BOWLING GREEN, Ohio — In high school, we used to have this “motivational speaker” type of guy come talk to our football team.
A lot of what he said completely went in one ear and out the other, but I remember very well something he used to say about adversity.
“You can either define it or you can let it define you.”
It’s not a complicated saying, but it lingers in the back of my mind when I try to wrap my head around IU’s 45-42 loss to Bowling Green because of a touchdown with nine seconds remaining.
IU lost this game, and there is no changing that, but what happens from here is what will define the 2014 IU football season.
This was a game the Hoosiers should have won, and this was yet another example of IU being unable to make that next step.
But IU can go two ways from here.
They can let this loss snowball into a losing season that began in Bowling Green, Ohio, on Sept. 13, or they can let this loss be the spark that lights a fire for a winning season in Bloomington.
This loss is disappointing because of all the things that did go right.
Although it seems so far away now, in the first half, the IU defense was being commended for keeping IU in the football game.
The offense and special teams continued to keep the defense at their heels in rough situations, but Brian Knorr’s unit kept “bending not breaking,” as was the consensus term on Twitter, and making stops.
Then, in the second half, the Falcons figured them out and torched IU for 33 second-half points.
Next, there’s quarterback Nate Sudfeld. The much-scrutinized junior was heavily questioned for his mediocre performance against Indiana State, and going into this game, the worry was Sudfeld’s past struggles on the road.
What did Sudfeld do today? Everything that was asked of him.
He was 31-of-41 passing for 347 yards and remained the lone rock of the offense as the run game stood irrelevant in the first half.
He kept moving the ball downfield all game even when poor play calls or teammate turnovers jeopardized the Hoosiers’ chances.
Lastly, there’s Tevin Coleman. It almost feels like he needs a “the” before his name with some of the runs he’s been having this year.
Coleman was held to only 30 yards rushing in the first half but ended the day with 194 due to a few lengthy touchdown runs that had me sincerely thinking for a little while that a human being was not capable of tackling him.
Then Coleman fumbled the ball in the red zone with a chance to put the game away.
All of these contributions on their own kept the Hoosiers in this football game, but if they were able to put it all together, this game would not have been a contest.
Today we saw all of the ingredients for a winning football team, but they were never mixed together to concoct a victory.
This loss is the fork in the road for a team that hasn’t made a bowl since 2007.
They can buy into the idea that this is a losing squad and allow this loss to mentally cripple them, or they can make sure us in the media remember this as the wake-up call for a team capable of making a statement in the Big Ten.
Wilson had the right idea when asked about his defense, although his words apply to the whole team.
“You don’t have a good defense or a bad defense until the end of the year,” he said. “Anybody could have one good week or one bad week or get lucky.”
He’s absolutely right. We will know at the end of the season whether or not the Hoosiers let this loss define them or if they defined it.