Could IU give Ohio State its 'Darkest Day'?
If a 3-1 record for an IU football team heading into a game against No. 9 Ohio State seems familiar, that’s because it is.
In 1987, the 3-1 Hoosiers traveled to Columbus, Ohio, to face the Buckeyes.
While this year’s game is in Bloomington, the current Hoosiers can only hope the game result is the same.
IU dominated the 1987 game, winning 31-10. Ohio State’s then-coach Earle Bruce described it as “the darkest day in Ohio State football.”
Former IU coach Bill Mallory, who coached the Hoosiers that day, said this year’s squad can take a lesson from his team.
The previous season, Mallory’s Hoosiers lost 24-22 to the Buckeyes at Memorial Stadium, and the team earned a standing ovation from the crowd.
But his team didn’t settle for moral victories.
Mallory said the 2009 team’s most recent loss, a heartbreaking 36-33 defeat at Michigan, had a similar feeling.
“(The 1987 Hoosiers) felt they could’ve won that game just like Saturday with Michigan,” Mallory said. “We were not into moral victories. We were here to kick their you-know-what.”
The following year, Mallory had his players ready for the Buckeyes. On Friday before the game, he pointed out the spot in the stands where he sat for the 1951 game – the last time the Hoosiers had beaten the Buckeyes.
“Get that vision,” Mallory told his team. “Because we’re going to git ’er done. We are going to beat Ohio State.”
IU jumped out to a 10-0 lead, but the Buckeyes responded with 10 points to tie the game by halftime.
After halftime, Mallory said he remembered another moment that jump-started his squad. An Ohio State punt had pinned the Hoosiers at their own 3-yard line, embedded in the horseshoe part of Ohio’s stadium. As quarterback Dave Schnell took the field, he motioned with his arms to encourage the student section to get loud.
“I just wanted to let them know they weren’t going to control us,” Schnell said. “We were in a groove, and our team was clicking on all cylinders. It felt like we had control of the game.”
The crowd responded, and the Hoosiers marched down the field for a touchdown and scored 21 unanswered points.
IU radio announcer Don Fischer, who called the game, said the Hoosiers were in complete control in the second half.
“It was a good ol’ butt-whooping the rest of that ball game,” Fischer said.
Fischer vividly remembers the Victory Bell, which tolls after every Ohio State home win, was silent following an IU game for the first time in 36 years.
“Bruce called it ‘the darkest day’ because nobody respected Indiana football,” Fischer said.
That season, the Hoosiers, featuring star running back Anthony Thompson, completed a sweep of Big Ten powers Ohio State and Michigan and competed in the Peach Bowl. The next year, IU won against Ohio State 41-7.
Though season expectations for the 2009 team might not be the same, the 1987 game provides a lesson plan for Ohio State.
Schnell said the coaching staff prepared the team well to face anything Ohio State was going to throw at the Hoosiers.
“They never expected to lose to Indiana,” Schnell said. “You’ve got to believe you can compete and win the game.”
IU coach Bill Lynch put a possible win in perspective.
“It would be a great win for us,” Lynch said. “But it’s one game in a Big Ten season. When it’s all said and done, each one is equally important.”
Fischer said an upset win this year would bring the same respect the team earned in 1987.
“If they win, it puts Indiana in a category where you better start worrying about this football team,” he said.
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