Nebraska forwards Walter Pitchford and Shavon Shields scored 17 points each to lead Nebraska to a 70-60 win over Indiana in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall on Senior Night, continuing the Cornhuskers’ NCAA Tournament push and effectively ending the Hoosiers.
Nebraksa improved to 18-11 overall, 10-7 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers fell to 17-13, 7-10, clinching a losing conference season.
Forward Terran Petteway added 13 points for Nebraska. IU freshman swingman Troy Williams led Indiana with 18 points. Senior forward Will Sheehey had 13 and sophomore point guard Yogi Ferrell scored 10.
One of Kevin Wilson’s most extensively worn personal cliches is that the first word in Big Ten is “big.” The Indiana football coach has been pointing that out since his first press conference in his current position to make it clear that he considered it necessary for IU to have an exceptional strength and conditioning program to compete in the conference.
In his first three seasons at the helm, Wilson saw his squad become a lot more physically fit than what he inherited and he saw his players increase in size after initially slimming down and cutting body fat, but he still didn’t think they were quite big enough. In his fourth season, he’s had the strength and conditioning program altered somewhat to focus more on building bulk, especially up front.
“We haven’t done as much heavy running so we could lift more,” Wilson said after a conditioning session on Tuesday in preparation for the beginning of spring practice on Saturday. “We just did some testing yesterday on the bench and we’ve done pretty well with 225 (pound) reps on the bench, squat and clean maxes. I’ve got four guys now that are under their target weight for Friday on the whole team, and it’s by a pound. When we played our last game, we probably had 25 guys under the weight we wanted them at, keeping their strength level on their size.”
The Hoosiers weren’t necessarily tiny last year and they were much bigger than they were in Wilson’s first two seasons. Still, all five of their starting offensive linemen by season’s end were just under 300 pounds. They had three 300-pound defensive tackles listed on the depth chart, but only one of their depth-chart defensive ends were over 270 pounds.
“We ran the ball decent last year,” Wilson said. “We were fourth in the league. But competitive third downs, short-yardage plays, (we could use) bigger tight ends for goalline stuff. One of the the reasons we don’t go to two and three tights is our talent hasn’t been as strong and as good as you want there. We lose a couple of big receivers. You gotta develop the next crew of those guys. Then the same thing defensively. You’ve got 10 guys back, playing six or seven freshmen, five in the front end and this is their first really offseason, so there’s a lot of gains.”
IU’s head strength and conditioning coach Mark Hill said the entire offseason program has been geared toward weight gain, starting with the nutrition and going on from there.
“Coach Wilson thought we needed to be a little bit bigger,” Hill said. “We attacked that with nutrition and some other areas and just gaining more muscle mass.”
Said offensive tackle Jason Spriggs: “It’s just gaining muscle mass. The first word in the Big Ten is big. We have to play big, and I think that’s something we kind of lacked last year. It’s about getting stronger and getting bigger so we can play with the big boys in the Big Ten. That’s where we are and that’s what we need to do.”
QB battle remains the same
Not that it’s any surprise or anything new, but Wilson was asked about his quarterback situation again and didn’t give any indication that he was in a hurry to settle on one guy. It’s only a two-man race this year with former starter Cameron Coffman having elected to transfer but last year’s co-starters Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson are both back for their junior seasons. Sudfeld threw for 2,523 yards and 21 touchdowns last season while Roberson threw for 1,128 yards and 15 touchdowns while rushing for 423 yards and five scores. They combined to help Indiana lead the Big Ten in passing yards with 306.7 per game.
“It kind of is what it is now,” Wilson said. “Their body of work, they’re different, but their performances levels are very similar. In a perfect world, you’ll have one guy. We didn’t last year, it wasn’t by design. They’re a part of the answer, part of the problem, but they also led the conference in touchdowns. … We got a lot of problems, quarterback ain’t one of them.”
Wilson pumping brakes on 3-4
Indiana’s new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr hasn’t been shy about saying that even though he wants his defense to use multiple fronts, he expects to heavily incorporate the 3-4 defense he used when he was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest. Wilson isn’t necessarily against it, but he does want him to take more time evaluating personnel before he starts into that. That’s a big part of the reason why the Hoosiers will have four practices before leaving for spring break, because it will allow Knorr to see what he has in action, then step away from it and evaluate.
“I don’t know if he knows that yet,” Wilson said when asks what Knorr thinks of his personnel. “… To say right now, we’re going to tell a guy to play a certain spot, I don’t know if he’s got enough football information to make those decisions yet. I think those first four days are going to probably be more for him and (defensive line coach Larry McDaniel) and (safeties coach Noah Joseph) and coach (William) Inge and (Brandon) Shelby all to just eval where we’re at.”
Wilson said he doesn’t want the defensive coaches to get too caught up in scheme early in the spring practice schedule and instead wants them to work on basic fundamentals, terminology, and general style of play.
“There’s a way you play that has nothing to do with schematics, what the play call is,” Wilson said. “I think the worst thing that we can do is emphasize scheme and don’t get good at getting off blocks and tackling. Keeping leverage on the ball, having good eye discipline and gap structure discipline and getting lined up where we need to.”
1. MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (21-7, 13-3)
The Wolverines haven’t lost consecutive games all season. Other than a minor skid of three losses in five games, Michigan has avoided the extended slump that has plagued the rest of the conference, which is why the Wolverines have already clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title.
2. WISCONSIN BADGERS (24-5, 11-5)
Seven consecutive wins and counting for the Badgers, who are finding a little more balance now. Earlier in the season, it was all about the offense, but the defense was struggling. There are still defensive deficiencies, and occasional offensive cold spells, but both are more consistent.
3. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (22-7, 11-5)
The Spartans have lost three of four with tough games against Iowa and Ohio State to round out the season. It’s a team that is as close to full strength as its been since the season started, but it may yet take some time for all those healthy pieces to get on the same page.
4. IOWA HAWKEYES (20-9, 9-7)
We know the Hawkeyes are a potent bunch on offense, but they’ve got to find some level of defensive resistance after giving up 95 and 93 points, respectively, in losses to Minnesota and Indiana last week. Iowa even allowed 76 points to offensively challenged Purdue.
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The Big Ten released its All-Conference teams Monday, with Indiana freshman Larryn Brooks voted to the Second Team by both the league’s coaches and media.
Brooks, who leads Big Ten freshmen with a program-record 461 points, was also named to the league’s All-Freshman Team by the coaches.
“I am excited for Larryn that she has been recognized by the coaches and media for an outstanding freshman year,” IU coach Curt Miller said in a statement. “She is a dynamic player that has the ability to score in multiple ways. She has broken numerous freshman records at IU but would be the first to credit her teammates for her success. She has energized our fan base and will continue to be an important piece of our building process.”
The Kentucky native has set additional freshman records for made free throws in a season (113), points in a game (37 vs. Virginia Tech), 3-pointers in a game (seven) and assists in a game (10, twice).
Brooks is only the fifth freshman in IU history to be named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and the first since Whitney Thomas in 2006.
The conference also recognized 12 Sportsmanship Award honorees, with senior center Simone Deloach representing IU.
Miller, who has guided the Hoosiers to their highest win total (18) since the 2008-09 season, was snubbed by both the coaches and media. Big Ten coaches selected Nebraska’s Connie Yori as Coach of the Year, while the media vote went to Penn State’s Coquese Washington.
Nebraska’s Jordan Hooper was voted Big Ten Player of the Year by the coaches and Penn State’s Maggie Lucas took the award from the media.
Follow along after the jump for the full list of honorees.
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