Terry Hoeppner has done just about everything he could off-the-field to help build momentum for the Hoosier football program. Friday night, he'll turn his attention to taking some positive steps on the playing surface.
Hoeppner will make his IU coaching debut Friday night as the Hoosiers kick off the 2005 season against Central Michigan at 6:30 p.m. (EST) at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mt. Pleasant, Mich. After spending the last 19 years on the Miami (Ohio) coaching staff, including the last six as the Redhawks' head coach, Hoeppner will make his Big Ten debut against a school from his old conference, the Mid-America Conference.
"I can't wait," said Hoeppner.
This is a rematch of last year's season-opener for both teams, a game the Hoosiers won, 41-10 in Bloomington. Hoosier cornerback Tracy Porter made a huge debut in last year's opener, picking off a pair of passes, including one that he returned 96 yards for a touchdown. The Chippewas have visions of avenging last year's lopsided loss, and the Hoosiers know what to expect in the program's first trip to a MAC school since 1996.
"They are a good team, and they are going to come out fired up," said senior linebacker Kyle Killion. "It's their home game too, so they'll come out strong."
Hoosier offensive line coach Bobby Johnson echoes Killion's opinion on what to expect from Coach Brian Kelly's squad, which returns 12 starters from a squad that went 4-7 a year ago.
"I've talked about that over and over again - they're going to get this team's best shot," said Johnson, who worked on Hoeppner's Miami (Ohio) staff and followed him to Bloomington. "They'll have a chip on their shoulder.
"I played in the MAC, and I wanted to play in the Big Ten. So anytime we played a Big 10 team, I wanted to prove that I am just as good as you if not better than you, and our team is just as good. So they'll be fired up."
While the two teams did square off a year ago, this year's Chippewa team will have a different look than last year's version. At quarterback, 6-5, 215-pound senior Kent Smith is back after throwing for 2,284 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushing for 351 yards and another 10 scores a year ago. Smith started the 2004 campaign as a back-up, but wound up relieving Grant Arnoldink late in the Indiana game. Smith went 10-for-17 for 148 yards in the second half of last year's IU-CMU contest and wound up starting the final 10 games of the season.
The Chippewas are also expected to be without junior tailback Jerry Seymour, who rushed for 1,284 yards a year ago, including 111 on 21 carries in last year's meeting. In the off-season, Seymour was sentenced to 30 days in jail after being found in contempt of court for lying to a grand jury in the case of DeMarcus Graham, a 26-year-old man who was beaten to death outside a Mt. Pleasant nightclub last summer.
Kelly suspended Seymour indefinitely following the incident, and he's expected to return to the field later this season once his legal matters are resolved.
In Seymour's place will be 5-10, 222-pound senior Spencer Lewis, a former walk-on who has rushed for just 261 yards in his first three seasons in Mt. Pleasant.
There will also be some new faces for the Hoosiers, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. Friday's game will mark the debut start for sophomore Blake Powers, who was named the Hoosiers' starting quarterback late last week.
"It's a great feeling," said Powers. "Everyone wants to do their part and the part I've been given is to lead this team. It's a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to it."
Other new faces in the Hoosiers' starting lineup will be senior tailback Chris Taylor along with redshirt freshmen wide receivers Marcus Thigpen and James Bailey. Taylor, who rushed 329 yards on 82 carries in 2004, has been the Hoosiers' back-up in each of the past three seasons.
"This is what I've been working for during the last three years," said Taylor. "I can't wait to get out there."
The same can be said for both teams, as each looks to put disappointing 2004 campaigns behind them. The Hoosiers are looking to not only erase the memory of last year's 3-8 campaign, but they are also looking for a most elusive road victory. In its last 19 road games, the Hoosiers have won only once – last year's stunner in week two at Oregon.
For Hoeppner and Indiana, it's a game that's an absolute must if it has visions of fulfilling the team's goal of earning a bowl invitation at season's end. Indiana will have to prepared for a CMU team that will likely be looking to make a statement for itself as well as the MAC against the Big Ten.
" We have to be on our toes and give them what we've got," said Killion.
Friday's game will be televised by ESPNU.
Hoosiers, Chippewas Set To Battle
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