On-The-Field Success Critical for IU Football

Building a winning football program in Bloomington? To Terry Hoeppner, it's a mission that's anything but impossible.

Building a winning football program in Bloomington? To Terry Hoeppner, it's a mission that's anything but impossible.

He's got Hoosier fans believing it, too. Six months of press conferences, golf outings and speaking engagements have many around the state of Indiana believing that a winner can in fact be nurtured on the Indiana University campus.

That's no small task, considering that IU fans have witnessed 10 straight losing seasons and haven't been to a bowl game since 1993. But the first-year Hoosier coach doesn't believe that the mountain is as daunting as others might, nor does he think any goal is too lofty for his program.

"We had to get their attention," said Hoeppner. "We needed to get people excited."

He's done that, evidenced by season ticket sales that are up dramatically from a year ago, and student ticket sales that are up nearly 50 percent from 2004.

With alumni and students believing in what Hoeppner is preaching, there is only one group left to persuade – the Hoosier players. But no matter how much Hoeppner talks a good a game in the locker room or on the practice field, he knows ultimately they're going to need some results before they're convinced things will be different in 2005 and into the future.

"You can't just give guys confidence," said Hoeppner. "You can't just tell them, ‘you guys have done a great job, you've practiced hard, you have the ability.' They have to go out and achieve some success on their own and gain that confidence on their own."

Indiana's players took a step in that direction last Friday, fending off a spirited effort by Central Michigan on its home field, 20-13. After losing a handful of games a year ago down the stretch, IU made critical plays when it needed them on both sides of the ball in the second half to secure the win.

"It was encouraging that we were in a tough game in the fourth quarter (and won)," said Hoeppner. "I wish it hadn't been (as close) and I wish we had performed better early, but I want to take advantage of the opportunity that we did win a game and had to play for 60 minutes to do so."

Last season, second-half meltdowns and miscues against Michigan State, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern spoiled what could have been a much better season than the final 3-8 overall mark. At times it appeared it was just a matter of time before the wheels would come off late, and more often than not, they did.

For Hoeppner, that's more of a psychological obstacle to overcome.

"It's at least one-half (mental), and for some individuals it's maybe more than one-half," said Hoeppner. "I've said that from day one in my first press conference, you have to change the attitude and you have to get guys believing."

Unlike for many on-lookers, for the players seeing is the only way to start believing. And Indiana will try to take another step in that direction on Saturday when Nicholls State is expected to be in Bloomington for a 4 p.m. contest.

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