Monday, October 7, 2013

Indiana Could Get Used to This

Ben Fishman


    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.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

For Texas and USC, Situations Couldn't Be More Different

Ben Fishman
College Sports 24/7

Edit: USC Fired Lane Kiffin on Sunday September 29th.
    When will it end in Austin? Or Southern Los Angeles for that matter? In March we wrote an article about Tubby Smith and Ben Howland being fired at their respective schools. The title of that article was, “When is Enough, Enough?”
    Minnesota and UCLA fired their basketball coaches after disappointing season in which both of them spent time in the Top 25. Minnesota spent time in the top 10 before losing to Florida in the third round.
UCLA brought in a recruiting class that many had a top 3 class. The result? A loss in the second round the aforementioned Golden Gophers. We discussed whether or not Minnesota or UCLA was right in firing
    Except there is a difference here. It’s not when is enough, enough? Well, for USC it might be. The Trojans are not very good this year. Lane Kiffin showed them just how bad he really was in Oakland and Knoxville. Hell, students stormed the streets and lit fires when he departed, now they may as well be, actually, they are back to their usual days as an SEC school.
But how are USC fans taking it? After the 10-7 loss a few weeks ago to Washington State they spray painted, “Fire Kiffin,” along streets and chanted it as good ole Lane left the field.
    In Austin, the problem couldn’t be more different. We’re talking about a guy who has been in charge of the Longhorns since 1998. Behind Vince Young, he brought the Longhorns their first championship since 1970. Yet, since he met Nick Saban and Alabama in the 2010 National Championship game, the Longhorns have been in a downfall which included disappointing and embarassing blowouts to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry.
    So where do both schools go next? Texas and USC both could easily turn it around this year and make bowls, Texas is 2-2 and USC is 3-1. But is that going to be enough if Kiffin or Brown’s squads get blown out in December?
Here’s what Texas should do. If Mack Brown and Texas don’t get it figured out this year, then Athletic Director DeLoss Dodds should allow Brown to leave on his own accords. Don’t fire the man who has brought Texas back to national prominence. The big question would be whether or not Nick Saban would spurn the Crimson Tide, a team that’s won 3 of the last 4 National Championships. Would Saban leave after a 3-peat? Unlikely, but why not throw the kitchen sink and make the man Governor of the state. The Longhorns still have games against Oklahoma and TCU remaining before finishing with Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor.
    What happens at USC? The Trojans suffered a disappointment in a 10-7 loss to Washington State and things can’t really get much worse than that. Will USC stand behind Kiffin, especially after the 7-6 debacle last season when they entered the year ranked #1? It’s doubtful they will should Kiffin and USC stumble to another 6-6-esque season. Did USC not see that Kiffin wasn’t the right man for the job? Did USC just forget the one season he had at Tennessee in which he pissed off the entire SEC? And he was just perfect to take over the Trojans? The Trojans still have games against Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA, and it’s not looking like they will be favored in any of those.
    Either way, don’t let USC and Texas be grouped together. Unlike at UCLA and Minnesota where both schools had high hopes heading into the season and didn’t make it past the first weekend in March, both USC and Texas are in different situations.
USC can do better than Lane Kiffin.
They will.
Texas can’t do much better than Mack Brown.
But they’ll have to, because either one of these men, could very well be turning in their whistles in December.

Monday, September 23, 2013

When Will Indiana Learn?

Ben Fishman
College Sports 24/7
     It’s been over 24 hours since Indiana and Missouri met Saturday night in what was one of the bigger games in recent Indiana football memory and clearly the biggest game under Kevin Wilson. It’s been over 24 hours also, since Indiana took on an SEC opponent under the lights on primetime TV, and fell flat on its face.
     When will Indiana learn? The offense can’t not show up when the defense does and vice versa. Three of their first four games were against teams that they were favored to beat, and yet, here Indiana sits at 2-2 heading into what will be a very long two weeks before Penn State comes to town on October 5th.
     Wanna know the worst part? This is a good team. This is a fun team to watch. When Nate Sudfeld gets in a rhythm, he’s as good a signal caller as any in America. When Nick Stoner and Ted Bolser get out in open space, no one can stop them. And when Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer find seams, they’re gone. This team is better than 2-2.
     Kevin Wilson is better than 2-2 in his third year. Don’t for one second think this isn’t eating him up inside, the losses to Navy and Missouri. Indiana could very well be 4-0, but they simply didn’t bring it Saturday and they didn’t make the crucial plays to complete the comeback against Navy.
     The defense must be complimented over and over again, because they got stops over and over again, including three first-half turnovers. Tim Bennett is quickly becoming one of the better playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and the secondary stepped it up against a quality SEC quarterback. And James Franklin is a very, very good SEC quarterback in a league full of them.
     So why are we here? Is the sky falling? No, not yet. Not by a long shot.
Indiana gets to host Penn State and can very conceivably win that one. They can win at Michigan State as well, a team who up till last week was having identity issues themselves. With games against Purdue, Minnesota and Illinois still on the dock, who is to say that Indiana can’t go 4-4 and make it to a bowl game? Michigan certainly isn’t unbeatable. The talent is there, the improvement is there and for the first time in a long time, the fans are there.
     Did you see how amazing that crowd was? When the Hoosiers tied it up at 14-14 midway through the second quarter, that place was going crazy. That my friends, is what Indiana football can be. That my friends, is what the Fred Glass’s and Kevin Wilson’s of the world are trying to turn it into.
     But it has to be time to do that. It’s Kevin Wilson’s third year. Anything less than 4 wins could very easily be enough for a dismissal, recruiting or not.
It’s put up or shut up time for Indiana.
But one has to ask, when will this stop?
When will IU get the early season wins?
When will they stop putting themselves in these positions?
When will Indiana learn?

Friday, September 20, 2013

For Indiana, They Don't Get Much Bigger Than This

Ben Fishman
College Sports 24/7

    Are you ready Hoosier fans? For Kevin Wilson and Indiana, it doesn’t get much bigger than tomorrow. The Hoosiers will welcome an SEC opponent into Memorial Stadium for the first time in Wilson’s tenure.
    Missouri is good. Missouri is fast. Missouri is the SEC. And the SEC has won the last seven National Championships. For Indiana, the opportunity to take a bite out of the SEC is the only chance the entire Big Ten has this year. National analysts always talk about how dominant the SEC is, especially compared to the Big Ten, and now Indiana has a chance to represent Team Delany.
    This should be seen as an open message to Hoosier Nation. Tomorrow is a big one. If this is going to be the team that takes Indiana back to the postseason, then that march will almost certainly begin at 8pm Saturday night. Hoosier administrators are expecting close to 50,000 people in attendance for the primetime game.
    Things like this don’t happen at Indiana often. It’s a basketball school. Yet here the Hoosiers stand, 2-1 on the year and heading into their bye week after the Tigers come to town. Yet here the Hoosiers stand, ready to take on an SEC team in front of what could be a potential sellout crowd at Memorial Stadium.
    Nat Sudfeld, whose numbers rank right up there with the A.J. McCarron’s and Johnny Footballs of the world, will need to have a stellar performance against the speedy secondary of Missouri. The Hoosiers defense must be ready to stop James Franklin, Missouri’s senior quarterback.
    The magnitude of this game probably won’t be seen until kickoff, but Indiana and Kevin Wilson know how important this one is. The Hoosiers could be 3-1 heading into a home tilt against Penn State in two weeks, and were a couple missed plays away from actually entering this one at 3-0. If the defense plays the way it did last week against Bowling Green, then Indiana can steal one at home.
    So come on out Hoosier fans. Basketball hasn’t started yet. Pack the Rock the way Fred Glass always dreamt of it. It will be a sight to see. Saturday night primetime. Indiana football. SEC opponent.
    This one will be special.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hoosiers Put It Together, Missouri Awaits

Ben Fishman
College Sports 24/7

-Bloomington IN
    That’s how it’s supposed to look. Were you paying attention Hoosier fans?
That’s how the Indiana football train is supposed to roll along, and if it keeps up like that, then this could be a magical season.
    How about this stat from Saturday? The Hoosiers defense, who looked like they couldn’t stop a peewee squad against Navy, gave up just one touchdown against a Bowling Green team that came in averaging 37.5 points and 486 yards of total offense. That’s what the Indiana defense must do every week. It’s great and all to have it in week three, but now they need to have it in week four-December.
    The defense was told it had to just be consistent. They were told that the Navy game had to be a lesson and that it couldn’t happen again. If this is going to be the first IU team to make it to a bowl game since 2007, the defense had to improve. They rose to the occasion on Saturday, and the Hoosiers as a whole would have given up nothing but a field goal should a blocked punt not have been returned for a touchdown.
    On offense, it was more of the same for Indiana. If you aren’t having fun watching Indiana move the ball down the field, then you aren’t a football fan. Indiana is 6th in the country in scoring and 3rd in total offense, right behind Texas A&M and Oregon. Nate Sudfeld, a sophomore, got the first start of his career and passed for 363 yards, while receiver Cody Latimer had a career day hauling in 137 yards.
    The weapons that Indiana has on offense make most defenses cringe as Kevin Wilson has been adept at using them all. Now the fun starts. Indiana will welcome an SEC team to Memorial Stadium next Saturday.
    Missouri comes to town having won two in a row themselves and will be fresh, coming off a bye week. Quarterback James Franklin has looked stellar in two early season victories over Murray State and Toledo, but will have a huge challenge ahead in Indiana’s secondary.
    The Hoosiers have a huge chance ahead of them. Beating Missouri would give Indiana momentum heading into their bye week before Penn State comes to town on October 5th. Indiana officials are expecting a crowd close to 50,000 for the primetime matchup next Saturday, which puts IU in the spotlight nationally for the first time since the Wisconsin game last year.
    If Indiana can come away with a huge victory over the Tigers, they’ll be halfway towards securing that bowl bid. And that one, will be special.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

What Does Navy Loss Mean?

Ben Fishman

Bloomington, IN-
    A loss is a loss. That is a fact. In the game of football, somebody wins and somebody loses. Indiana lost what was seen as a winnable game on their schedule and fell to Navy 41-35.
    It wasn’t that they lost, it was how they lost. Indiana was embarassed on the ground and gave up over 500 yards of total offense, and forced zero punts from the Midshipmen. The Hoosiers had no answer for Navy’s triple option and allowed quarterback Keenan Reynolds to rush for three touchdowns.
    What does this say about the Hoosiers now? Is all hope lost? No, of course not. This is week two of a twelve week season, with two of the next three games all looking winnable. Indiana hosts Bowling Green, Missouri and Penn State and with the way Nate Sudfeld and the offense are playing, all three of those can be wins.
    Indiana must take that next step on defense first. The Hoosiers have been compared to Michigan State in that both teams have stellar offenses that can put up points in a hurry. But, the defense still isn’t there and what good does that do? If Indiana’s defense figures it out, this team can be scary. The Hoosiers don’t have to suddenly become Alabama’s defense overnight, they just need their own defense to become consistent. At times, the Hoosiers stepped up and made some plays against Navy’s defense only to be undermined by penalties and questionable calls.
    So ponder this. If Indiana is 4-1 heading into Michigan State on October 12th, another winnable game after watching the Spartans struggle in their opening weeks, does Navy matter? Kevin Wilson and Doug Mallory won’t have to worry about the triple option at all for the rest of the year. They won’t have to worry about Keenan Reynolds.
    Indiana’s offense continues to play at a high level, and one could make a case for Nate Sudfeld as the starter, especially after Tre Roberson was pulled in the first quarter. One could also make a case that Indiana would have won the game had Sudfeld started, but the fact is there is no victory flag flying over Memorial Stadium this week. There was no celebration. There was only the usual thing we’ve grown accustomed to over the 2+ years of Kevin Wilson’s tenure. And that’s defeat.
    For the Hoosiers, they better hop back up. Bowling Green awaits. And they might be the closest thing to a must-win that you can get in mid-September.

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Ben Fishman

    When I was around six years old, my family got our first dog. Having just seen Air Bud, I of course named him Buddy. Buddy was a yellow lab, full of life and love, the way dogs always are.
    Dogs are special. They don’t care who you are, what clothes you wear, what kind of car you have, or where you live. They may be the only such creature in the world that feels this way. They love you unconditionally, they listen to you when no one else will, they nuzzle next to you when you need them and they slyly get you to give them your food by doing nothing but looking at you.
    Dogs are more than special. They’re symbols. They represent you and they represent how you treat and love them. They’re a man’s best friend.
    For Butler, Blue II was a schools best friend. Blue II rose to fame during Butler’s two Final Four appearances in 2010 and 2011 and the Bulldog never went away. The small school in Indy didn’t just have a dog, or a pet, it had a symbol. For Butler, Blue resonated with the team, the administration and the students. Blue represented Butler. He was tenacious, adorable and at times pesky, the same as any Butler team.
    Blue II passed away this past weekend and the small school in Indy mourned the death as they would their own pet, because that’s what Blue II meant to the school.
    Butler has now lost Brad Stevens and Blue II, but the good days are not behind them. Blue II’s twitter account tweeted out, “How do I know all dogs go to heaven? Because I’m there now,” after the university announced the Bulldogs passing.
    Blue III is now the official mascot for Butler, and has been since Blue II retired earlier this year. Brandon Miller is now the head coach for Butler, being promoted after Stevens left for Boston. Butler will live on. And so will Blue II.
    If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to throw these onions away.