I thought I was having flashbacks. Maybe I was dreaming. What I was seeing on the field couldn’t possibly be happening.
IU recovered a fumble on Illinois’s 3-yard line and proceeded to call three consecutive running plays and settle for a field goal.
The Hoosiers tried two consecutive screen passes to the same receiver on the same side of the field.
IU’s longest play from scrimmage — a 48-yard pass from Dusty Kiel to running back Stephen Houston — came on about a two-yard throw and a 46-yard run.
Surely that man on the sideline wasn’t Kevin Wilson, a coach known for his offensive expertise. The play calls looked so familiar I could have sworn it was a former coach who made them. It had to be.
But it wasn’t. It was, indeed, Wilson.
The guy who was too aggressive in the first two weeks of the season all of a sudden seemed to know only one play – a zone read. The guy who came to IU saying “Win Today” instead called the game as if his motto was “Don’t Lose Today.”
I’m not saying the result on Saturday — a 41-20 Illinois win — would have been all that different if Wilson would have been more aggressive early. It likely wouldn’t have been.
But what in the world has happened to Wilson?
In the season opener against Ball State, he elected to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal to cut the lead to 24-20.
A week later against Virginia, he accepted a delay of game penalty and called for a fake field goal.
Now, it’s considered aggressive when Wilson calls a passing play that’s not a screen.
The players wouldn’t throw their coach under the bus after the game, but I got the feeling they wanted to see a more aggressive offense, too.
I don’t know if Wilson doesn’t have faith in Dusty Kiel at quarterback or if he doesn’t believe his offensive line can protect long enough.
But in both Big Ten games, Wilson has refused to go down field until it’s too late.
When the Hoosiers (1-5, 0-2) do go deep, they usually have success. They’ve had plenty of fourth-quarter touchdowns. But why not air it out in the first half when your team’s still in the game?
“We have to stay patient, stay with the run,” Wilson said. “When you’re a one-dimensional team, even if you’re really, really, really good, you are going to struggle in pass (protection.) When you’re playing young guys who are not as good as you want, you’re going to struggle more.”
I was somewhat critical of Wilson when he was overly aggressive in the first couple weeks, but I understood it. He wanted to establish his identity as a coach and let everyone know he is willing to do whatever it takes to win.
But I can’t comprehend some of his recent decisions. If you’re going to go down, at least go down swinging.
I know he doesn’t have a ton to work with — Kiel struggled to complete anything against Illinois, and the offensive line isn’t good — but he needs to find a balance between his old aggressive tendencies and his new conservative ones.