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COLUMN

Is IU ready for next November opportunity?

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For more on Indiana athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Hoosiers end with Penn State, Purdue

Monday, November 12, 2012 - 12:01 am

BLOOMINGTON -- Shane Wynn wants to believe. His dark eyes radiate hope, although it's not the steely eyed certainty you see in places such as Alabama, Oregon and, now Notre Dame. Still, it's there. It's the same with Cam Coffman, Adam Replogle and all the other football Hoosiers who gathered in the Memorial Stadium weight room after Saturday's Big Ten embarrassment.

They all said, in essence, the same thing:

Indiana still has a lot to play for.

“We still have two games left,” Coffman said. “If we win those, we can still go to a bowl. Those things are still in front of us. Put this one behind us and come ready to work.”

Math says it will work.

Performance, and so often in this world you're remembered for your last one, says, not a chance.

Wynn played as well as any Hoosier in the 62-14 statement-making loss to Wisconsin, which isn't saying much. He had six catches for 48 yards.

It wasn't, of course, nearly enough.

“We still have a lot more to go,” he said.

IU (4-6) plays at Penn State (6-4) on Saturday and then at Purdue (4-6). If it wins both, it becomes bowl eligible. If it loses at least one, it begins preparations for next season.

The Hoosiers are 0-15 against Penn State, although, because of NCAA sanctions imposed on the Nittany Lions after the Jerry Sandusky scandal, it's officially 11-4. But that's just administrative babble. The truth is, IU has to earn a victory, not have it handed to them.

As for Purdue, the Hoosiers have won two of the last five meetings with their Old Oaken Bucket rival.

“We have two big games that mean a lot around here,” Wilson said. “One is an opponent we have not had a lot of success against.

“Every game we talk about getting better. We have new leaders; our coaches are doing a great job. We need to come back, have a good week, keep getting better. That's what we need to do.”

The Hoosiers are building for a better tomorrow. They were 1-11 last season and might have been America's worst team.At the worst this season they will finish 4-8. That's progress. They were competitive in every game until Wisconsin showed up at Memorial Stadium. That's progress. You can see a day when the Hoosiers are ready for a big November game.

That day certainly wasn't Saturday. Quality teams don't give up 564 rushing yards. They don't have enough three-and-outs to last a season. They don't submit, when it's time to hit.

“They only threw seven passes,” Wilson said about Wisconsin. “They imposed their will on us. We have made some strides, but you can't let a team run the ball down your throat. In the Big Ten, there are teams that historically will do that.

“We didn't manage (the opportunity). If we're worth a flip, we'll do a bunch of learning.”

Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema might be the world's nicest man, saving cats from trees and helping grandmothers cross traffic-choked streets. But he's ruthless with his football, from firing his new offensive line coach two games into a season to smash-mouthing opposing defenses into pieces.

Wisconsin has crushed IU 204-41 the last three seasons and some have said Bielema ran up the score on purpose. But he didn't run up Saturday. Heck, he was trying to run out the first-half clock, basically had tailback James White run up the middle, when the Hoosiers defense got as soft as you never want to see it.

So it's time to move on. As Wilson said, “I don't want this to be something that sticks in their minds. I'll love to see what we do to keep building these next two weeks.”

The Hoosiers have everything in place to go at least 1-1 in these next two weeks.

Are they tough enough to do it?

It depends on whether you believe in math or performance.

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