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November 10, 2012
Indiana football was finally on a bit of a big stage Saturday at Memorial Stadium but the Hoosiers laid an egg. Wisconsin ran for a school record 564 yards and locked itself in for the Leaders Division berth in the Big Ten Championship game with a 62-14 rout.
Indiana could have had the inside track to that title game with a victory today. Expectations were up after the program's first back-to-back conference wins since 2007.
Instead it was more of what's gone on of late against Wisconsin where Indiana has been beaten by 48 or more points each of the last three meetings.
"I thought we had a good week of practice," said head coach Kevin Wilson. "We did not try to make this game bigger than it was but we didn't handle playing in it well. Maybe that is just a credit to Wisconsin."
Many of the players and coaches talked during the week about not dreaming too much about the postseason. A task that might be easier said than done.
"Maybe the whole week, with those two wins, the chance at the Rose Bowl type thing, maybe that kind of affected the guys thought process," said center Will Matte. "I felt pregame that it was like any other game. We just have to do a better job of executing."
While the defense was trampled, the offense struggled throughout. Indiana rushed for just 61 yards and quarterbacks Cam Coffman and Nate Sudfeld were directly responsible for three turnovers with a pair of interceptions by Coffman and a dropped snap by Sudfeld.
"I thought in warm-ups that they (quarterbacks) looked hyper and I kept saying, 'slow-down,'" said Wilson. "Today we were a little bit rushed, a little bit off."
Coffman was 25-for-46 for 233 yards.
"I felt ready but obviously I didn't play very well," said Coffman. "We're both young, still getting better every day. Can't get our head down and just come to practice Monday and continue to grow."
Not playing well has to hurt more given the attention this game received.
"It was not a good day to not show our best but I say, keep watching because stuff is going to happen," said Matte. "We've got a couple more weeks here and pay attention to next year too."
Matte, however, won't be around next season. Today was his final home game along with four other seniors that came to Indiana on scholarships.
"That might be the last game that those seniors had on that field, but we've gotten to a point where there's a lot of great things happening to our program because of those guys," said Wilson. "I don't want those guys to think my last time out because Adam Replogle, Will Matte, Larry Black, some of those guys are important in helping us get a little momentum going. I wanted to emphasize to our seniors, `this is not your last day on this field as a club player, we've come a long way and we appreciate you guys for those kids.' I have respect, a lot of love for these kids because they're doing a lot of good stuff."
Still a lot to play for
The loss drops Indiana to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. Wins in the final two games will still make Indiana bowl eligible. With Penn State and Ohio State both ineligible for bowls this postseason, the pecking order may reward a 6-6 team more than any other postseason. As it stands right now only Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan and Northwestern have made it to the magic six win mark and have bowl eligibility.
"We still have two huge games," said Coffman. "We've never beat Penn State here, so that would be huge. Also there's the Bucket game with Purdue and if we win both of those we can still go to a bowl."
The task is made tougher by having to win the final two games on the road. Not to mention the Hoosiers have never beaten Penn State, home or away.
"Two big games that mean a lot around here," said Wilson. "One opponent coming up we have not had a lot of success against. There's a lot to play for and every game we talk about getting better. We have new leaders; our coaches are doing a great job. We need to come back and have a good week and keep getting better, that's what we need to do."
The first order of business is forgetting what happened today.
"Right now we flush this loss down the toilet," said linebacker David Cooper. "We're looking at Penn State right now. We're going to go on the road these last two games and take it to them."