Record: 6-7 (4-5 in B1G)
High moment of the season: Michigan State win
At the time, it was huge. Like, really huge.
Indiana’s overtime victory against Michigan State marked the program’s first home win against a ranked B1G team since 2006. The Spartans were ranked No. 17 and were two weeks removed from looking like a College Football Playoff contender.
The Hoosiers, on the other hand, were a week removed from an embarrassing home loss to Wake Forest. Little did the world realize that the Demon Deacons would win seven games, IU would win six and Michigan State would win three.
But hey, IU understandably celebrated Griffin Oakes’ game-winning field goal like it was going to the Rose Bowl:
Low moment of the season: Kevin Wilson’s sudden departure
IU had more momentum than it had in decades. The Hoosiers were preparing for their second straight bowl game for the first time since 1991. They were coming off a season with four B1G wins, which was their highest total since 2001. Wilson appeared to be the coach of the future and it looked like IU had finally turned the corner.
Then five days after the regular season ended, Wilson “resigned.”
Reports of player mistreatment turned all of that momentum upside down. A national scandal put a damper on what was supposed to be a rewarding postseason for the Hoosiers. Briefly, it appeared that Indiana was heading down the path that Illinois did with Tim Beckman.
Dec. 1 was a rough afternoon for the Hoosiers, but fortunately, IU athletic director Fred Glass made the best of a bad situation.
Most meaningful play: Jonathan Crawford’s game-sealing INT vs. Purdue
Picture this scenario. Indiana has five wins. All it has to do is beat lowly Purdue at home and it clinches a bowl berth and its longest Old Oaken Bucket winning streak since 1947.
Then David Blough marches Purdue down the field and throws a game-winning touchdown to spoil all of that.
That almost happened. But on fourth down with Purdue in a do-or-die situation, the revived Hoosier defense got pressure on Blough and forced him to overthrow D’Angelo Yancey for an interception:
IU always seemed to come up short in the big moments with something at stake. Purdue wasn’t playing for anything more than to spoil IU’s season. But just as it did all year, Tom Allen’s defense saved the day.
Team MVP: Tom Allen, defensive coordinator/coach
Coaches aren’t supposed to get individual awards, but Allen was by far the most important piece of IU’s season. He was even more important than Wilson.
Before Allen got to Bloomington, the IU defense was arguably the worst in FBS over the last five years. The offseason mantra was always about finally getting over the hump on defense.
Interviews like this were cliché:
Allen finally changed IU’s defensive culture.
The Hoosiers actually finished 45th in the country in total defense and allowed 40-plus points just once. In 2015, IU let up 47 points at home to Southern Illinois. In 2016, IU allowed an average of 29 points against Michigan and Ohio State. That’s all Allen.
And, as previously mentioned, Allen came in and saved the day at IU’s darkest hour. With any resemblance of an offense, he would’ve led IU to an upset win against Utah in the Foster Farms Bowl. Without Allen in 2016, IU would’ve been a three-win team.
Allen’s defense with an offensive mind like Wilson should’ve yielded more than six wins. But Richard Lagow struggled in his first season in the B1G, and IU lacked an offensive identity.
The expectations for IU was six wins. The Hoosiers got a little extra credit because they never got blown out playing in the B1G East. They hung with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State and never looked truly overmatched.
That, as much as anything else, was the building block for this program going forward.