Every year, the rhetoric from the Indiana football team and its staff is the same: This year will be different.
Indiana has a new defensive coordinator and a new scheme. Kevin Wilson has weeded out all the guys that haven't bought in and now has a team full of guys ready to fight for him. Nate Sudfeld, Tevin Coleman and Shane Wynn are back. The recruiting classes are better. It all sounded great.
I have to admit, I was guilty of buying in. Every year, I end up drinking the Kool Aid and start believing IU will be at least a little bit better. But every year, I'm quickly proven wrong.
Indiana dropped a heartbreaking 45-42 decision at Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers' defense collapsed late. Wilson made some questionable decisions that would prove costly. Stop me if you've heard this before.
All the preseason talk is nice, and I'd agree that Wilson has had this program moving in the right direction. But all of that talk goes away and is proven worthless when you can't back it up on the field. Saturday's performance against Bowling Green looked remarkably similar to last year, and the year before that, and the year before that ... you get the point.
This was a Bowling Green team that lost by 28 points to Western Kentucky in Week 1. It was a game Indiana absolutely had to win. The blame goes to Wilson.
I like that he's aggressive, I do. But far too often Wilson's calls leave me scratching my head for hours after the game is over. Some of them are downright dumb, and they hurt his team.
Wilson opted to go for it on fourth down two different times in the first half. On both occasions, he brought in backup quarterback Chris Covington, who never plays. Both times, Indiana failed to pick up a first down.
If you are going to go for it, go for it, Kevin. Don't try to be cute. Don't try to trick somebody. Do what you do, leave your regular guys in the game, and run a play. This isn't Ohio State. It's not Alabama. This is Bowling Green. Why try the cute, trickery stuff? I don't get it, and I never will.
The Hoosiers are hurt by the fact that Aaron Del Grosso doesn't seem to be a reliable kicker from any distance, making Wilson feel like he has to go for it most of the time. I have no problem with that. But leave Sudfeld in the game, and run a play you would normally run. [On a side note: Indiana may need to try out another kicker. Del Grosso just hasn't gotten it done. IU misses Mitch Ewald dearly.]
And then there's the defense, which I fear isn't any better than the unit IU put on the field a year ago. The Hoosiers had a nice start, but completely fell apart in the second half. The Falcons scored 33 points in the final two quarters, including 19 in the fourth. Indiana could never get a stop when it really needed one.
In my eyes, you learn how good (or conversely, bad) a defense is at the end of a game when it absolutely has to keep a team out of the end zone. That was the situation on Saturday, and Indiana failed the test.
Worst case scenario, Indiana needed to hold Bowling Green to a field goal and fight it out in overtime. Instead, the Hoosiers' defensive backs panicked, committed two pass interference penalties in the final 30 seconds, and handed the Falcons the game-winning touchdown. They didn't trust themselves to make the play, and instead grabbed and held the receivers.
Maybe the defense will get better as the year goes along under Brian Knorr. I hope, for Wilson's sake, that it does. But make no mistake: This is a horrible loss. Maybe one that proves tragic to Wilson's career at Indiana.
Not only was this a game Indiana shouldn't lose, it was one the Hoosiers should have won big. After a lackluster opener, I expected the Hoosiers to play well and win by 20 or more points. That obviously didn't happen.
It's a new season, but I'm still looking for the improvements we were promised in the summer. When will they come?