52-27. 5:25 left in the third quarter.
That was the score and time of the largest lead for the Hoosiers in yesterday's Indiana-Rutgers game. That's a 25 point lead, which at a minimum, requires four scores from the opposing team to overcome, within only 20 remaining minutes of game time.
For pretty much any other team in college football, this would be game over. If you showed the third-quarter score to someone unfamiliar with Indiana football (and there are a lot of folks who are), they'd probably think this would be an easy stroll to a victory for the Hoosiers.
But if you showed this score to someone familiar with Indiana football, they'd tell you that the game wasn't even close to being over. And they'd be right. And the loss yesterday was indicative of everything that has frustrated me through watching this team over the past few years. Even worse, the loss happened after Leante Carroo, the Rutgers WR who was probably the best player on the field among both teams, left the game after suffering an injury.
Sure, this wasn't Ball State or Minnesota, where we needed to rally just to stay in the game, only to suffer a heartbreaking loss. Nor was it Bowling Green, where we played pretty evenly only to let the game slip away on the final drive. This was a collapse, through and through, and regardless, the feeling remains the same. The only equivalent B1G game I can think of in this vein was when Michigan State rallied from 35 down to beat Northwestern in 2006. But that was in Pat Fitzgerald's first season. And in the fifth year of a coaching regime here at Indiana, it's time we expected better.
Obviously, the come-from-behind loss would sting against any B1G team. But losing to Rutgers just makes my blood boil even more. And no, it's not because your school is on the east coast - my whole family's from Jersey after all, I understand the jokes about the state. No, it's because this university, which was only added to the B1G as a naked money grab by Jim Delany, has embarrassed itself time and time again in the three short years after it was announced that they'd join the conference. Whether it's the athletic director's many miscues, the basketball team scandal, or the fact that Kyle Flood was coaching his first game yesterday after serving a three-game suspension, the level of embarrassment and shame is heightened because of losing to the team from Piscataway.
We suffered an embarrassing come-from-behind loss at home to a coach who berated a professor about changing his player's grade for a Modern Dance class. That's the epitaph for 2015 Indiana football right now.
This loss has led me to what I thought was unthinkable only two weeks ago: Is it time to re-evaluate Indiana football under Kevin Wilson?
Wilson has done many great things for the Hoosiers. He runs an offense that is incredibly fun to watch. He has brought excitement to a program that by all accounts was moribund by the end of the Lynch era. He seems like a good guy who cares a lot about his players, the university, and building a successful program. He's recruited some diamonds in the rough - something that is critical when recruiting in the same territory as the Notre Dames and Michigans and Ohio States of the world. The foundations are all there.
But when it comes to in-game management, the head-scratching calls always reappear. The clock management is constantly an issue. And the lack of consistency is maddening. The defense, which has seen occasional improvement depending on what quarter the game is in, still cannot put on a full 60 minute performance. And as fun as the offense can get, the lack of any type of movement in the fourth quarter was inexplicable. Yes, the defense wasn't great during the collapse, but all three phases of the game had a hand in this loss, including a high punt snap that Rutgers recovered for a touchdown. Giving up 55 points ON HOMECOMING to a school ranked 83rd in S&P on offense - regardless of your feeling on advanced stats - shouldn't happen.
I badly want to support the football team at Indiana, and I want this team to succeed. Yes I know IU makes its bread and butter in basketball, and has had great success in baseball recently. But I love college football, and if the Hoosiers could just get over the hump in football, the benefits to the university would be enormous. After yesterday, I'm scratching my head and wondering if that can ever happen here. And that's when apathy sets in: Why bother? It's gonna hurt me.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that IU had the atmosphere of a football school against Ohio State. Two weeks later, I'm still gutted after yesterday and not sure even whether I will watch the inevitable blowout in East Lansing next week against a riled-up MSU team that won under even crazier circumstances yesterday. I've already decided that I won't be renewing season tickets next year, which makes me upset because I like to support both the program and my alma mater. Sure, my young alum season tickets may only be a drop in the bucket, but this is really a vote of no confidence in the program right now. And for someone who road tripped to State College last weekend to watch the team play, and regularly drives a four-hour round trip to Memorial Stadium on fall Saturdays to watch the Hoosiers, this isn't something I take lightly either.
Indiana has five games left to turn things around. Let's dig in and right this ship before it completely sinks - if it hasn't already.