BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana’s cliffhanger losses are mounting and coach Tom Allen is pushing the idea of perspective for his players.
“I told our guys, ‘You’re right on the verge of breaking through,'” he said Monday.
In the last two games, against Michigan and Michigan State, Indiana lost 27-20 in overtime at home to the Wolverines and 17-9 on the road against the Spartans. The Hoosiers gave up 14 points in the final three minutes to Michigan State, the last seven points intentionally to give their offense a chance to force overtime.
The margin of error for Indiana (3-4 overall, 0-4 Big Ten) is shrinking fast ahead of Saturday’s game at Maryland (3-4, 1-3).
“I told our guys you can choose to feel sorry for yourself, or you can realize you probably just played the toughest schedule in the country to start the season,” Allen said. “‘You can get disappointed and hang your head and mope, or you can draw confidence from the way you performed. Not how I told you that you could play, but how you actually performed. Draw strength and confidence from that. Attack with more fervor and more grit than ever before. Because you’re right there.'”
Indiana has played a grueling early Big Ten schedule. Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and Michigan State are a combined 24-4. All were ranked in the top 20 when the Hoosiers played them, with Ohio State and Penn State in the top five. In the Hoosiers’ last 29 games, they have played nine top-10 teams and five top-five teams.
Besides pushing Michigan and Michigan State to the limit, Indiana led then-No. 2 Ohio State late in the third quarter before losing 49-21.
Indiana is 15-18 in its last 33 games, with 10 of those losses by 10 or fewer points, three in overtime. Allen insisted a breakthrough is coming. The key, he said, is finishing.
“It’s a matter of staying the course and not growing weary of the process,” he said. “That’s going to be our challenge as coaches. We’ve had a tough schedule, and here we are, with five games left. How are you going to respond? Finish applies to game and a lot of things.”