Thursday, September 15, 2011

IU Football Proactive Push -- Wilson Wants Results Now

Maybe sometime at night, in the shadows of Memorial Stadium’s North End Zone addition, Kevin Wilson shouts his frustration so that it echos across the Indiana athletic complex. He would not be the first. Indiana’s football tradition has a way of reducing the smartest of coaches to numbskulls.

But Wilson has resources his predecessors never had – more money, bigger weight room, more strength coaches, a dietician, and more. Despite the 0-2 start, there is a strong sense that Wilson and his staff will get it right, although all signs point that it won’t be this season.

The Hoosiers are unlikely to match last year’s five-win total. They would need to beat South Carolina State and North Texas to finish the non-conference 2-2, then would have to win three Big Ten games to duplicate the record that got Bill Lynch fired.

Anything can happen, of course. Today’s bleak prospects could become tomorrow’s satisfying accomplishments. Wilson seeks signs in the way IU practices. Given that practices are closed, it’s hard to verify what’s going on other than Wilson wants more.

“You figure it out by the way you play,” he says.

The games will provide insight on whether the Hoosiers are finally getting the Wilson Way.

“When something is not right you don’t point fingers,” he said. “I’m busting my tail and working and scratching and clawing. I’d like to see our players do that. We have too many reactionary people instead of proactive people. That’s not my style.”

Wilson, as his fourth-down gambles have shown, does not believe in reacting. He’s aggressive and used to winning, and this lose-in-the-fourth-quarter stuff is getting old.

“I don’t like where we are. I don’t like the results and the places we’re at. We’re working hard to fix it, whether it be scheme changes or personnel changes …

“If I don’t like the way we’re playing, I’d like to see greater effort. Pick up your practice habits. Apparently what we’re doing isn’t good enough yet. We can all do better. I’m not into having excuses. We can always do better and move forward.”

Wilson doesn’t coach from the book. He refuses to play it safe, even when conventional wisdom demands it.

In each of Indiana’s two football games, the first of his head coaching career, he has passed on field goals for touchdowns, only to see both badly botched.

No matter. His offense isn’t scoring enough touchdowns and that won’t do. If the Hoosiers are to beat some of the teams they’ll face this season –- Penn State, Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State are among this season’s opponents –- they’ll have to jump start the offense.

“We’re not scoring enough touchdowns,” Wilson says. “Maybe I’m trying to force it, but we’ve got to call plays and don’t worry about criticism. You make calculated plays after watching tape. You think things are there and you trust your players to do it. Sometimes they do it. Sometimes not. It’s not their fault when they don’t.”

So Wilson will take his fourth-down shots because he’s put a lot of time and thought into them. He has to call the best possible play for the situation. The players have to execute it.

“We can’t sit there and hold their hands,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to kick them out of the nest and they’ve got to fly. Sometimes they flutter a little bit. I can’t mother hen them, but I’ve got to be smart. We’re 0-2 in those deals. We needed touchdowns. If we kick a field goal we still need touchdowns.

“(The play call) imploded, but that doesn’t mean next game we automatically kick it. We might have something we feel will work.

“I’m going to be reasonably aggressive. You can’t call a game worried about getting beat. We’ve got to be sound, but have a little aggressiveness in what we’re doing. Especially on the road and in big games, you won’t win many in a field goal contest. You’ve got to score touchdowns. Maybe I’m overdoing it.”

When you’re 0-2 and trying to obliterate a losing mindset, you can’t overdo anything.

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