Last season was maybe the toughest to take for Hoosier fans in recent memory. Not only did the team suffer through another losing season, but the Hoosiers lost three games by three points or less. A break here and there (or a fourth-quarter stop) and IU would have been bowling.
Of the eight 2009 losses, I'm picking the worst and most soul-crushing today.
The worst loss of the year was the first: A 3-point loss to Michigan. The Hoosiers had not beaten the Wolverines in their last 15 meetings. And they had not won at Michigan Stadium in many, many years -- 1967 to be exact.
Michigan was ranked No. 23 after knocking off Notre Dame in week 2, but I thought they were ripe for an upset. The Michigan defense was weak and its offense was still learning the spread offense, hardly dominating.
The Hoosiers had the lead at halftime, but trailed by two in the fourth quarter. The offense didn't quit and took a 33-29 lead with less than 9 minutes to go. But the defense could not hold Michigan and surrendered the lead with less than 3 minutes left. I thought the Hoosiers had one more drive left in them, but a bad call ended the game. Quarterback Ben Chappell threw a pass to Damarlo Belcher, who appeared to catch it and fall down, but a Michigan defender came up with the ball and it was ruled an interception. Game over.
How could it get any worse than that? Remember which team we're talking about here...
The most soul-crushing loss came on Halloween: 42-24 at Iowa.
The score may look lopsided, but hidden in the box score was that the No. 4-ranked Hawkeyes were on the ropes after three quarters. Indiana had a 21-7 lead at halftime and going into the fourth, it was 24-14 Indiana. The Hoosier defense was forcing turnovers, six to be exact. They were well on their way to the biggest upset maybe in Hoosier football history.
Then the bottom fell out.
Once again, the IU defense gave way. They gave up 14 points on two one-play drives, passes of 92 and 66 yards. In about 4 minutes, the Hoosiers went from up 10 points to down four. Two more late Iowa touchdowns ensured the game was out of reach.
The Hoosiers were outscored 35-3 in the second half. It was a choke of the grandest proportions. It was soul-crushing and season-ending, the second of five straight losses to end the season.
Next: Predicting the 2010 season: Better things to come?