There was a four-game run where IU followers relished in the team’s performances and nothing less was to be accepted. The Hoosiers had an aura of a team destined for greatness.
Then Ohio State came to town.
The Hoosiers had more rushes (26) than yards (18) for an average of 0.7 yards per attempt. The run defense, permeable at its best, allowed 4.7 yards per carry for a total of 219 yards.
Those numbers come from a team that, in previous weeks, had proved their dominance in the trenches.
What people thought they knew about this IU football team from the previous four weeks was thrown out the window within a mere three hours. Still, with the Buckeyes being the No. 9 team in the nation last Saturday, some outsiders did their best pee-wee parent impression and were simply happy that IU tried hard.
To those people, IU was not supposed to beat Ohio State, and therefore, a hard effort from the historically lowly Hoosiers was acceptable.
Thankfully, for the sake of the team’s season, IU coach Bill Lynch isn’t one of those people.
“You want to get to the point where losing is not acceptable,” Lynch said. “You get chances and you are going to do everything you can to win a football game. You do not want to be in a situation where you just want to keep the game close or be respectful.”
In essence, Lynch feels this team has the ability to be great, and he knows that potential won’t be reached by making excuses.
Great teams hate losing, and when they do, they take out their frustration by paddling their next opponent.
So if the Ohio State game was the exception and not the rule, Virginia has a reason to be frightened.
The 1-3 Cavaliers are the final non-conference challenger for the Hoosiers, and the stage is set for a statement game. The stat sheets seem to suggest IU is primed to turn their disappointment into a blowout victory, and it’s reasonable to expect it.
IU running backs should be licking their chops when they see the Cavaliers’ 145.2 rushing yards allowed per game. The defensive line should have trouble containing their excitement when they see Virginia’s 17 sacks allowed and 93 rushing yards per game.
While Ohio State exposed the Hoosiers as a team that won’t be contending for a conference championship any time soon, Virginia could be the school to prove IU as a bowl team.
And the stars for a program-changing season seem to be aligning for IU, as their next three opponents have a 5-8 combined record.
Victories in each of these three contests would already make the Hoosiers bowl eligible, but the inconsistency in their first five games continues to beg the question: Is this a team capable of postseason play?
No matter what happens this weekend, the Hoosiers will answer that question.
The Hoosiers aren’t used to being postseason contenders, but starting Saturday, the time has come for Lynch and his squad to transform the football mind-set at IU.
“It’s really good our guys were hurting after the game and thought, ‘we can play better than that,’” Lynch said. “I think you really have to get your program where all you care about is yourself.”
The Hoosiers want winds of change to blow through Bloomington, and their chance starts now.
IU 31 – UVA 14
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