The look on Tevin Coleman's face said it all.
Indiana, like it has so many times before, lost a game it looked like it was going to win. The sophomore running back happened to be involved in the surreal and heartbreaking ending to Hoosiers Homecoming 42-39 loss to Minnesota.
With second and goal at the nine, Coleman got his head turned around late on a Nate Sudfeld swing pass. He bobbled the backwards pass, leading to the eventual fumble that was recovered by the Golden Gophers. He didn't realize the ball was still live until it was too late.
"It was a just a jaw-dropper," said junior wide receiver Cody Latimer. "I just stood there like 'Wow.' It was just hurtful.''
After starting the game at quarterback before giving way to Nate Sudfeld in the second half, Tre Roberson saw it all unfold for the sideline. Down big late in the third quarter, Indiana scored 26 unanswered points to take a 39-35 lead with 5:33 to go. It was the Hoosiers' first lead since early in the second quarter, and everything seemed to be going their way.
"Oh yea, it was a great time," Roberson said. "Everybody was hyped. Everybody was ready to go. And you see we were down and we tried to make good plays and we've just got to finish it at the end."
Problems with closing out games is not a new thing at Indiana. Go back to the Bill Lynch era and you'll remember a number of painful, improbable losses. To Latimer, this was the worst loss he had ever been a part of.
"I would say that because we were right there," he said. "It was a game we should have had and we needed it and it just slipped right out of our hands with a couple seconds left to go at the goal line.''
That feeling was palpable in the locker postgame, where nobody could believe what had just happened.
"It was quiet," Latimer said. "People were just in there with their head down. We were just thinking that we were that close and we lost. Tomorrow will be a different atmosphere and everybody will be up and we just need to come back and ready to play the next game.''
And then there was Coleman, dressed in postgame sweats, flocked by a throng of reporters while searching for answers to how Indiana blew such a golden opportunity. With a challenging road schedule ahead, the opportunity to make a bowl for the first time in six years seemingly slipped out of Indiana's grasp when the ball slipped out of Coleman's.
"It was really hard because I put all the pressure on me and thought it was my fault," he said.
In reality, there was plenty of blame to go around for the loss. Sudfeld admitted he threw the ball behind Coleman. The defense had some big stops, but allowed 573 yards and 42 points. Minnesota's go-ahead score was the result of a blown assignment in the secondary.
Wilson was left second-guessing his play calling, particularly on the final play.
"Very, very proud of how hard they played and they deserved to win," he said. "As coaches we've got to put them in better situations. It's my fault because I've told them for a couple of weeks: I have a lot of seniors I have a lot of respect for that have really bought in, given us a great go, and I want those guys to get some victories. And I say that wholeheartedly to them. I think sometimes it's quote, ‘coach speak,' to them, but those guys deserve this."
Little of that would likely comfort Coleman, who probably still feels he should have made the play, or at least have not dropped it. He, like the rest of the team, will have to get back to work on Monday.
"It's real tough as you can see," Coleman said. "I'm not happy at all. I'm not cheerful at all. I've just got to keep on going."