In the wake of Indiana's 41-24 loss at Wisconsin, Terry Hoeppner was left scratching his head - maybe even shaking it - but the first-year Hoosier coach certainly wasn't hanging it Tuesday.
That's because everything that went wrong in Madison – the four turnovers and 12 penalties, most notably – are errors, yes, but reparable ones.
"These are correctable things," said Hoeppner. "They aren't physical breakdowns, where (you think), ‘Wow, our guy just wasn't good enough on that particular play,'" said Hoeppner.
In fact, Indiana more than held its own statistically against the 17th-ranked Badgers. Wisconsin was only marginally better in total yardage (377-369) and Indiana actually put up better numbers running the ball both in terms of quantity (125 yards vs. 103) and quality (IU averaged 3.8 yards/carry compared to Wisconsin's 2.7).
Hoeppner said the defense went into the game with the goal of holding the Badgers to less than 100 yards rushing – a lofty goal considering the Badgers were averaging more than 230 per contest – and nearly achieved that at Camp Randall Stadium.
That focus on stopping the run left Hoosier cornerbacks Leslie Majors, Tracy Porter and Chris Phillips in man coverage, and Badger quarterback John Stocco took advantage with a season-high 274 yards and three touchdowns.
The result was Indiana's first loss of the season, dropping the Hoosiers to 3-1 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten as it prepares for Saturday's Homecoming contest against Illinois at 11 a.m.
But Hoeppner and his players came away from Saturday's contest pleased that they could look at the setback and point to some things to correct, instead of having had so many things go wrong that you don't even know where to begin.
"If we went out there and they just man-handled us…that is more discouraging than seeing us make stupid mistakes that we can look at and say, ‘we can't do that any more,'" said linebacker John Pannozzo.
In an effort to get his point across, Hoeppner and the staff put together a tape of the team's 12 penalties and showed it to the squad during its Sunday team meeting. The intent was to point out the mistakes and show the impact they had on the game, but Hoeppner knows it could wind up serving another function.
"You don't want to be on that tape - you don't want to be one of those guys. So, if it serves that purpose, so be it," said Hoeppner.
"It's an educational process – the penalties are usually a result of carelessness or over-aggressiveness. We want guys to be aggressive – we don't want to take their stingers off. We want them to fly around and play football, but you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them – you have to be smarter than we are at times."
Watching that tape was a painful reminder about what unfolded Saturday, but also an encouraging sign, according to Pannozzo.
"It is painful and frustrating in a way, but it's also kind of relieving in a way because they didn't do anything to make that happen," said Pannozzo. "Every play on that tape was fixable."
Doing Reparable Harm
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