Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Signs Of The IU Football Times
So what do we make of Indiana’s gut-wrenching 18-13 football loss to No. 15 Iowa? Is it just a continuation of a century plus of program misery or a sign that maybe, just maybe, things are about to get better?
Let’s take a look.
With four minutes left, IU led 13-12. It could have won with defense or offense. In a unique twist, it lost with both.
Yeah, maybe it’s time to start watching chess.
First, the defense, which played so solidly for 56 minutes you’d have sworn somebody slipped in a bunch of Ohio State Buckeyes in disguise, fell totally apart.
In three plays and like 50 seconds it gave up 87 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi had all the time he needed to find wide open receivers. This isn’t a surprise. The defense is known for melting down under pressure against the Hawkeyes. See last year’s 28-0 Iowa fourth quarter as a prime example.
The silver lining in such a fast drive was that it gave IU plenty of time to mount its own game-winning drive. Quarterback Ben Chappell took his usual beating and still kept finding and hitting open receivers. It was a clutch display and it took the Hoosiers to the cusp of victory.
It was fourth-and-10 with basically 30 seconds left and IU 18 yards away from the end zone. During a timeout offensive coordinator Matt Canada called a play in which receiver Damarlo Belcher would end up in the middle of the end zone. The route would take a while to run, which meant the offensive line would have to hold up and Chappell would have to stand firm and, more than likely, take more punishment.
Chappell waited as long as he could and threw to a wide-open Belcher in the end zone. He had to throw it high enough to clear Iowa linebackers who had tortured him all game. He did.
In the end, all Belcher had to do was what he’s done a gazillion times before. He’s 6-5 and perfectly built to make leaping catches in the end zone.
So, in typical here-we-go-again IU fashion, he dropped the pass and Indiana once again found heartbreak.
If he made that catch, or if the defense had gotten one last stop, all the talk about Bill Lynch not getting the final year of his contract would have become irrelevant.
Has there ever been a program in the history of any sport, any where, any time that so consistently cannot make the one play needed for victory?
The answer is no.
So fans scream for a new coach, pushing the concept that Indiana needs to hire a BIG NAME, as if that is all it would take, or even happen. IU doesn’t have the money to land a BIG NAME even if a BIG NAME wanted to come, so forget about it.
A BIG NAME wants to be at a school that can consistently contend for a national championship. That's not Indiana. They'll also want a salary four to six times what Lynch gets. IU doesn't have it. Its annual football budget is around $6 million. Schools such as Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan have football budgets around $30 million or more. They make in one home game almost as much as IU budgets for its entire season. It's no contest.
Big Ten Network money is crucial to funding the other 21 sports, so unless athletic director Fred Glass wants to gut the other programs or cut some, which he doesn't, it's not available. Yes, a bunch of wealthy donors could commit to a $2 million-a-year-plus salary, but again, a BIG NAME would demand a big commitment the Hoosiers, with a 52,000-seat stadium, could never meet.
Lynch is still the coach and Glass absolutely doesn’t want to fire him. He has said Lynch will get the final year of his contract to turn things around. Lynch is poised to get one of the program’s best recruiting classes in a generation and Glass doesn’t want to screw that up. But he needs something more than heartbreaking near-misses and wins over bad teams to show the program is making progress and heading in the right direction.
Figure that “more” won’t happen next Saturday when the Hoosiers travel to Wisconsin. But Penn State and Purdue are vulnerable. IU can win both, and should win at least one. Close won't cut it.
Through it all consider that the Hoosiers' much-maligned defense has improved a lot, which is the sign of good coaching. The offense did well against one of the nation’s best defenses. That, too, is a sign of good coaching.
As we’ve said before, in every off-field criteria, Lynch and his staff have excelled. But winning matters most, and when you’re 0-5 in the Big Ten, when you’ve won just two of your last 19 conference games, that’s not good enough.
You don’t need a sign to tell you that.