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BLOOMINGTON — It’s been easy to rip Indiana coach Kevin Wilson the last two seasons as he tried to turn around the football program.
Now, though, with a 73-35 victory in the Hoosiers’ home opener on Thursday, it’s time for uncharted waters.
Wilson deserves some praise.
OK, the Hoosiers are a long way from proving anything. They beat up on an inferior opponent.
But, and this is hard for Indiana fans, let’s look on the bright side.
Indiana took care of business. For once.
A year ago, the Hoosiers beat the Sycamores by seven. This season by 38.
Whether the opener starts a trend is anyone’s guess, but I like the way Wilson tackled this season.
With five home games to start the season (for the first time in program history) and eight home games overall, Wilson basically said that Indiana fans should be annoyed if the Hoosiers don’t put themselves in position to take a major step forward this season. It could be surmised that he put his job on the line in a bowl-or-bust kind of scenario.
Those types of decisions are up to the athletics director, and the really big cash donors, but Wilson didn’t shy away from some heat, and it might be a good lesson for his players.
When Pete Carroll coached USC, he didn’t shy away from saying his team was a national championship contender or that his quarterback was a Heisman candidate. Most coaches go the “We’ll let those awards take care of themselves” route.
Carroll wasn’t afraid of pressure. He figured if the sky was the limit, his players would reach for the sky.
It is safe to say that Wilson expects his team to go to a bowl this season. You’ve got to like it.
Don’t settle for any of that “We played ’em close” crud. Indiana has been playing close 2-9 seasons since the mid-1990s. Just find a way to lose, baby.
Wilson added a 1-10 and a 4-8 to the misery the past two seasons and it sure looks like he is sick of it. So are we.
The win over Indiana State was a breath of fresh air, not because it was a win, but because Indiana acted like a Big Ten team.
The speed and depth differences on the two rosters was glaring and Indiana quarterback Nate Sudfield looked like Peyton Manning.
It wasn’t perfect, though.
That second Indiana State drive, which covered 75 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown, should be a cause for worry. Inferior opponents should not be allowed to grind one out. On the other hand, you have to like the way Indiana adjusted, not surrendering any more points until it was 45-7 and a laugher.
Wilson’s team also made some Laurel and Hardy mistakes that led to Indiana State touchdowns, but those things can be corrected in a hurry.
Another benefit of crushing an opponent was that Wilson got a chance to use many of his walk-on players. Local fans got a chance to see running back Andrew Wilson, an East grad, look terrific in fourth quarter action. Wilson rushed eight times for 45 yards and scored on a one-yard touchdown run. I would imagine that considering Indiana falls off the map in the running game after Tevin Coleman, that Wilson might just get a better look down the road.
It would have been nice to see senior wide receiver Duwyce Wilson get more than one catch for 11 yards now that he is healthy again and ready to run. He simply wasn’t needed, though.
So on we go with Navy coming to town on Saturday. Navy lost to Notre Dame and Penn State by a combined 84-17 last season. It beat Indiana 31-30.
If the opener was a true indication, that’s not going to happen this season.
Indiana is ready to act like a Big Ten team.
Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 379-5632.
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