On second thought, maybe Indiana did make Saturday’s game a little too big.
All week, the Hoosiers tried to downplay the game against Wisconsin and its Big Ten title game implications, but when they watched themselves on film, they saw that, yes, they were tight and they were antsy because they allowed themselves to consider the gravity of the game.
“We don’t have anything to lose in any game we play really,” sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman said. “We just go in there and try to focus on playing as hard as we can. I think this week, maybe we started listening a little bit to the outside people talking about it being a big game and kind of played a little bit on edge. We should’ve just acted like it was any game. We got nothing to lose. We’ve never had much around here, never won much. We just gotta go in and play as hard as we can with the attitude we have nothing to lose.”
The effect that had, Coffman said, was that the Hoosiers continually beat themselves. As well as Wisconsin played on both sides of the ball, the Hoosiers saw more occasions on film where they were their own worst enemy.
“Every single series, we got stopped and we asked ourselves, ‘Did they stop us, or did we stop ourselves?’” Coffman said. “Most of the time, we stopped ourselves. Credit to them, they are a great defense, but we were the ones stopping ourselves out there.”
Said offensive coordinator Seth Littrell: “We didn’t respond well at times and didn’t make some key plays early that kind of got us back on our heels a little bit. For the most part, it wasn’t anything major. It’s just one guy here, one guy here, just maybe a split. It’s not far off. The hard thing is that when you make those mistakes against a good football team, it sets you back and we weren’t converting early on on some third down situations that weren’t as much due to them as we stopped ourselves in those situations. Offensively, we’ve gotta do a better job of converting those situations and being better at staying out on the football field. We didn’t do a very good job of that on Saturday. That’s ultimately a lot of the reason why we played like we did.”
Littrell said he’s particularly disappointed with the way the running game has operated lately.
“Run game hasn’t been good in the past few weeks,” Littrell said. “… We gotta do a better job in what we do. In times throughout the game, we get into a little bit of a rhythm, and when we did, we were popping some runs for 6, 8 yards. Those tough runs are the type of runs you have to have against teams like that. It’s not going to go for 10, 12 and 15-yards a pop….You’ve gotta be willing to stick the ball in there and get your 2, 3, 4 yards a pop and then get some momentum and keep hitting a little bit. Then it kind of opens up a little bit of everything else. When we get one-dimensional against these defenses, it’s playing uphill a little bit. We gotta do a better job of mixing it in.”