Up-and-down Hoosiers seeking consistent success

Associated Press
Updated 10/14/2013 7:09 PM
  • Indiana cornerback Tim Bennett hurdles Michigan State receiver Andre Sims Jr. while returning an interception during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 42-28.

    Indiana cornerback Tim Bennett hurdles Michigan State receiver Andre Sims Jr. while returning an interception during the fourth quarter of Saturday's game in East Lansing, Mich. Michigan State won 42-28. Associated Press

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana tight end Ted Bolser and receiver Shane Wynn understand that if things are going to change for the Hoosiers, it starts at practice.

They need to start with more energy, pay more attention to details and need to apply the same attitude after wins and losses. They know it's the only way they're going to start winning games consistently in the Big Ten.

"It's something we need to work on," Bolser said Monday. "Beating Penn State was great. But we need to come out and practice well, by doing the things we need to do to win. I didn't think we practiced as well last week."

The result was a 42-28 loss at Michigan State.

Clearly, the Hoosiers (3-3, 1-1) have figured out what it takes to be competitive in this rugged conference.

At the midway point of the season, Indiana is one win away from matching last season's victory total, two wins away from doubling coach Kevin Wilson's victory total from his first two seasons in Bloomington and three wins away from being bowl eligible for the first time since 2007 and only the second time since 1995.

But Indiana fans still see some of the same old problems.

While the offense continues to play fast and is scoring 42 points per game, the defense is allowing an alarming 216.5 yards rushing and an audacious 32.8 points.

On Saturday, Michigan State exploited Indiana's weaknesses by running 47 times for 238 yards, 5.1 per carry, and four scores. Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory explained many of the problems stemmed from 18 missed tackles and giving up 130 yards rushing on just three carries.

"You get a breakdown here or there and those are the things we continue to harp on and try to correct," Mallory said.

If the Hoosiers have a repeat this weekend against angry Michigan, it could be even worse.

The Wolverines (5-1, 1-1) have two runners, Devin Gardner and Fitzgerald Toussaint, ranked in the league's top 10 and are averaging 173.2 yards on the ground. They're also coming off a four-overtime loss on the road.

Indiana has lost 17 straight to Michigan, dating to 1987, and hasn't won in Ann Arbor since 1967 -- the Hoosiers' Rose Bowl season.

The Hoosiers don't care about those numbers. They opened October by snapping a 16-game losing streak to Penn State, then fell to 2-16 since 1970 at Michigan State this weekend.

But they haven't won, or lost, back-to-back games this season and haven't won more than two straight since the start of the 2010 season.

The Hoosiers interpretation is simple.

"It's kind of frustrating," Wynn said. "It's telling you that you're not as good as you thought you were."

Wilson, usually the toughest critic in the Indiana locker room, doesn't see it quite the same way.

Though he has repeatedly challenged his team to handle success better, Wilson tempered his practice critique. Yes, he noted, that the Hoosiers need to improve their practice habits to avoid "sloppy" play on game day, however, he did not take issue with Indiana's overall performances as practice.

"I thought last week was pretty good, not as good as the week before," he acknowledged. "I thought we had a pretty good week against Missouri. I don't think we practiced the same way against Navy, I thought we were just a little giddy after scoring all those points (73 against Indiana State), but overall it's been pretty good all year."

Wilson could change the equation by mixing things up at quarterback as he has done the last three weeks, too.

Nate Sudfeld went 14 of 30 for 137 yards at Michigan State, while Tre Roberson finished 11 of 17 for 122 yards with two TDs and one interception after running for two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion in the win over Penn State.

Wilson, of course, didn't say how he would use the athletic Roberson and Sudfeld, the pocket passer, this week, forcing Michigan to game plan for both.

But this week, the rest of the Hoosiers will simply focus on trying to getting things right in practice.

"You can't win one and then lose one and then win one again," Wynn said. "We've just got to practice the same way we did before (Penn State)."

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.