Bloomington – Rodger Saffold has already suffered one gut-wrenching loss, so he's not about to let it contribute to another.
So, after spending the five-hour bus ride back from Evanston reliving a series of important plays in Indiana's 29-28 loss to Northwestern, Indiana's senior left tackle did the only thing anyone can do in that situation.
He moved on.
"When you have a game like that, the best thing you can do is let it go as early as you possibly can," Saffold said Tuesday.
So Saffold has done that. He reviewed the game's film on Sunday, made a few mental notes of what he can do better, and turned the page to Iowa. He's encouraged his teammates to do the same, focusing in particular on some of the younger players such as Damarlo Belcher and Tandon Doss who haven't experienced this type of loss before – the kind that can linger, manifest itself on the practice field and ultimately derail a season altogether.
Saffold said he saw that happen a season ago when a 2-0 start was followed by six straight losses and ultimately a terribly disappointing 3-9 season.
"If you don't (move on) and you dwell on it…you could have people wallowing and moping around," Saffold said. "That doesn't help you in the next game. All that does is set you up for the next loss."
At 4-4 overall and 1-3 in the Big Ten, Indiana can't afford too many more losses if it wants to achieve this season's goal of earning a postseason bowl berth. The path to bowl eligibility, though, went from a relative molehill to a mountain with Saturday's loss. Not only does Indiana have to pick itself up after squandering a 25-point first half lead, but it will also have to figure out a way to win at least one of its next three games to position itself for an all-or-nothing regular season finale against Purdue.
Those next three games come against a trio of teams that are a combined 20-3, starting with No. 7 and unbeaten Iowa (8-0/4-0) Saturday at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City.
Indiana Coach Bill Lynch knows that's a daunting task, but he's taking a glass half full approach to the showdown.
"We have a tremendous challenge," Lynch said, "and a bigger opportunity on Saturday getting to go against Iowa."
There's no mistaking the challenge. Indiana hasn't beaten a team ranked No. 7 or higher in 42 years, home or away. Iowa, meanwhile, already has a slew of impressive wins on its resume, including Big Ten road victories at Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State to go along with home field wins over Arizona and Michigan.
Iowa has also proven to be at its best when the game matters most. The Hawkeyes have trailed in seven of their eight games this season, only to dominate all of their foes in the second halves of games to emerge victorious a school-record eight straight times to open the season.
Lynch knows that any chance of an upset require his team to live in the present and not in either the past or future.
"Everything we're doing is about Iowa," Lynch said. "There are enough people telling our guys about all (of the negatives)."
At least one player has embraced that approach. Saffold has experienced a great deal during his four years in Bloomington, and he's not about to let the latest valley sour him on the final month of the regular season.
"Through the years, we've been through some serious ups and downs, and I think it's made us stronger," Saffold said. "So you're not going see a team that's going to be moping around and go ahead and take off for the rest of the season. What you're going to see is a team that's going to rise up."
Saffold all but guarantees that's what you'll see from him not only against Iowa, but in each of the four games remaining on the schedule.
"I will not be at my last game against Purdue thinking about what could have been," Saffold said. "I won't let that happen."
Saffold, Hoosiers Trying to Move On
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