Being an Indiana football fan comes with a certain amount of pessimism. At times, an unhealthy amount.
The expectation as I walked into Memorial Stadium on Saturday night was the same I had for nearly every Indiana game: hope for the best, expect the worst. This scene had played out multiple times not only in recent years of Indiana football, but three times last season itself. The Hoosiers welcome in a ranked team to Bloomington, hang with them for 58 minutes, suffer heartbreak in the closing moments of the fourth.
When Tyler O’Connor hit R.J. Shelton, there was a sense of “here we go again” that washed over the stadium. The comedy of errors that led to Michigan State’s second touchdown certainly did little to ease the doubt as each penalty seemed to draw fans closer and closer to the realization that tonight wouldn’t be the night they had long awaited for.
However, this team isn’t your normal Indiana team. For everything the team uncharacteristically lacks in explosiveness offensively, they make up for with their best defense under Kevin Wilson. Heading into the locker room trailing just 7-0 is the least IU-like scoreline possible during the Kevin Wilson era.
Along a wild and rocky second half, there were many “here we go again” moments. IU scored to take the lead late in the fourth, but left too much time for their opponent. IU gave up a late touchdown to force overtime, where the inevitable heartbreak would soon happen.
These things simply never ended nicely for Indiana fans.
If you need a better description of how this Indiana team is different than it’s previous versions, look at the defensive series in overtime for the Hoosiers: stuffed run, sack, sack. In the biggest moment of the season, it was the defense which guided the Hoosiers to the upset.
Even needing just a field goal to win, the Hoosiers bundled that in a way only #CHAOSTEAM could manage.
In the end, though, this wasn’t like years before. The Hoosiers did complete the upset, a rare feat considering they were 1-24 in their last 25 meetings against Top 25 teams prior to last night, giving students all the (unnecessary) reason to rush the field they would have needed.
Last night, this team did something no Hoosier team has done since 2006 by winning a game against a ranked Big Ten team. In the process, they broke a decade long string of “here we go again” and pessimism.
This program has underwent a long makeover under Kevin Wilson, one that has had more downs than ups. He has had his detractors much like he has had his supporters. But the program got its long-needed and long-awaited breakthrough last night.
There is good reason for optimism. Enjoy this team and enjoy this win.