BLOOMINGTON -- It ain't gonna go well.
That's what Indiana football history teaches us when the Hoosiers struggle against a lower level non-conference opponent.
Or, to be 2012 relevant, when you are lucky to beat Indiana State (more on this in a moment), misery is certain to come, but then, if you bleed Cream 'n Crimson football, you know all about pain.
You won't hear this from the Hoosiers, nor should you. You get your first victory in a year, who needs negative thoughts?
“It feels great,” defensive tackle Larry Black says. Then he smiles and repeats himself. “It feels great, man.”
Black is 6-2 and 294 pounds. He has a chest that could survive a sledgehammer attack.
Who are we to argue?
Indiana next plays at Massachusetts, which got hammered by Connecticut. It plays Navy, which got hammered by Notre Dame. It plays Ball State, which beat Eastern Michigan impressively and which has beaten the Hoosiers the last two times they've played.
A 3-1 non-conference record is possible. Maybe even 4-0 before Big Ten struggles resume.
“We need this confidence,” tight end Ted Bolser says. “We still have a young team, but obviously we've come a long way.”
Sure, there is hope. There always is unless you play a SEC team (look what happened to Michigan). Indiana is a much better team than last year's 1-11 mess. Tre Roberson is a promising young quarterback directing coach Kevin Wilson's fast-faster-fastest offense. He had a career night in the 24-17 win over Indiana State -- 26-for-36 passing for 280 yards and a touchdown.
He will have more career nights, perhaps on Saturday against Massachusetts.
The running-back-by-committee approach shows potential with Stephen Houston, D'Angelo Roberts and Tevin Coleman (152 combined yards rushing).
Receivers Shane Wynn, Duwyce Wilson, Cody Latimer and Nick Stoner are solid. Add perhaps the best receiver, Kofi Hughes, who served his one-game suspension for violating team rules in the season opener, and you have a group you can win with.
The still-shaky secondary will get a boost from cornerback Lawrence Barnett's return. The former Bishop Luers standout also was suspended against Indiana State.
Defensive tackles Adam Replogle (six tackles, one sack) and Black (two sacks, four tackles) are solid inside anchors.
The Hoosiers are one of the youngest teams in America. Against Indiana State, 14 of the 22 starters were either freshmen or sophomores. These are signs that Wilson's building program will produce future benefits.
There is a reason why you don't want freshmen starting on your offensive and defensive lines unless you have the freshmen who show up at Alabama or Ohio State. Most aren't big and strong enough to handle 22-year-old men who have spent years in a college weight lifting program. They need time, maturity and living in the free weight room.
IU has one of the best free weight rooms in the country, by the way.
Wilson knows that, of course, but what are you going to do when injury and talent dictate that two freshmen -- 6-7, 268-pound Jason Spriggs and 6-4, 293-pound Dan Feeney -- start on the offensive line against Indiana State.
The line, and the Hoosiers' push-till-the-other-guy-drops offensive pace, worked well in the first half, not so much in the second (IU got out-gained by nearly 100 yards in the second half). The Hoosiers will face far stouter defensive fronts in the weeks ahead.
Then there's the perennially struggling defense. It got torched for 192 rushing yards by Indiana State's Shakir Bell. To be fair, Bell is very good (he rushed for 1,670 yards last season), although a bit undersized at 5-7 and 170 pounds. The Hoosiers gave up 387 total yards and six plays of at least 15 yards, including Bell's 54-yard touchdown run.
Let's put that in perspective. Indiana State is a top-25 team in the Football Championship Subdivision level. It is not a patsy. In the closing minutes, the Sycamores dropped two key passes, then watched officials miss a pass interference penalty by Indiana.
IU hasn't beaten a major college team since edging Purdue in the 2010 season finale that couldn't save Bill Lynch's job. It needed a dominating victory over Indiana State to show a breakthrough is coming.
It got, well, vulnerability.
We just got soft,” Black says. “We didn't pin our ears back. We let them take advantage of us. We should have kept playing hard.”
Yes, we've heard that before from IU football players.
And if we don't stop hearing it, it ain't gonna go well.