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Despite flub, IU needs Wilson must stay course

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Indiana head football coach Kevin Wilson had half of his house painted before he tripped and dumped a bucket of goo all down the front.

Oh what to do?

A couple of days after Indiana’s frustrating loss to Minnesota in Bloomington, Hoosiers football fans must be tormented by the present, and the future, of their program.

Three words best describe the end of Saturday’s 42-39 loss.

“Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

Hey, it happens. Urban Meyer does dumb things at times. Nick Saban goes with the wrong player. Brian Kelly mismanages the clock.

It’s kind of like “Jeopardy!” during a college football game. All of us know the answers at home, but the coaches have to make their decisions in front of 60,000 screaming fans, and they have to ring the buzzer in three seconds.

At the end of Indiana’s most important game in quite some time, we all witnessed a mental meltdown.

Wilson admitted the coaching decisions were not the best.

It started before the final drive lateral/fumble.

The coaching decision that caused all the furor at the end came after Indiana took a 39-35 lead with 5:33 remaining on Cody Latimer’s 30-yard touchdown catch from Nate Sudfeld. Wilson decided to go for two points.

Hmmmm. Up by four, with enough time for each team (in all likelihood) to get one more drive each. Considering the Hoosier defense hadn’t stopped anyone in a decade, there would a good chance Minnesota would score a touchdown.

Four-point lead. Let’s do the math. If you get the two-point conversion, what good does a six-point lead do? OK, Minnesota might score a touchdown and miss the extra point. Let’s all roll our eyes together.

If you kick an extra point and have a five-point lead, what does that do? Well, if the Gophers score a touchdown, kick an extra point and go up by two, then things go quite nicely.

In that scenario, Indiana lines up for a field goal after driving inside the 10 and we never need to talk about laterals.

But here we are, talking about laterals.

In the end, Indiana had a lock on overtime with the ball inside the 10, with opportunities to win the game with a touchdown. The crushing play, a flip to running back Tevin Coleman that wasn’t designed as a lateral but turned into one due to Minnesota’s defensive penetration, never should have been called. Never, never, never.

It was a play that had the potential for success or disaster. Those aren’t the type of plays to call when you have a lock on overtime.

There are other issues. Coleman never went after the ball when it hit the ground. I would imagine that Wilson and his staff hammer that point home in practice, but obviously they need to revisit that one.

Then there is the other huge problem. Defense.

When all was said and done, the loss probably snuffs out any chance of Indiana (3-5 overall, 1-3 Big Ten) getting to a bowl game, and that didn’t escape media attention Monday at Indiana’s football news conference. Wilson spent more time talking about the past than the future.

“Again, we’re making some gains, but we’ve got to get W’s,” Wilson said. “The W’s will be more for the outside world and the seniors. My feel is we’ve got some great opportunities. Let’s keep it because we’re right there knocking on it. Let’s keep knocking on it and knocking down.

“Again, there are no moral victories because I’m not into that. It is what it is. We’re here to win. We’re building up, getting close, but we’re here to win. Coming up short is not acceptable. Not acceptable by me, not acceptable by our administration. Not acceptable by the standards of the school, and the school is pretty good at some things, and it’s our job to get it there. We’ve gotten a little closer, but we’ve got to keep on coming. Again, there are a lot of things that needed to be corrected. We had a lot of direct, straight criticism on things that needed to be corrected.”

As mad as fans might be, they have to give Wilson high points for integrity. We all have to realize that he is facing a formidable task that those other guys, Spurrier, Saban, Kelly, wouldn’t touch no matter what the monetary offer. Despite the odds, he has taken Indiana to positive places, such as the first win ever over Penn State and building one of the top offenses in the nation. By the end of the season, we might find that Indiana was a couple of plays from a bowl game.

If you care, that might be hard to swallow. Then again, at least they had a chance. That’s something new.

“We’ve gotten to the point, it’s nice to feel some frustration,” Wilson said. “There is a point in time I don’t know if anyone really cares sometimes.

“I kind of like some fans are upset. That’s what you want. You want them in the stands. You want them loud. You want them critical. That is part of a good football program.”

Indiana does not have a good football program, but there is hope. I would imagine the administration will recognize that after the season. I am sure Wilson will spend a lot of time discussing his defensive plans, but he should survive.

The house is half-painted, and it just doesn’t make sense to fire the guy while making someone new start over with a new color.

Tell Wilson to keep his paint brush and clean up the mess.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at or 379-5632.

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