Mike Ekeler is a passionate guy. Indiana’s co-defensive coordinator wants to win, and he wants to win now, which puts him on par with all the football coaches, players and the entire Hoosier Football Nation.
He believes in what the Hoosiers are doing, KNOWS that the program is turning around, improvement is coming. He sees it on a daily basis in practice from guys who have bought in on what coach Kevin Wilson preaches.
So when he hears and reads that it’s the same, old Hoosiers losing in the same old way, frustration can slip out.
Of course, he’s only been around about two years, and hasn’t endured the generation of watching IU lose big and small, blow games in the first half and in the second.
Because here’s the truth –- until Indiana wins on the field and not in practice, everything is just hot air, and IU still ain’t winning -– a three-game losing streak and a 2-3 record. So the comments and criticism will continue.
But here’s also the truth -– the Hoosiers ARE getting better. Last year they were patsies. This year they are competitive. They have a chance to win a Big Ten game or two, although it likely won’t happen on Saturday when unbeaten Ohio State rolls into Memorial Stadium.
Anyway, Ekeler was asked after Monday’s practice about the improving defense (for the first half it throttled and roughed up a very physical Michigan State team). It was a question without bite or intent, meant to reflect that improvement. Ekeler was polite, but you could sense the frustration behind his words.
“You guys (the media) don’t see it. You guys don’t get it, because you’re not here every day (in practice). No disrespect. Our kids have been playing their tails off all year. To say we came out and we played inspired last week, to me that’s an insult. Our kids have played their tails off from the first game to now. That’s who we are, character wise. They’re going to play hard and do what they’re coached to do. We’re going to give everything we got.
“Improvement is based on what we saw offensively (from Michigan State). Our guys fitted up pretty well. We had some breakdowns at crucial times and we didn’t do enough that we needed to do to win. That’s never good enough.
“Like I tell the players, when we win, it’s on them. When we lose, it’s on me. I’m tired of losing. They’re tired of losing. We’re going to keep fighting, keep coming and wins are going to come.
“Coach Wilson has done a good job molding this program. We were a soft, soft, soft, soft team when we got here. Now they’re playing with an edge and developing some toughness. It’s a process. They’re becoming who they are when they wake up (each day).
“In practice we hit. We get after it. So are we there yet? Heck no. Will we ever be there? No, there’s always more out there. We’ve got a great challenge this week and the rest of the way, but we’re going to keep coming. We’ll give everything we’ve got this week, then reload and do it again next week, then the next week. That’s the direction Coach Wilson has this program going.”
So now you know.
Looks like tight end Ted Bolser will play against Ohio State. His ejection from the Michigan State game for fighting might have left him suspended, but Wilson said on his Monday night radio show that Bolser is cleared to play.
Bolser was ejected late in the game when a Michigan State player dropped a punt and both teams scrambled to recover the ball. Referees thought Bolser had thrown a punch. The game film, Wilson said, showed he did not.
“The play came down, it was a muffed punt that the referees, when they saw it right away said that they recovered the ball, but at the same time it was a scrum for the ball,” Wilson said. “There was not a great sense of urgency to separate. Nothing got out of hand other than guys just fighting for the ball.
“I think as we were fighting for the ball, a referee thought he saw a punch and threw (Bolser) out of the game. When they looked at it on tape, there wasn’t enough evidence. You could tell even when it happened, there were no emotions other than guys fighting for what appeared to be a loose ball. But the call was made on the field that didn’t go that way.
“When we spoke to the official guys, they said they were looking at it. They didn’t think (there was a punch). What are my thoughts? I said, the TV footage shows more than the game footage. The call went down where it just didn’t get handled quickly. These guys were fighting a little bit for a ball, but not fighting each other.
“We’re going to protect players and sportsmanship is big in the Big Ten. I think when they looked at it, they didn’t think it was an unsportsmanlike play. They ruled to allow Ted (to play.) I’m glad for Ted. I’m glad that they just sorted it out and took their time.
“Ted, he’s an Ohio guy, so a chance to play the Buckeyes is special. I’m happy for Ted.”
What’s up with the quarterback competition? Cam Coffman had a big first half against Michigan State as the Hoosiers bolted to a 17-0 lead and led 27-14 at halftime. The offense did nothing in the second half, mostly because the Spartans adjusted and took away the short passes that had been so effective earlier.
As far as what that means for Saturday’s Ohio State game, Wilson said Monday’s practice was close to a dead heat between Coffman and Nate Sudfeld.
“If I looked up now, I’d say Nate was a little better,” Wilson said. “They’re so close. Just the dynamics of that game started working really well for Cam. But it wasn’t Cam. It was the guys around him. We were playing fast on the perimeter. We were making plays. He was putting the ball on target. They weren’t putting pressure on him.
“We need to get the run game going better.
“By no means did we settle on Cam. It’s just the way it played out (that Sudfeld didn’t play against Michigan State). We were so far into the game and we didn’t really play enough snaps to say it was anybody’s fault in the second half.”
So what does that mean for Saturday? Whoever practices the best will start. Figure both will play.