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COLUMN

Bleak outlook for winning IU season

Hoosiers play Illinois on Saturday; they need a win after embarrassing 47-7 loss at Virginia.

Monday, October 12, 2009 - 10:11 am

Wasn't Indiana supposed to be beyond submission football? Isn't this supposed to be a new era, a kick-rump mindset, a veteran team that has learned from past folly to set a winning tone for the future?

Sorry. We had to ask.

The wreckage of Saturday's 47-7 loss at Virginia has crushed optimism. The losing streak is at three. Postseason prospects are bleak. Execution has regressed.

It seems the close Michigan loss was a mirage. It was fool's gold for a program so badly in need of progress.

Perhaps the season should have stopped with Darius Willis' 85-yard touchdown run that gave the Hoosiers (3-3) the improbable late lead at Michigan Stadium. That was their peak. It's been a freefall ever since.

Indiana's seniors insisted this was a different group full of veteran leaders with no tolerance for the old losing ways. Coach Bill Lynch said this team showed the focus and attention to detail necessary for success.

Perhaps, but it's the same old results. And with the basketball team probably a year away from really making a Big Ten impact, what does a Hoosier fan do?

Sorry. We had to ask.

Virginia was, by any definition, a winnable game. The Cavaliers had struggled offensively and had lost seven of their previous eight games. Their coach is under fire and might not survive the season. Yes, they had upset North Carolina the previous week, yes they were better than their 1-3 record, but this was not mission impossible. IU had everything it needed to win and compete.

It did neither.

Virginia ran through the defense for 231 rushing yards. IU ran for 82, and it likely wouldn't have been much better, even with a healthy Willis (he sat out because of ankle and rib injuries). That reflects toughness and tenacity. Or, in the Hoosiers' case, the lack of it.

IU did get a career-high nine catches from receiver Tandon Doss and 10 tackles from linebacker Tyler Replogle, although most of those tackles came after Virginia backs had broken past the line of scrimmage.

It was not nearly enough.

Now Illinois (1-4) comes to Memorial Stadium on Saturday night for homecoming and it is vulnerable. It has no offense, a quarterback quandary, bad defense and a losing trend that shows no signs of ending.

A good team would exploit that, especially at home. What will Indiana do with it? That is the week's million-dollar question. Submission can't be any part of the answer.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. E-mail Pete DiPrimio at pdiprimio@news-sentinel.com