Saturday, September 10, 2011
IU Gambler -- Kevin Wilson Shows Aggressive Side
A cynic would say, and if you’ve watched Indiana football for the last generation, cynicism becomes part of your DNA, that the Hoosiers should bag the white helmet look. There’s a reason why they haven’t had such a color scheme since 1966, when they were terrible and everybody’s favorite Homecoming opponent.
It didn’t work then and it didn’t now, although Saturday’s heart-wrenching defeat to Virginia – did the Hoosiers REALLY give up 11 points in the last 96 seconds? -- showed a major upgrade in performance.
No matter. They lost, 34-31, as they always seem to lose no matter who’s running the show.
Still, there are signs of hope in the Kevin Wilson coaching era.
IU was a better team than it was in the season-opening loss to Ball State. It was tougher to run against. It forced four turnovers and won the turnover battle. It rushed for more yards and made a ton more plays. It showed resiliency and toughness.
Still, when it absolutely had to make a stop, it didn’t. It couldn’t finish, which happens in sports. It even happens to the best, as Roger Federer proved in his gut-wrenching U.S. Open tennis semifinal five-set loss to Novak Djokovic when he lost a two sets to zero lead and two match points on his serve.
No matter. It would be nice to live in a time when the Hoosiers make the crunch-time plays and turn defeat into victory.
Instead, we live amidst Wilson’s risk-taking adventure. The guy is trying to change the mindset of the program. He’s trying to give his guys a chance to do something special. In each of the last two weeks, it meant passing on a field for a fourth-down shot at a touchdown. Both times failed, this time off a fake field goal.
In the short term, it seemed another unnecessary risk, and perhaps a game-costing one, although no one knew that when Wilson took the third-quarter shot. The Hoosiers were still getting spanked at the time and needed some spark to turn things around. So Wilson called for a fake field goal on fourth down inside the Virginia 10-yard line. These being the Hoosiers, they didn’t make it. Still, the call showed that, if nothing else, Wilson is not predictable.
“We wanted to stay aggressive,” Wilson said by way of an explanation. “Now it has been two weeks in a row where we are trying to be aggressive, but the plays have not worked yet. We will keep taking a look at it. Actually, we took the delay trying to bait Virginia into thinking we were going to kick. That was by design. Tha imploded, which cost us three points.
“As you look at game management, I have to continually look to see if I am putting us in good spots. As coaches we can do a lot better to help our players out.”
Those players, by the way, made a little history against Virginia. Okay, two of them did in freshman quarterback Tre Roberson and senior receiver Damarlo Belcher. Roberson got in for one play against Virginia and didn’t do much, but he was still the second true freshman quarterback in IU history to play behind Tim Clifford, who threw for 143 yards and a touchdown back in 1977, when real men took their dates to see the first Rocky movie and every guy wanted to be John Travolta.
Now everybody wants to be George Clooney or the Old Spice Guy, but that’s a topic for another day.
Belcher, meanwhile, caught four passes for 53 yards. He now has 172 career catches, second in school history to James Hardy, Belcher’s cousin from Fort Wayne, who had 191. Belcher passed Courtney Roby for second. He had 170 catches.
Those are just numbers. In the end, it’s about victories, so consider IU hosts South Carolina State and plays at North Texas in the next two weeks. The Hoosiers have to sweep those teams. They have to. If not, well, let’s not go there.