Sunday, September 16, 2012

On IU Football, the Quarterbacks and Waka Flocka

Today’s take-a-good-look-in-the mirror moment comes courtesy of Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson. He’s a straight shooter not afraid to tick a few people off if they can’t handle it.

Take, for instance, the deeper meaning of the 41-39, last-second Ball State loss. The Hoosiers (2-1) have lost three straight to their smaller rivals, something that should never, ever happen.

Wilson took responsibility for the defeat, especially for the lousy second-half performance that, except for the final four minutes, showcased Ball State dominance. He got on himself and his coaches about poor halftime adjustments and  took a few shots at the media, as well.

Wilson said, in so many words, that we in the media smirk and make fun of the Indiana program; that we don’t see the improvement and the change of attitude that is occurring; that this program and these players will learn how to win.

That we are, in essence, too cynical.

Imagine that.

Cynical sports writers.

The problem is, we’ve been here before. A never-ending series of IU football coaches have talked about change and improvement and pots of gold at the end of the football rainbow. It rarely happens, and never lasts.

Bill Lynch did it once -- going to the Insight Bowl in 2007 -- while building on Terry Hoeppner’s foundation. Bill Mallory did it six times in an eight-year span from the late 1980s to mid 1990s. Given the program’s consistent mediocrity, that has to rank as one of the more impressive coaching achievements of the 20th Century. Bo McMillen had a run of success when the Wizard of Oz was cutting edge movie technology, an era that is as similar to today’s challenges as Lawrence Welk’s music is from Waka Flocka’s.

Who’s Lawrence Welk?

Can we name ONE Waka Flocka song?

Don’t distract us.

Anyway, Wilson has more and better resources than any IU coach before him. He has more money, better facilities, more strength coaches, a nutrition expert and the ability to send injured players anywhere in the world for the latest and best medical procedures. The state produces better high school players than ever before. The academic support program ensures that all athletes can maximize their educational opportunities as well as their athletic potential. Memorial Stadium is a great place to watch a game, especially at night, when it is a showcase for all things Cream ‘n Crimson. Patience is critical because these Hoosiers are better and Wilson's background (success at every stop) suggests he can get it done.

If ever there was an opportunity for the Hoosiers to become a consistently successful program, this is it.
It all comes down to one thing – winning (and doing it the right way).

Everything else, is just hot air.


For the record, there is no IU quarterback controversy. Wilson didn’t pull Cam Coffman in the fourth quarter against Ball State because he didn’t like the junior college transfer’s performance of suddenly became possessed by the spirit of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly.

Coffman, Wilson said, suffered a second-half hip pointer. He couldn’t push off and get the necessary velocity on his throws. So in came true freshman Nate Sudfeld, and if he isn’t in league with Peyton Manning quite yet, he was solid in nearly directing a stunning rally over Ball State.

Sudfeld was 13-for-20 for 172 yards and two touchdowns, all in the fourth quarter. Granted, the TD pass to Cody Latimer was as easy a throw as you’ll see at the major college level. Latimer was wide, wide open because of a busted coverage.

But that misses the point, which is Sudfeld was calm, aware and in control.

"I felt comfortable, very comfortable, with the play calls during the week," Sudfeld said. "Coach Wilson gave us a list and said what do you like on third-and-long, what do you like in different situations. He just kept calling plays and I felt good about them. I knew the receivers would make plays, the line was giving me some time, so I just felt comfortable. I felt like I had been out there before."

Sudfeld, who was originally set to redshirt, played a little bit in the fourth quarter of last week’s blowout win over Massachusetts. He said that helped prepare him for his Ball State opportunity.

"I think it did help just the first time going in thinking I'm actually in a college game and (Saturday) I was ready," Sudfeld said. "It helped me get my feet wet just a little bit. But actually playing more (against Ball State), I think that helped out a lot, too."

After the game Wilson said Coffman's injury was not serious and he expects him to fine for the game against Northwestern in two weeks.

We’ll need both of those guys,” Wilson said.

Waka Flocka couldn’t have rapped it any better.

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