Purdue’s coming to IU on Saturday for the annual Oaken Bucket Battle and coach Kevin Wilson gets it. He understands the whole rivalry deal because he’s played in them and then coached in them.
Still, the battle for the Bucket is a new experience and Wilson said he’s ready for it even if the 1-10 record makes you wonder if his players are.
“The uniqueness is it’s a state rivalry,” Wilson said. “You’ve got the two institutions of the state, the state institutions. You grow up in the state. For the most part, I’m assuming the majority of the fans are pulling for whoever the family has or their grandfather has. For decades or 100 plus years it’s one school or the other.
“But again, to me what makes a rivalry great is there’s a natural love. There’s kind of a respect that you have for the school. The families know each other, the communities know each other. That being said, it’s family going against family. That makes for a little heated, bad blood rival. I’ve tried to tell our kids. I don’t think every school has that. I’d say that if you’d look at 120-some (major college) schools, there’s probably 70 to 75 that have some natural true rival. Some others are searching.”
The only thing the Hoosiers are searching for is a victory to wipe a really bad season. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, they’ll get a chance to find it.
Wilson continues to push the play-as-you-practice concept. He wants player to go as hard in practice, that’s EVERY practice, as they do in games.
He also wants guys competing every day. If you get beat out, do something about it by practicing so hard and so well the coaches have to put you in. In the same way, if you win a job you have to keep winning it by your practice effort.
Wilson mentioned the quarterback situation. Freshman Tre Roberson has won the job, beating out veterans Ed Wright-Baker and Dusty Kiel. Both had injuries that gave Roberson a chance.
“My whole thing with Tre was, what are Dusty and Ed going to do?” Wilson said. “As a competitor, that’s what you want. You want to get back in the mix. You want to get your job back. You keep competing.”
IU is a 7.5-point underdog against Purdue. It hasn’t won since September. It likely won’t win again until next September.
No matter. This is a rivalry game, and it distorts, if not shatters, the mantra you hear about treating every game the same. It sounds good in theory, but in reality it doesn’t work. There are some games you get more jacked about. This is one of them, and it alters the every day pattern coaches find so reassuring.
“I like groundhog day,” Wilson said. “I live everybody to be the same.
“But if I’m a senior, this needs to be a special (time). There’s the rivalry, the Bucket, Purdue. There are all kinds of uniqueness that should make this one of the best weeks of you life.”
Wilson has one last shot to get these Hoosiers to play their best. Can he do what he basically couldn’t do all season?
“We might have struggled,”said, “but our kids have worked hard. They’ve invested greatly. That’s why I keep getting frustrated with my inability to connect with them.”
You might think Rod Smith, IU’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterback coach, might develop an interest in heading to Arizona now that Rich Rodriquez is the new coach.
Yeah, that’s the same Rodriguez who was fired at Michigan, and who has spent this season in coaching pergatory. Smith and Rodriquez have known each other for years, starting at Glenville State in West Virginia when Rodrigez was the coach and Smith was the quarterback. The men worked together at Clemson, West Virginia and Michigan.
Anyway, is Smith interested in going to Arizona?
Absolutely not, he said. He’s focused on Saturday’s Bucket game and beating the Boilers.”
After Saturday, things might change. For now, though, it’s all about beating Purdue.
IU figures to sign 27 football players in February. The NCAA allows 25 a year, but because the Hoosiers signed only 23 last year, it can get a couple more.
Indiana has 21 commitments so far, with 14 listed on the defensive side. If you’ve seen the Hoosiers play defense this season, you know how badly they need defensive help.
Anyway, 13 of them have three stars out of five. Five are nationally ranked at their position and one –- offensive lineman Wes Rogers -– is No. 7.