HOOSIER SCOOP SAGE TAKE OF THE DAY, Nov. 1, 2012
A football program’s progress isn’t always readily quantifiable beyond what scoreboards show on Saturdays.
And the ultimate and most overt measurement is on game day.
But Indiana has certainly played more competitively in 2012 than it did last fall, during coach Kevin Wilson’s first season in Bloomington. The Hoosiers have been in all eight games to-date and have had fourth-quarter leads in six of them.
IU is just 3-5 heading into a big battle Saturday, with Iowa visiting. But there is a very real sense, a definite vibe around the program, that significant strides are being made, more than the actual numbers of wins seems to signify.
And sure enough, digging just a little deeper into statistics reflects that.
Just a cursory glance at Indiana’s national rankings in key statistical categories is revealing, especially when contrasting 2012 figures with those of 2011.
Here are some of IU’s current team offensive national rankings, with last season’s corresponding rankings listed in parentheses:
Passing offense 28 (80); scoring offense 35 (101); total offense 37 (83). Among Big Ten brethren, Indiana leads in passing, ranks second in total offense and is third in scoring offense.
And that’s with Indiana playing all but the first five quarters of the season with its backup quarterbacks this fall.
Even IU’s oft-maligned defense, while still struggling at times, is showing marked improvement in some key national categories over last year:
Tackles for loss 11 (87); sacks 31 (91); pass efficiency defense 70 (116); scoring defense 79 (114).
Those numbers still aren’t where Wilson and his staff might want them. And IU still ranks just 93rd in total defense (109 last year).
But fans have already seen a defensive team playing harder, playing faster, tackling better, blowing fewer assignments, in better position.
Indiana still has some significant team goals available for achievement with four games left in the regular-season slate. There is still plenty to play for, and chances are the Hoosiers will continue to be in every game they play. They might not win another one. They might win them all. The more likely development, of course, is that they’ll split the difference in some fashion.
This season was and is about improvement, about demonstrating that Wilson’s approach packed promise that would engender buy-in from players, potential recruits and the fan base. Regardless of what the final victory total becomes.
Improvement is happening. It’s palpable. The overall numbers say it, whichever numbers end up on scoreboards for the duration.