Let’s face it. If Indiana loses to Massachusetts on Saturday, it should drop football. Give it up. Concede the effort and try to become a lacrosse power.
Seriously, there’s no way the Hoosiers (1-0) should lose to the Minutemen (0-1). This is nothing against Massachusetts, but it might be the worst football team in America. It’s an FCS (which stands for Football Championship Subdivision, but is really just Division I-AA stated in a more confusing way) program moving up to the FBS (which stands for, oh, heck, just call it big-time!) level.
Against Connecticut in its season opener, things didn’t go well. UMass lost 37-0. It totaled just three first downs. It had just three rushing yards and 59 total yards overall. Repeat –- 59 total yards. That’s for the entire game. Quarterback Mike Wegzyn was just 9-for-22 for 56 yards and an interceptions.
Connecticut, by the way, is no Alabama.
Now Indiana rolls into Foxboro’s Gillette Stadium (yes, that’s the home of the New England Patriots) fresh off its 24-17 win over Indiana State. That victory was part execution, part luck and all relief. The Hoosiers did a lot of things well, but also messed up enough that if they don’t fix it, they’ll be in trouble down the road.
Not against UMass, though. Even if they mess up a few things, they should win.
Of course, nobody in the Hoosier program will say that publicly. That would be really dumb, especially given last year’s 1-11 debacle. They have to stay hungry and humble.
Coach Kevin Wilson and his staff are doing everything they can to ensure nobody takes the Minutemen lightly. That includes guaranteeing no starting positions without performance. Each week guys have to earn their starts.
Check that. Quarterback Tre Roberson is as close to a sure thing as you’ll see on the team. He’d really have to botch a bunch of practices to sit the bench, and even then he’d still play.
But that’s not Roberson’s style. He embraces the competition, which is a big reason why he’s had so much success. He was, after all, an Indiana Mr. Football arriving in Bloomington with a lot of hype and potential.
Roberson is starting to play up to it. Against Indiana State he was 26-for-36 for 280 yards and a touchdown.
Anyway, IU coaches continue to push the message that if you want to play, you’d better practice hard all the time. They brought in a bunch of junior college players, mostly on defense, to ensure there would be plenty of intensity.
“We’re trying to create competition,” defensive co-coordinator Doug Mallory said. “We want them to work as hard as they can. Guys sometimes think they can turn it on at game time. Your play reflects your practice. We’ll play the guys who work the hardest and who produce.”
Beyond that, IU coaches want guys who know what they’re doing and where they’re supposed to be. You’d think this would be simple, but it’s not when you’re young (IU plays a ton of first and second-year guys) and opposing teams try to exploit that with offensive complexity.
The more you know, the theory goes, the faster you play because you just react instead of think.
“Sometimes when you know where you’re supposed to be, you’ll get there a step quicker,” Mallory said. “Sometimes when you’re out there thinking, you don’t react as quickly, and be a step late.”
Whether IU is playing Massachusetts or Wisconsin, it can’t be late.
As for scouting the Minutemen, that’s a problem. There is almost nothing to be gained by watching film of the Connecticut loss. That means looking at tape of UMass games from last year, which would mean something if it had the same coaching staff and system.
It does not.
Head coach Charley Monar was the offensive coordinator at Notre Dame last year, so IU coaches looked at Notre Dame film to get an idea of what Massachusetts might do. IU coaches also looked at film of Purdue’s defense because the Minutemen defensive coordinator, Phil Elmassian, coached Boiler linebackers last season. For special teams, they looked at Yale because special teams coordinator Roderick Plummer coached there before coming to UMass.
UMass used to run a pro-style offense. Now it’s a spread attack.
“These are games that I always have a hard time with,” Wilson said. “It’s kind of confusing and it’s kind of frustrating, because as you watch tape, you also watch players. But for the majority of tape we’re watching, we’re watching players we’re not gonna play against.
“I never like playing opening games playing teams with new staffs. Not that I was worried about them changing, it’s just harder than I want it to be. I don’t know. Visually I just always struggle with that view of football.”
That’s fine, as long as IU doesn’t struggle with the Minutemen. The Hoosiers should win by 40 points -- at least. They need to show, REALLY show, the patsy days are over.