Kevin Wilson already has his eyes on Indiana’s football future.
Yes, the 56-35 Oaken Bucket loss to Purdue was a blow. Yes, the defense once again was a disaster, the four turnovers a major disappointment for a coach known for his offensive prowess, and ending the season three straight blowout losses will linger long into the winter.
Still, a lot of fire power returns, the recruiting is promising and all signs point that, perhaps as soon as next season, bowl eligibility is coming.
“We have 19 guys on offense coming back,and only five will be seniors,” Wilson said. “They have time to grow because they’re young and have potential to grow.
“These last three games have been disappointing, but with the next young players they can make great strides and become the strong leaders that we need.
“We need to recruit and work on player development because our guys are not physically strong enough to where they need to be.”
IU finished 4-8, three more victories than last season, its first under Wilson.
The Hoosiers scored first, took a 21-14 halftime lead, and rallied for a 35-35 tie with 12 minutes left in the game before buckling.
“It was disappointing to lose the rival and bucket game,” Wilson said. “That was a tremendous day for Purdue. They played a great second half, but we didn’t make tackles. We played a solid game and the guys played well, but when you turn the ball over four times, you’re not going to win.
“It’s sad for the seniors, but we hope to go into the off-season and work on the guys coming back.”
As far as the turnovers -– three Cam Coffman interceptions, and a fumble –- Wilson said, “We can make better play calls. I’m just as much a part of that as Cam.”
Coffman had a huge game, throwing for 348 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Stephen Houston rushed for 158 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 95 yards.
“I had the hot hand today,” Houston said. “My coaches got me the ball. I had faith in the o-line and my coaches just kept feeding it to me.”
Losing the momentum that came with the 35-35 tie shouldn’t have happened, defensive back Greg Heban said.
“We had it at 35-35. We thought we had the momentum. We talked about finishing games at practice, but we couldn’t finish this like we wanted.”
So players will start lifting weights, perhaps as soon as next week. The coaches will hit the recruiting trail hard to finish what looms as a strong recruiting class.
“We didn’t win as much as we would have liked,” Coffman said, “but we learned a lot. We have a lot of potential. We’ll relay this into the off-season and come out strong next season.”
Indiana’s top-ranked basketball team is back in Assembly Hall tonight after a successful trip to Brooklyn. The Hoosiers (5-0) take on Ball State (2-1). The Cardinals are coming off a 20-point loss to Indiana State.
There’s a chance IU could lose focus on Ball State, because on Tuesday night Indiana will host No. 9 North Carolina. But then, if you’ve seen the way coach Tom Crean works the Hoosiers, emphasizing that they pay attention to details, yo know losing concentration isn’t an option.
The Hoosiers survived challenges from Georgia and Georgetown as much with their tough-minded approach as their physical talent.
“I would say grit, toughness, passion. I would say that when things didn’t go our way, we had a really good ability to get to the next play,” associate head coach Tim Buckley said. “We were able to play a couple of different styles, whether it was pushing the pace or grinding it out at the half-court. That’s always a sign of a pretty good team when you can play a lot of different ways.”