Bloomington – After a couple of easy wins over Western Kentucky and Murray State, it's easy to see why there's a little bit more being made about IU's Sept. 20 match-up against Ball State.
After all, the Hoosiers are looking to improve to 3-0 for just the third time in the last 14 years and for just the 14th time in program's 121 years overall. Ball State, meanwhile, has been a much ballyhooed team in the season's first couple of weeks, with some suggesting the Nate Davis-led Cardinals could run the table and have a shot at a BCS bowl berth.
It's also an intra-state showdown between a couple of teams that ended long bowl droughts a year ago. IU's trip to the Insight Bowl was its first postseason invitation since 1993, while Ball State's International Bowl appearance was its first bowl game since 1996 – when current IU head coach Bill Lynch was the Cardinals' head coach.
Those are the types of storylines that don't often accompany a football game at IU's Memorial Stadium in September, and it's why there's an unusual amount of extra attention directed at Saturday's game.
But don't count IU linebacker Will Patterson among those who is placing any extra significance on next weekend's game. Sure, he's getting a chance to play against a team that features a couple of his former Lawrence North H.S. teammates in starting offensive lineman Michael Switzer and reserve wide receiver Wade Overton, but he's only willing to use a four-letter word to describe this showdown.
That's not a sign of disrespect, but rather a message from Patterson that he's not placing any added significance on this contest, but rather giving it due significance as the "next" game on IU's schedule.
"To me, Ball State is just our next game," Patterson said. "It puts us one step closer to where we want to go."
While many have said getting a second straight postseason invitation and winning a bowl game for the first time since 1991 are worthwhile goals for this year's team, Patterson has set the bar much higher when it comes to where he wants to see the IU program go this fall.
"We want to win the Big Ten," Patterson said. "That's our goal, that's what we come out here for everyday – to put ourselves that much closer to winning the Big Ten."
That's a monumental step for an IU program that hasn't won the Big Ten in 41 years, but Patterson said there's a new attitude among the players and a new level of commitment to achieving goals that were once thought to be well out of reach. Patterson said he witnessed that change of attitude in the off-season when the large majority of players stayed in Bloomington to continue their preparations for the upcoming season.
"In past years, it was that ‘same old Indiana' feeling," Patterson said. "We'd been up and down for the last 13 or 14 years. But this summer, guys were coming out here, putting in the extra work, hitting the hills, challenging each other to compete.
"That's a lot different from the past. We didn't have guys doing that before."
Now that Indiana's players do have that mindset, Patterson believes big things are possible for a program that hasn't had a great deal to brag about over the years. He's hoping to be a big part of changing that, starting with next Saturday's game against Ball State.
The next team on IU's schedule.
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Patterson Ready For Next Step
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