Who woulda thunk it? Seriously. Raise your hand if you would have predicted a 20 point blowout victory over Penn State. The scary thing is, it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been much worse. The Hoosiers left points on the board in the first half and some fans might’ve been contempt with the slim 13-7 lead at the half. The Hoosiers weren’t though.
“They really need this one. They’ve played so well,” is what someone said to me at the start of the 4th quarter. Do you remember that? When the game was still undecided? When Indiana held a slim 21-17 lead and had a rather pedestrian 3rd quarter?
In the past, Indiana fans knew what was coming. They’d played their hearts out, yes, but this is Penn State. We’ve never beaten this team. Those fans thought they knew what was coming from this Indiana team. Spoiler alert: this isn’t any Indiana team. This team is good. And when they play the way they did in the 4th quarter, they are scary good. When’s the last time you heard that about an Indiana football team?
Kirk Herbstreit, perhaps the best college football announcer today, tweeted out a list of 10 teams that had the most impressive wins over the weekend. Indiana came in at sixth. Out of every football team that won Saturday, Indiana’s win was right there with Ohio State and and Stanford.
The best part about this win shouldn’t be the final score. It shouldn’t be how well the Hoosiers played. It should be about what this win means to the program as a whole. Maybe Kentucky 2011 for Tom Crean? It’s clearly Kevin Wilson’s biggest win in Bloomington and gives the Hoosiers momentum and confidence heading into their first road game this weekend in East Lansing. Most importantly, it puts them at 3-2 and halfway towards earning the program’s first bowl bid since 2007. With remaining home games against Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue, it looks like Indiana might finally get over that hump.
On a wet and rainy day in October, Indiana made history. This years Indiana team did what no other team had done before. Sixteen previous Hoosier football teams had played Penn State. And sixteen previous Hoosier football teams went home with a big, fat loss. Not this team. Don’t in any way try to take the meaning of this one away from the Hoosiers by bringing in the, “This isn’t a typical Penn State team,” argument. Yes, the Nittany Lions are hurting. But that young man at quarterback? Christian Hackenberg. He was the #2 quarterback in America in high school. He is going to be special. This Penn State team very well could win 6, bowl ban or not. But it still wore Penn State blue and white on Saturday.
It was what Kevin Wilson always wanted. When the rains came, the fans didn’t budge. They quickly threw on their ponchos and paid attention. Hoosier Nation now wants the nation to pay attention.
It was Cody Latimer having the game of his life with nine receptions for 140 yards. It was Nate Sudfeld, who has a chance to be really special, shaking off a poor performance against Missouri and commanding the offense against the speedy Penn State secondary. It was Tim Bennett almost picking off a pass on three straight plays. It was Greg Heban. It was Tre Roberson. It was Indiana finally playing like they were supposed to.
Let’s take a second to talk about Tim Bennett. Bennett now leads the country, yes, the entire country, every single player in college football with fourteen pass breakups. But he is the perfect Indiana player. Not highly recruited, the young man from Columbus, Ga., went the JUCO route before landing at Indiana last year. Now? He very well may be on the Big Ten All-Conference team at cornerback.
Back to being a perfect Indiana player though. And this entire team is full of Indiana guys. What do I mean? I mean that Bennett, Roberson, Heban, Stoner, the entire group is made up of a collection of guys who go to work every Saturday with their pail and lunch and don’t make excuses. These are a group of blue collar kids that have never been handed a thing in their lives. Now, they may be the first Indiana squad to play in a bowl in six years.
Isn’t that something? On a weekend when Tom Crean and Hoosier Nation returned to the Assembly Hall for Hoosier Hysteria, we were left Sunday morning talking about Indiana football.
It may take some time to get used to, but I think we’re gonna enjoy it.