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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

IU ready to face Big House crowd

Freshman quarterback Zander Diamont fakes a hand off to Senior running back D’Angelo Roberts in the Homecoming game against Michigan State on Oct. 18 at Memorial Stadium.

IU senior receiver Nick Stoner gets less nervous playing on the road.

The opposing fans in the stands don’t normally know who Stoner is. They just want him to fail.

To Stoner, it’s a battle on unfamiliar ground. There’s no falling back on familiarity. As players, they create their own energy.

It’s the same game, just a different struggle.

“You’re going into a fight with your boys and all you have is your boys,” Stoner said. “It’s just you and your boys taking on all these people.”

To be precise, Stoner and his Hoosier teammates will be taking on roughly 109,901 people Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich.

“The Big House” is the largest stadium in the U.S. and the third-largest stadium in the world. As many as 115,109 people have packed into Michigan Stadium to watch the Wolverines.

For 256 consecutive games, Michigan has had more than 100,000 people file into The Big House. The huge attendance numbers have become a staple of the Michigan football tradition.

For comparison, IU’s announced average attendance last season was 44,353, but there’s no way of knowing how many fans actually attended the game.

Although Michigan’s 100,000 fan streak has been in danger in recent games due to a struggling Michigan program, IU spent the week preparing to face one-tenth of a million opposing fans.

The crowd noise and unfamiliar surroundings could make for a hostile environment for true freshman quarterback Zander Diamont, who will make his first road start Saturday.

“He’s been with us on the road, so he’s been in arenas, but he hasn’t been under fire except the one game at home,” IU Coach Kevin Wilson said.

Home and away environments can be radically different challenges for a ?quarterback.

Although crowd noise can impair an offense’s ability to communicate verbally, IU senior receiver Nick Stoner said the noise shouldn’t alter play calling too much.

IU regularly simulates road environments by blaring music at practice. The Hoosiers’ method of play calling uses a mix of both verbal and visual signal calls that each quarterback regularly performs at practice.

“With the way we call plays, I don’t think it’s that much more difficult,” Stoner said. “Obviously it’s louder and people are yelling at you from the sidelines, it makes it that much more fun when people are yelling at you.”

Defensively, it’s just the opposite.

The road crowd gets quiet when its offense is on the field, making it easier to ?communicate.

When an opposing crowd is booing or screaming, senior safety Mark Murphy says the defense feeds off the hostile atmosphere.

“It kind of gets us going,” Murphy said. “They’re yelling at you. You get excited and you want to show what you can do, show them what you’re made of.”

When junior offensive tackle Ralston Evans steps on the field, his goal is simple.

Make the crowd hate him.

“I like playing on the road because I can go into a stadium and make 66,000 people hate me when we go in there and win,” Evans said. “That’s my thing. I like that.”

A road win on Saturday would come at a much-needed time for IU.

The Hoosiers have five games remaining and must win three in order to become bowl eligible.

IU was able to upset Missouri on the road earlier this season but only has two road wins in the last 12 ?opportunities.

The Hoosiers will be underdogs when they enter The Big House on Saturday, but that’s fine by sophomore linebacker T.J. Simmons.

He’s eager to try to make 100,000 people upset.

“Having all these people that are against you, it just gives you more fuel,” Simmons said. “We just want to prove them wrong.”

In crucial moments, a home crowd can get loud to the point where players can barely hear themselves think.

Sophomore safety Antonio Allen said when the home crowd gets excited, a few big plays can silence them.

He can tell the mood of the crowd based on the murmurs in the stands.

When a crowd of 100,000 goes quiet, he’s done his job.

“When we make them go silent,” Allen said, smiling. “I like that.”

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