Well, the Hoosiers (1-6, 0-3 Big Ten) have had almost two weeks to sulk after dropping a heartbreaking 37-31 overtime decision to Northwestern. The Oct. 11 loss, at home no less, may have been Indiana's best shot at a Big Ten win or a win over Division I-A team, period.
IU rallied from deficits of 17-0 and 24-17 at halftime to tie the game late. But IU's Bryan Robertson came up short on a potential game winning 54-yard field goal at the end of regulation, while quarterback Matt LoVecchio threw an interception to end IU's chance with the ball in overtime. Northwestern's Jason Wright capped the game with a 4-yard touchdown run to continue IU's misery.
Now comes eighth-ranked Ohio State (6-1, 2-1), which visits Indiana Saturday (noon, ESPN). How far apart are these two teams? OSU is ranked third in the collegebcs.com power rankings, while Indiana is 103rd out of 117 teams.
The tight loss to Northwestern is probably the bright spot of the season so far. The Hoosiers' lone win was a 33-3 win over Indiana State, a Division I-AA team with a 3-5 record this season. The team‘s other five losses have been by an average of 21.6 points, including a 31-3 shiner at Michigan State Oct. 4.
The record may not show it, but second-year IU coach Gerry DiNardo believes the Hoosiers are slowly making some progress.
"I believe without a shadow of a doubt we are a better football team than we were a year ago," said DiNardo, the former Vanderbilt and LSU head coach whose first IU team was 3-9. "Our run defense is better. Our running offense is better. We are going to continue to put this thing together, this team together and this program together."
DiNardo replaced Cam Cameron last year and, essentially, cleaned house. IU is down to 61 scholarship players, although just five of them are seniors. By taking a class of 25 or more players this winter, the Hoosiers will be back closer to the NCAA limit of 85 scholarship players next year. But IU is taking its lumps in the meantime as 39 of the 61 scholarship players are in their first or second year of eligibility.
"I do feel I know exactly what we need to build a program here at Indiana," DiNardo said. "There's not a doubt in my mind I know the formula. It doesn't matter what Indiana has done in the past. I'm proud of the success Indiana has had in the past, and I know the future and how to build a future here."
LoVecchio Takes Over
LoVecchio, a junior, transferred in from Notre Dame before last season. He is one of just four quarterbacks nationally who have started a Bowl Championship Series bowl game, having started the Fiesta Bowl against Oregon State after the 2000 season. He started nine games in two years at ND before transferring to Indiana.
So far this season, he is 101 of 194 passing (52.1 percent) for 1,301 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions. Against NU, he was 13 of 20 for 204 yards with 11 straight completions at one point in the game.
"I feel like he is a guy starting in a new offense and has made much more progress in many more areas than he hasn't," DiNardo said. "He has improved in everything that he is doing more than he has struggled with some things. That is good and that is what we expected from a guy his age coming into the program."
The Hoosiers have rotated three tailbacks. True freshman BenJarvus Green-Ellis (6-1, 208) leads IU with 407 yards on 103 carries with four touchdowns. He had a season-high 136 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries against Northwestern. Green-Ellis also caught a TD pass earlier in the year.
Senior Brian Lewis (5-7, 202) has added 378 yards and three touchdowns on 81 carries. Lewis had 128 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries against NU. Those two are also joined by 5-11, 206-pound sophomore Chris Taylor, who has 334 yards and two touchdowns on 77 carries this season.
Fifth-year senior Glenn Johnson (5-11, 200) and junior Courtney Roby (6-0, 186) are IU's top receivers. Johnson has 24 catches for 296 yards and a touchdown, while Roby has made 21 catches for 275 yards.
Tight end Aaron Halterman, a 6-4, 263-pound junior, has 16 catches after making 27 as the starter a year ago.
The Hoosiers start a junior (right guard Chris Jahnke), two sophomores (left tackle Isaac Sowells and left guard Adam Hines) and two freshmen (center Chris Mangiero and right tackle Justin Frye) on the offensive line. Mangiero, a true freshman, is the son of IU director of football operations Dino Mangiero. Jahnke and Hines are in their second seasons as starters.
As one would expect for a 1-6 team, IU ranks 83rd nationally in total offense (345.9 yards per game) and 103rd in scoring offense (17.7 points per game).
Defense Hangs Tough
The IU defense has been tested by some of the game's top offenses, particularly by Washington, Michigan and Michigan State. The six Division I-A teams that have beaten them have averaged 34.2 points against them.
IU, which welcomed six starters back from last year, ranks 71st nationally against the run (161.6 ypg), 87th nationally overall (407.4 ypg) and 81st in scoring defense (29.7 ppg).
The defense has also dealt with injuries to defensive end Victor Adeyanju and others.
"The good news is a lot of guys are playing and getting experience," DiNardo said. "We have to find a way to solve the problem within that rotation of all those guys who are playing."
Junior defensive tackle Jodie Clemons (6-2, 277) leads the Hoosiers with five sacks. Adeyanju, a rangy 6-4, 258-pound sophomore originally from Nigeria, has added three tackles-for-loss.
The linebackers have been solid despite the loss of leading tackler John Kerr, who transferred to Ohio State this past summer after starting at IU as a freshman last year. Outside LB Josh Moore, a 6-1, 215-pound junior, and middle man Kyle Killion, a 6-0, 230-pound sophomore, share the team lead with 60 tackles.
Junior Herana-Daze (pronounced Her-NAN-dez) Jones has moved from linebacker to strong safety. He is third on the team with 53 tackles. Free safety Joe Gonzalez, a senior, returns after missing most of last year due to injury. Senior Duane Stone and sophomore Leonard Bryant have started most of the year at corner, although freshman Cedric Henry started against Northwestern.
In the kicking game, Robertson is 8 of 12 on field goals with a long of 39 yards. Punter Tyson Beattie is averaging 39.4 yards per punt.
* How bad are things going at Indiana? The Hoosiers have lost nine straight Big Ten games dating to a 32-29 win over Wisconsin on Oct. 12, 2002.
* OSU holds a commanding 61-12-5 lead in the all-time series with Indiana, including 21-2-1 in Bloomington. Ohio State has won 10 straight games against IU, dating to a 27-27 tie in Bloomington in 1990.
The Hoosiers last defeated OSU 41-7 in 1988 in Bloomington. That followed a 31-10 win over the Buckeyes in Columbus in 1987. That 1987 IU win snapped a string of 23 straight OSU wins over the Hoosiers and a 31-game IU winless string (the teams tied in 1959).
* Last year, OSU greeted DiNardo to the Big Ten with a 45-17 win in his conference opener. OSU piled up 461 yards total offense with quarterback Craig Krenzel hitting on 11 of 16 passes for 152 yards and a touchdown. Tailback Maurice Clarett had 104 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Michael Jenkins made seven catches for 93 yards and two scores.
For Indiana, Lewis had 43 yards rushing on 10 carries, while Roby caught four passes for 82 yards and a touchdown. Robertson hit a 49-yard field goal as well for IU.
* Indiana has seven players from Ohio. Gonzalez, a Cleveland St. Ignatius product, is the older brother of OSU defensive back Tony Gonzalez, a freshman who is redshirting. Safety Will Lumpkin (Trotwood-Madison) and defensive lineman John Lumpkin (Warren Harding) are cousins of former OSU tight end John Lumpkin. Hines comes from Vandalia Butler, while defensive lineman Joe Kremer (Urbana), linebacker Kevin Smith (Canton McKinley) and offensive lineman Jacob Wagner (Springfield Kenton Ridge) are also from Ohio.
* DiNardo, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., played on the offensive line at Notre Dame from 1972-74. He then served as a college assistant coach at Maine, Eastern Michigan and Colorado before taking the head job at Vandy in 1991. His teams there were 19-25 in four seasons before he moved on to LSU. LSU had endured six straight losing seasons before his arrival. He was 32-24-1 in five years there, leading the Tigers to three straight bowl games. He was fired after back-to-back losing seasons (4-7 and 2-8) late in the 1999 campaign.
He is believed to be the nation's only head coach/recruiting coordinator, taking recruiting duties at the long-suffering IU program -- which has not been to a bowl game since 1993 -- so seriously that he is coordinating them himself.
* Click the link below for all of the game data, depth charts, a game breakdown and one man's opinion on this week's game. http://ohiostate.theinsiders.com/2/191462.html