Saturday, July 17, 2010

Welcome to Hoosier Football 2010

The Hoosiers open the 2010 season in seven weeks (Sept. 2 v. Townson). I can already hear "Indiana, Our Indiana" reverberating through Memorial Stadium.

Since I'm the most excited about IU football before the season begins -- take that as a hint of my thoughts on the Hoosiers' prospects of playing in the 2011 Rose Bowl -- I thought I would take a look back at the 2009 season. Let's just say it's my own version of positive thinking. Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, but things have to look up this year right?

Let's start with last year's greatest win.

There weren't that many to choose from: Eastern Kentucky, Western Michigan, Akron and Illinois. Each was impressive in its own right, but I'm going with the only road win of the bunch.

The Hoosiers' win at Akron was the greatest of 2010 mostly because it was on the road. IU helped the Zips open their new stadium. While facing a hostile crowd, the Hoosiers were able to execute despite falling behind late in the second quarter. The team forced four turnovers and looked like a defensive squad, which any fan would admit is not one of its strong points. What was considered a good Akron offense did not get much going and any momentum they generated was stopped cold by turnovers.

The win that wasn't: Unfortunately, this was how the 2009 Hoosiers defined themselves. The team grabbed leads, only to blow them late in the game. The Hoosiers held leads against quality teams like Iowa and Penn State, only to lose them in the second half.

The one that really was a win, or at least should have been, was the 29-28 loss to Northwestern. The Hoosiers were blanked in the second half and gave up 26 unanswered points to the Wildcats after taking a 28-3 lead late in the second quarter. The worst part, maybe the low-point of the season, came in the third quarter. IU, leading 28-19, had first and goal at the Northwestern 7, but could not convert.

On fourth and goal from the 1 yard line, rather than kick a field goal and increase the lead to 31-19, the Hoosiers went for the touchdown. Mitchell Evans was tackled for a 1-yard loss. Northwestern took over and drove 98 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-26. The collapse was completed with 21 seconds to go in the game, when the Wildcats kicked the winning field goal.

That game essentially ended the season. IU could have moved to 5-3, been brimming with confidence and one win from a bowl berth. If the team had pulled out one of those close games, who knows what could have happened that season.

Next up: The worst and the most soul-crushing losses of 2009.