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COLUMN

IU football futility means wait till 2014

Heartbreak puts Hoosiers in attack mode

Monday, November 4, 2013 - 8:51 pm

BLOOMINGTON -- Indiana's Circle of Football Futility is nearly complete for another season.

Nearly.

If nothing else, the Hoosiers ain't boring. They bring drama to even the simplest of things -- such as covering a tight end over the middle or executing a swing pass.

But we digress. Indiana (3-5) won't beat Ohio State or Wisconsin later this month, so its bowl-less streak will grow to six. The 2007 appearance in the Insight Bowl will remain its only postseason game since 1993.

Hosting stumbling, bumbling Illinois (3-5) and its 18 straight Big Ten losses Saturday will help. Surely the Hoosiers won't mess that up, although the Illini's last conference win came in 2011 against -- you guessed it -- IU.

Still ...

“You review the film and continue to learn,” safety Mark Murphy said. “You continue to fight. You never give up. You keep moving forward.”

In the aftermath of Saturday's 42-39 loss to Minnesota, coach Kevin Wilson took the play-calling blame because the buck stops with the head coach. And the buck gets heavier when you're 2-11 in games decided by a single score, as Wilson is in nearly three seasons.

But let's be honest, botched execution can turn any play into disaster. IU's rush-to-action approach amid end-of-game pressure and fatigue can produce split-second lack of awareness.

In other words, you might not instantly know a designed forward pass had become a backward one, and that you had better fall on it.

A swing pass is not a foolish play. It's not like Wilson brought in, say, kicker Mitch Ewald to run the read option triple reverse. A swing pass should be safe and, given the way the Gophers were reeling down the stretch, effective.

That it was not, well, at least IU is familiar with the frustration.

“This is very heartbreaking,” receiver Cody Latimer said, “but you have to let it go and be ready for the next game. We'll come out and attack (Illinois).”

You can argue that Wilson stayed too long with an ineffective Tre Roberson at quarterback (he played the whole first half and was just 8-for-18 for 80 yards) rather than switch to Nate Sudfeld (13 for 20, 189 yards, two touchdowns) or wonder why IU went for a two-point conversion when it took the lead at 39-35 with five minutes left. That meant, at the end, the Hoosiers needed a touchdown to win rather than have the can't-miss Ewald attempt a chip-shot winner.

“In hindsight,” Wilson said, “maybe we were being a little bit over-aggressive.”

Then he blamed himself.

“I was very proud of how hard our guys played. They deserved to win. As coaches, we have to put them in better positions to win. It's my fault.”

It's not about fault. It's about getting it done.

Wilson tries to deflect defensive criticism by pointing out offensive flaws, and even those are a reach sometimes. No matter. The offense can certainly play better and smarter. Wilson made that locker room point to his players.

“Coach said it was all on the offense,” Roberson said. “We could have done better. We could have scored more points. In a game like this, everybody goes back to see what they did wrong.”

By Saturday's second half, much of the homecoming crowd – especially the students – didn't want to see. There were other activities besides football available to them.

At Indiana in November, there always are.