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Monday, Feb. 26
The Indiana Daily Student

sports men's basketball

Seniors still hyped to play Homecoming, rest of season

Big Ten Media Day

The Hoosiers will not be going bowling this season.

Senior right tackle Justin Pagan knows this.

He knows that, at best, he has four games left for IU.

He knows Saturday is his last Homecoming, even if the festivities are for the fans, not the players.

Still, this will not be the first time a Homecoming game against Northwestern has held some significance for him. In 2008, IU upset then-No. 24 Northwestern 21-19 in a Homecoming game for the Hoosiers’ only conference win that season.

“Coach Wilson brought that up, how the last time we took them here was 2008, and that was my first career start,” Pagan said. “For me to think about that, it’s kind of weird to see, because I remember very vividly.”

This Saturday, Pagan and his senior teammates have the opportunity to bring their careers full circle. It is once again Homecoming, and the Wildcats are the opponents one last time.

After receiving votes in the initial three AP top-25 polls of the season, Northwestern, like IU, has lost five in a row entering Saturday.

“This is a must-win for us, not because of our losing streak, but because we’re at home,” sophomore running back Stephen Houston said. “That’s what we’re going to do. You always want to protect your house.”

Pagan said none of the hoopla and festivities of Homecoming make the game more important to the players than any other.

“It’s not more significant or less significant than any game we’ve played this year,” Pagan said. “We come out and play every week with the same goal of winning that game and getting better each week.”

As each team seeks its first conference win, neither squad’s offense will look quite the way the teams may have anticipated entering the season.

Houston and true freshman quarterback Tre Roberson, along with several offensive linemen, will start for the Hoosiers after beginning the season as reserves.
“We’re gelling,” Houston said. “We’re coming together (as) a whole unit, putting the pass game with the running game. Now it’s just time to translate it from practice onto Saturday’s game field.”

For Northwestern, an early injury to starting quarterback Dan Persa, a Maxwell Award watch-list member, allowed Kain Colter to emerge in his absence. Colter has also played slotback and receiver, along with his time at quarterback, for the Wildcats and leads the team with 421 rushing yards. Persa leads in passing yardage with 990 yards and six touchdowns.

“(You have) got to have respect for Mr. Persa, what he is fighting through, his background, but the Colter kid comes in, and they don’t miss a beat,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said.

For seniors such as Pagan, with a losing senior season guaranteed at this point, there still is motivation to leave their mark on the football program.

“This is the first year of the Wilson era, as we call it, so we’re going to lay a good foundation for these younger guys,” Pagan said.

With one-third of the season left and a bowl game out of the question, Wilson said he is still focused on this season, not looking toward next year.

“My deal is I’m trying to keep them pretty positive, because if we’re not, then nobody else is going to be,” Wilson said. “My gig each day is we’ve got to be the guys with the energy, the guys with the enthusiasm. We’ve got to make sure that we keep finding good in what we’re trying to do.”

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