Edward Wright-Baker blamed himself. Isn’t that what leaders do? It’s about accountability, being responsible for your actions and those around you. The best quarterbacks do that. Sure, they make plays, throw clutch completions, read the defense and all the technical things about their position, but in the end it’s about leading, about getting guys to believe they can do it and then go out and do it.
Wright-Baker is a work in progress. He’s coming off his first career college start, and the bottom line is IU lost, to a Ball State program in major rebuilding mode. That’s the ultimate measure of a quarterback, how many games did he win and championships did he produce. Sure, the passing touchdowns and yards are important, but more than anything else for the position, it’s about winning. It’s about making the plays that lead to victory.
So here were the Hoosiers, trailing Ball State 24-17 in the fourth quarter and coach Kevin Wilson elected to for for it on fourth-and-three at the Ball State 9-yard line. It was a risk, and we’ll get to that in a minute, but Wilson needed seven points and wanted to get it now. So he called a pass and Wright-Baker threw incomplete, although it wouldn’t have mattered because IU had a personal foul that would have wiped out a completion.
Still, Wright-Baker took the heat. He said he misread the defense.
“I should have thrown the fade to Damarlo (Belcher),” he said. “I threw the out (to Dre Muhammad). It’s over with. I can’t do anything about that now. We knew what they were going to do. I just have to make the play. I just have to throw the ball where it is supposed to go.”
It sounds easy, but it is not when the game is on the line.
“That was one of the plays where he got bluffed a little bit,” Wilson said. “It looked like they were going to blitz on the side and he kind of misread it and made a quick pass and missed our shot. It’s not a bad play, but as a young guy, he was kind of fooled right there.”
Wright-Baker was 20-for-32 for 272 yards, one touchdown (a 65-yard pass to Belcher) and no interceptions. He also rushed for 12 yards.
“I thought Ed, for the first time out, was okay,” Wilson said. “He didn’t hurt us, but at the same time, other than the long touchdown to Belcher, we didn’t make a lot of plays.”
Added Wright-Baker: “It was my first game, my first game starting. I think I did all right. I can improve. Everybody can improve. I need to get the ball to Damarlo more, work on my footwork, work on my fakes. I can improve on everything. I’m not perfect.”
Wright-Baker did nothing to lose the starting position after a six-month battle that wasn’t decided, at least publically, until Wright-Barker took the field at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night. Despite all the talk about possibly playing three quaterbacks, Dusty Kiel and Tre Roberson never played.
What did Wright-Baker do to earn the position?
“The last couple weeks he’s probably been a bit more consistent (than Kiel and Roberson),” Wilson said, “but they all played great.
“One of the reasons to not make the decision (earlier) was there wasn’t a great deal of separation. I didn’t plan on rotating and playing a bunch of guys. The last couple of weeks, ball security, taking care of the ball and throwing it to the right place. He was just cleaner. For the most part there weren’t a lot of throws where you’d ask him, ‘Why did you’ …
“There were a couple of throws where he got blitzed and took off scrambling where he didn’t need to. It was the first true game under his belt. He’ll grow from that.”
As for Kiel and Roberson?
“Tre and Dusty have been doing awfully good,” Wilson said, “and they’ll keep plugging, keep pushing and we’ll see how it plays out.”
Does this mean that Wright-Baker is officially the starter?
“I guess he’s the starter,” Wilson said, “but I don’t know that it’s a big deal where we lose the first game. We’ve got to figure it out and he’s the guy for sure. I don’t want to disrespect him. He did okay.”
“Okay” might work if you’re, say, a tailback or receiver. It won’t work when you’re running the entire show. Still, the potential was obvious.
“I think (Wright-Baker) played great,” Belcher said. “He’s go to come back, watch film, grade himself, be hard on himself and just try to get better.”
And speaking of getting better, Wilson lumped himself in that category as far as calling plays, a duty he shares with offensive co-coordinators Kevin Johns and Rod Smith. As to that fourth-down gamble, Wilson keeps pushing an aggressive approach, and if that means tossing out the coaching book that says be conservative, so be it.
“We need to be aggressive,” he said. “We can’t go out and play afraid. We can’t go out playing scared.”
So Wright-Baker is the guy and Wilson will push the offensive envelope. It should make for plenty of offensive drama. Now all the Hoosiers need are some victories. Saturday against Virginia would be a nice place to start.