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Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Column: Loss to Virginia familiar, but more encouraging

It was better, but it wasn’t good enough.

The Hoosiers took a different path to get there, but ultimately, the result was the same. They lost to Virginia in the most ridiculous of ways.

Fell behind big. Looked to be headed for disaster. Kevin Wilson pulled out some hair. Came back. Took the lead. Lost the lead. Fumbled the ball. Lost the game.

Virginia 34, IU 31.

You’ve read this story before.

“I do like the fact that our team battled back,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said. “We’re going to be in close games a lot of times. We gotta learn to win close games.”

It’s easy to be a pessimist today. It’s easy to wonder if IU will ever win a close game, if it will ever beat a good opponent. And it’s easy to write off the season.

Call me crazy, but I’m not going to do that. I can’t help looking at this game as a positive. The final score notwithstanding, the Hoosiers looked like a different team Saturday night, at least in the second half.

A year ago, in the same situation — IU trailing 23-3 early in the second half — the team would have folded. The Hoosiers weren’t mentally tough or physically conditioned enough to score 28 consecutive points against a team like Virginia.
If nothing else, we saw the ‘Wilson Effect’ a week later than we thought we would.

The Hoosiers grew stronger as the game went along, and Virginia got weaker. The Cavaliers looked exhausted late in the second half.

It was as if the Hoosiers had changed roles.

Last year, they gave up big leads. Saturday night, they erased a huge deficit.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for our players,” Wilson said. “Everything they’ve invested since we’ve been here, the way they come back. We’re just asking them, right now, to maintain an unbelievable attitude and keep bringing it.”

The Hoosiers looked tougher than I’ve ever seen them.

Running back Matt Perez ran over people. Wide receiver Duwyce Wilson made huge catches down the stretch. The defense made big hits in key moments.

This is what Wilson brings to IU — a tough-minded, never-give-up mentality.
That mentality looked good in those white helmets.

“We were upbeat,” sophomore quarterback Edward Wright-Baker said of the team’s attitude at halftime. “The defense was pumped up. The offense was pumped up. Coach got in there and got us ready to go.”

I’m not trying to tell you this is as good as IU is going to be. There are still plenty of areas in which the Hoosiers need to improve.

First, Wright-Baker needs to continue to grow as a quarterback.

He was OK, but he overthrew several open receivers on deep balls, and he failed to feel UVA’s defensive end Cam Johnson coming on his weak side on IU’s final drive.

Second, Wilson needs to find a comfort zone as the head guy.

He’s been way too aggressive in the first two games.

Saturday, it came on during a terrible fake field goal call.

He seems to be trying so hard to establish his coaching philosophy that he’s making questionable decisions.

Finally, the defense has to take the next step.

It was much better, but when it needed a stop to win the game, it couldn’t get it.

I don’t know if the Hoosiers stopped taking chances on the final drive, but Virginia methodically marched it down the field like Michigan did a year ago.

For some reason, I’m confident all of those things will come — in time.
Even though the result of this game looked familiar, the game itself looked much more promising.

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