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Wednesday, June 19
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

COLUMN: Botched call, not a botched season

Punter Erich Toth raises his arms in disagreement with the referees' ruling that a field goal missed during the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 26. 

BRONX, N.Y. — He kicked it above and just to the left of the right goal post.

IU kicker Griffin Oakes saw it. His teammate and punter Erich Toth saw it. Across the stadium, eye level with the goalpost, members of the IU Marching Hundred saw it.

And perched behind the goalpost in the Yankee Stadium press box, I saw the kick float through that opaque, fractional space that separates “good” from “not good” — the space that separated IU football from either double overtime against a backup quarterback or the loss of its first bowl game since 2007 — and felt it slice right through me.

With the Hoosiers trailing 44-41 in overtime, the announcer on ESPN radio called the 38-yard attempt good. But the official stationed underneath the right goal post signaled his arms in opposition.

As the Duke Blue Devils rushed the field, time slowed. We looked at Toth, aghast with his arms still up, signaling the made attempt. We looked at the referees, and Oakes cursing at the referees before they vanished from the field. We looked at each other, students and professionals in the practice of filling silence with words, and we were speechless.

It was the wrong call. But because of the ball’s position above the tops of the uprights, it was an unreviewable call. And that was that. IU football finished the 2015 season 6-7, with a colossal asterisk.

It was a haunting play on which to leave a season so full of hope. Chopped off in the middle of the sentence, lost in the same manner as one would lose a living appendage. IU was in reach of its first bowl win since 1991. And then it wasn’t.

But the body of work is still there. And the myriad of accomplishments the Hoosiers have garnered cannot be made a ghost by a single, botched call.

I entered the game with the same opinion that IU Coach Kevin Wilson and his players echoed in the week leading up to the Pinstripe Bowl: the Hoosiers came to be bowl champions, not bowl participants.

In order for this postseason berth to mean something, IU had to win.

But we’ll never really know if the Hoosiers were bowl participants or something more. Not definitively, anyway. 

And as my heart wrenches for all the seniors, for Nate Sudfeld, the greatest quarterback in program history, for Griffin Oakes, the Big Ten Kicker of the Year and for Simmie Cobbs Jr., who seemed to take his drops with the same consequence as Oakes’ final kick, I can’t help but to express how damn proud I am of this IU football team.

A 3,000-yard passer in Sudfeld. A 1,000-yard receiver in Cobbs. Two 1,000-yard rushers in sophomore Devine Redding and junior Jordan Howard, the first pair in program history, and a veteran offensive line that deserves just as much credit for the feat.

I could go on listing the records, accolades and statistics, but the impact of this season, and of this graduating class, is comprised of experiences, not of numbers.

This season is Cream and Crimson lights illuminating the Empire State building. It’s walk-ons like Mitchell Paige, Anthony Corsaro and Andre Booker, scoring touchdowns, making game-changing plays and — in the case of Corsaro and Booker and senior Nick Mangieri — ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. It's stands packed with IU fans in Yankee Stadium, and millions of viewers tuning into the football program of a historic basketball school on ABC.

A season that was dramatic at every turn ended in equally dramatic fashion in New York City, where IU football took a bite out of the Big Apple.

A bite that will be, with any luck, the fuel for many successful seasons of IU football to follow.

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