, hold that thought and consider this key:
The game at Ross-Ade Stadium rests with two players -- Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.
Chappell is the most accurate quarterback in school history and, especially now with an assortment of bumps and bruises, one of its most immobile.
Kerrigan is a one-man wrecking crew whose NFL stock rises with every game. He leads the Big Ten in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (25.0). Game planning to stop him is an exercise in futility, but the Hoosiers can’t afford futility. Not with pride and, perhaps, a job at stake.
An IU victory depends on the offensive line’s ability to protect Chappell and his ability to adjust the blocking and get rid of the ball quickly and accurately. If he can get the Big Ten’s best passing attack clicking, the Hoosiers could roll against an injury ravaged Purdue squad.
Important note: The injuries have mostly come on offense; the Boiler defense has been fairly healthy all season and is probably at its healthiest.
As if stopping Kerrigan wasn’t tough enough, the Hoosiers also have to deal with a Boiler defense that leads the Big Ten in sacks. Defensive tackle Kawaan Short has benefited from the attention directed to Kerrigan by totaling 6.0 sacks. That ranks third in the conference.
A victory would give IU a 1-7 Big Ten record for the third straight year and snap a 12-game conference losing streak. It also might, MIGHT, be enough to get Lynch the fourth and final year of his contract.
There seems no way IU gets out of this season without some kind of coaching change. The easiest and most painful would be to let Lynch and his staff go and start all over again. This would certainly satisfy the growing number of unhappy fans (some of whom are major financial contributors) and take the heat off of athletic director Fred Glass.
We say painful because Lynch is, in almost every way, what you want in a coach -– a caring, classy guy who does things the right way, recruits the right kind of kids who are good athletes who understand the importance of academics, and who represents the university well. Also, it likely will take a new coach several years to get his program up and running. We’ve seen that too many times before. IU’s program really, really needs stability. Firing Lynch would mean six coaches in a 14-year span. That’s about as far away from stable as you can get.
Still, that’s probably the way this will end. Winning remains the bottom-line, No. 1 priority.
Glass could retain Lynch with the stipulation that he makes significant changes to his staff. That’s a problem because no decent assistant coach would come to what could very well be a one-and-done situation. It could work if Glass gives Lynch a one-year extension so he could tell potential assistants they’d have at least two seasons. That also would mean Glass would have to stick with Lynch for at least that extension year no matter what happens next season.
And if that produces a losing record, a strong possibility considering IU will have an inexperienced quarterback and tougher non-conference schedule next season, Glass would be vilified by some. He would face a lot of heat and if, after two more years, Lynch was still losing, well, it would not be pleasant for anybody.
But then, when it comes to Hoosier football, what’s new.