Lynch: "It's Been One of Those Years"

Bloomington - Indiana's once promising football season is now just 11 days away from its conclusion. As the Hoosiers gear up for their toughest test of the season on Saturday at Penn State, IU Coach Bill Lynch talks about what went wrong this season...

Bloomington – An IU football season once filled with so much promise has deteriorated into one of the more disappointing campaigns in recent memory.

As Indiana (3-7/1-5) prepares for Saturday's match-up against Penn State (9-1/5-1), its players know there won't be a second straight bowl trip to make at the season's conclusion. Instead, the Hoosiers' season will end just like it has in 13 of the past 15 seasons – on the Saturday before Thanksgiving with a match-up against rival Purdue.

Shortly after that Nov. 22 match-up concludes and the players empty out their lockers, Indiana's staff will gather and try to put its collective finger on what exactly went wrong.

There won't be a shortage of items for Coach Bill Lynch's staff to analyze.

"It's been one of those years," Lynch said Tuesday.

This year has included an inordinate number of bad breaks along the way. Indiana has lost three of its four opening-day starters in the secondary to torn ACLs, with two of those injuries coming on non-contact plays. Safety Austin Thomas suffered not only a torn ACL on a non-contact play, but he also broke his leg in practice earlier this season and had to miss a couple more games.

The injury bug has also hit a handful of other positions particularly hard, most notably quarterback and the offensive line. In Saturday's 55-20 loss to Wisconsin, the Hoosiers went through four quarterbacks and three centers alone - starting center Pete Saxon was lost in pre-game warm-ups due to a concussion, and gave way to Mike Reiter. When Reiter had to depart later with an abdominal injury, Jarrod Smith finished things up.

At quarterback, Ben Chappell left with a head injury, Kellen Lewis and Mitchell Evans proved unable to play through previous injuries and when the clock hit zero, it was redshirt freshman Teddy Schell who was seeing the first action of his college career.

The hits have kept coming this year, and ultimately Lynch's team has been unable to overcome those obstacles.

"We've had things happen, and it's our job to regroup when things happen," Lynch said. "You have a tough play in a game, you regroup. You have a guy go down, you regroup. I think we've made a great effort to do it, but we haven't done it well enough to win the football game."

The inability to regroup well enough to win enough bowl games to become bowl eligible has resulted in not only the prospects of an eight or nine-loss season, but also attendance figures that have dropped off noticeably, and plenty of discontent among Hoosier fans.

Lynch says he understands that coaches are ultimately judged by wins and losses, but he sees the 2008 season as part of the natural ebb and flow of a rebuilding program as opposed to the start of a downward slide.

"When you're a coach, when you're in the middle of it just about 24 hours a day and seven days a week, you know all the inner things that are going on, and you know what it takes to develop a program at this level," Lynch said.

"There are going to slip ups along the way. But we have a great nucleus of football players, young guys that are very committed."

A lot of those young guys are members of the freshman class, most of whom have been redshirted this season. While some have thought more freshmen could have helped the team this season, Lynch said he believes redshirting most of the first-year players is best for the long-term success of the program.

"There were times along the way where we were tempted to pull some of the guys off the shelf," Lynch said. "But looking long term at Indiana football, the best thing is to redshirt them and develop them. They're going to be better and we're going to be better in the long run."


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