Sunday, September 18, 2011

For Football Hoosiers, It's Time To Man Up and Win

This much we know –- Kevin Wilson has no time or tolerance for the losing mindset that has permeated Indiana football for the last generation. He wants to change things and it starts with effort. He wants it non-stop, consistent and effectice. Specifically, it starts in practice. A lot of the veteran players have gotten it. Some, apparently, have not.

The biggest issue seems to concern the offensive line. Some starters weren’t practicing to the standards Wilson has set, and he wasn’t going to take it. The fact that it came before a game against South Carolina State, a FCS team (just think of it as NCAA Division I-AA, which is much, much easier) meant that a lesson could be learned without losing a game.

At least, that was the hope.

So Marc Damisch, Justin Pagan and Cody Evers were out. Freshmen Peyton Eckert, Bernard Taylor and Collin Rahrig were in.

Sixty football minutes later, including a school-record 20 penalties for an amazing 176 yards, the Hoosiers had a 38-21 victory and, perhaps, a kick in the you know what.

So what was Wilson thinking and what does it mean for the rest of the season?

Let’s take a look.

“I think as much as anything we are looking to shake some things up,” he said. “We are losing some games and don’t like the outcome. When you come out to practice and don’t see the energy from a starting group and you see second guys that are giving you more, it’s like, let’s go to the next guy.

“Even though we are playing an FCS team, we did run better, we did come off the ball and we did fight and battle pretty well. That’s going to creat competition.

“My deal is, if you don’t like where you’re at, work hard and change it. Don’t accept it. Don’t mope around. Don’t feel sorry for yourself, because all you’re doing is proving, Hey, you’re right, we’re not supposed to win games. We’re supposed to lose. You’re right, we’re not supposed to run the ball well.”

Wilson wants the opposite attitude. He wants his players to say, in essence, “Hey, I’m going to work hard and fix it and improve. We flounder in this viscious little circle and we keep going in circles chasing our tail and we get nowhere.”

Nowhere is not why Wilson took the IU job. He’s won everywhere he’s been and just because he’s a head coach for the first time doesn’t mean he wants that to change. So he put Taylor, Eckert and Rahrig in with the starters in practice and “We thought those guys were playing harder, so we went with them, and as we went through the week they actually practiced even better as they saw they were going to play and the other guys didn’t respond well.”

Now we’re off to a new week and a new opponent and a new challenge. IU (1-2) will travel to North Texas (0-3) on Saturday and Wilson is ready to see how the guys who were benched respond.

“It will be interesting to see … Again if a guy’s got some fiber and a guy’s got some pride, he’ll come back scratching and fighting. As coaches, that’s what we’re trying to do. We were fighting and scratching. We didn’t like being 0-2 and we’re looking for guys who want to embrace that.”

Does that sound like the Hoosiers? Are there enough of them to make a difference? North Texas will tell us a little more, but the real enlightenment won't come until Big Ten play.

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