Rivalry weekend is a beautiful mess — it wraps up a week of love, kindness and gratitude with 60 minutes of bitterness and competition. However, the losing end is not so fun — add on a serious injury to the future quarterback of the program and your rivals clinching a conference championship berth and said loss becomes gut-wrenching.
This is exactly what Indiana football experienced Saturday evening. The Hoosiers’ 30-16 loss held promise early on, but after sophomore quarterback Dexter Williams II sustained a serious right leg injury with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter, in which the whole team and his family gathered on the field, the team quickly lost momentum and slowly unraveled into a spiral of demise.
The loss is nothing unusual for Indiana in several aspects. Losing is all too familiar, as Indiana’s defeat to Purdue marks its eighth loss of the season. Losing to the in-state rival is also nothing new, as the Boilermakers have won the Bucket in back-to-back seasons and lead the all-time series 76-42-6. And, losing in the fashion Indiana did today is exactly how it lost all season.
While clearly an underdog, Hoosier fans held some hope heading into the matchup, especially after their exhilarating comeback win over Michigan State. When Iowa lost to Nebraska on Friday night, the door was open for Indiana to spite its rival from up north on a macro level — an opportunity to prevent the Boilermakers from their first ever Big Ten championship game.
As Williams and the Hoosiers’ run game picked up where it left off against the Spartans, rushing for 117 yards and earning the lead as the first quarter came to a close, the game was going as well as it could for Indiana. After Williams suffered the gruesome looking injury — which required him to be carted off the field and sent him to a Bloomington hospital — the air was sucked out of Memorial Stadium.
Junior Connor Bazelak took over quarterbacking duties, and flashbacks to Indiana’s seven-game losing streak came to fruition. The Hoosier defense held strong until halftime, but the Boilermakers came out firing in the second half. The force became too much to handle against Indiana’s depleted roster.
In a game which Indiana had control early on, losing the Old Oaken Bucket hurts, but allowing its closest rival a berth in the Big Ten Title game is salt in the wound. In a basketball-minded state, the Boilermakers have been able to put their football program on the map, while the Hoosiers have become a GPS with no internet connection.
Indiana promptly finished its season with a 4-8 record — a two-win improvement from last season. Multiple Hoosiers, such as Williams and freshman running back Jaylin Lucas, had promising outings and showed the potential to lead Indiana in the future. Whether that future will be successful is still on the table, as several concerns persisted throughout the season’s entirety and are waiting to be addressed in the offseason.
Indiana has a lot of decisions to make, and it starts all the way at the top. It’s unlikely head coach Tom Allen will have his contract bought out, which is valued at $20 million, but the displeasure of the fanbase doesn’t put it out of the picture.
The offseason is a long way away, however. For now, reminisce on Indiana football’s 2022 season, if you really want to do so. Cherish the good moments, scoff at the bad and enjoy the feelings experienced before waiting another nine months.