The year is 2019.
Indiana University football, with the momentum of the #9Windiana movement at its back, holds Rutgers University to a single passing yard at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington.
Jokes were had. Posts were made. The Scarlet Knights had more passing yards that day than Scott Frost had career wins over the Hoosiers. Epic!
It was the best of times, or so we thought.
Indiana crashed the top-10 of the AP poll a year later. Michael Penix Jr. reached for the pylon, teams were throwing the ball right to Indiana’s defense and the Hoosiers gave Ohio State a bit of a spook in the shoe.
There were ESPN highlights, glowing stories in Sports Illustrated and traditional Big Ten powers falling to Indiana, the losingest team in FBS history, week in and week out.
Indiana lost the bowl game, but Jack Tuttle was playing quarterback with an injured shoulder and there was every reason, including a preseason ranking, to have optimism heading into 2021.
The Hoosiers have won 5 of a possible 20 games since then. Just one of those was a conference win.
Penix? He’s gone, transferred to greener pastures in Seattle. Offense? Ranked 11th in the Big Ten in points per game. Defense, the program’s identity? Ranked dead last in the conference.
Optimism? Getting lower by the week, if there’s still any left.
Notice there are three teams with offenses ranked below Indiana. Iowa is self explanatory and Northwestern dropped a home game to an FCS team. But that third team? Well, it’s none other than Rutgers, New York’s Big Ten team.
Despite both programs entering the game on losing streaks and having a superior offense (statistically!) than Rutgers, Indiana left Piscataway with a 24-17 loss. Greg Schiano’s first Big Ten home win as a head coach.
The Scarlet Knights have a 2-1 record against the Hoosiers since the day of one passing yard. This loss wasn’t as... loud as last year’s blowout, but it sure comes close.
What’s worse is how the Hoosiers lost.
Indiana’s offense gained 143 yards and scored 14 points in the first quarter. It proceeded to gain 129 yards, including -2 in the third quarter, and score three points in the next three quarters.
That feels like the story of the 2022 season so far, outside of the Illinois win (what happened there???). Every Big Ten game since then has followed a script.
First half scoring, second half futility and absolutely nothing in the fourth quarter.
It’s not difficult for defenses to adjust for Indiana as a game goes on because there’s just not a lot the Hoosiers can do to get the ball downfield. Sure, there was that first glorious drive, but there wasn’t anything left in Indiana’s bag afterward.
Indiana isn’t meant to and never will be the class of the conference, everyone understands that. They’re outfunded by just about everyone and unless a coach comes along with the most earth-shattering gameplans imaginable, it just isn’t happening.
But Indiana’s last two losses, Maryland and Rutgers, are games the Hoosiers should be able to win. Neither was as competitive as the final score showed. Looking at the schedule after the upcoming bye week and nothing sticks out as a win, not even a chance of one.
Indiana had countless issues ahead of the season. One was fixed far too late. The rest... there’s not much, if anything, that can be done.
We’ll see what happens.
This loss coincided with Science Fest at IU, so I’ll end this blog with a quote from Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot.