For Indiana, too much talk of disrespect left them unable to earn respect at bowl game
Indiana spent so much time talking about where it wanted to be, it forgot about where it was.
And because they did so for about three quarters on Saturday, before waking up too late to complete a rally in the Outback Bowl, the Hoosiers fell flat against Ole Miss, losing to the sub-.500 Rebels. It puts a disappointing note at the end of what had been a fantastic season.
The 26-20 loss wasn’t a good look.
After being bypassed for the Big Ten Championship Game by a late league rule change, then left out of the New Year’s 6 bowl games by the College Football Committee, then disrespected again by the league in order of bowl placement, the seventh-ranked Hoosiers (6-2) complained. Rightfully so, perhaps, considering their only loss of the season had been to Ohio State and they had a solid argument to being the second-best team in the Big Ten.
But in doing so, the Hoosiers overlooked where they were and what they had accomplished. It’s not as if the Outback Bowl is the Condiment Bowl, no offense to delicious mayonnaise.
The way to prove the doubters wrong isn’t by talk or childish pokes at your conference — more on that later — but by playing and winning on the field. And the Hoosiers didn’t get there. Give credit to Jack Tuttle’s meddle; clearly hurt for most of the game after an early impact to his throwing shoulder, the backup QB battled, leading IU to back-to-back second-half scoring drives that rallied the Hoosiers to a tie. Whop Philyor had a big day in his final afternoon in an Indiana uniform. Charles Campbell has a big-time NFL leg.
But Tom Allen didn’t get enough out of the rest of the Hoosiers. It was telling on the last play of the first half that the Hoosiers weren’t ready to go — if it wasn’t obvious before then — when veteran linebacker Micah McFadden took a knee after a corralling a blocked punt with no time left on the clock. He should have tried to make a play, and he realized the mistake immediately after his knee touched down, but those errors are magnified in a bowl, particularly when your team is getting busted 13-3 at the half.
Look, Ole Miss was a bad team in 2020. It finished 4-5 in the SEC, and was dead last in yardage allowed — as in 127 out of 127 in the FBS. And the Rebels’ top two receivers were out, one having opted out early to prep for the NFL (the same as their tight end), its No. 1 running back was injured and others weren’t available.
Allen, a national coach-of-the-year finalist, deserves a ton of credit for the Hoosiers’ 6-1 regular season, but he’ll shoulder much of the blame for Saturday. The game plan didn’t make sense, especially as the game wore out. At one point, with a injury-limited quarterback — I mean, Tuttle was visibly wincing on every throw of more than 15 yards — IU had passed the ball 21 times against only 7 rushes. Stevie Scott III had only 4 carries at halftime. Why? The Rebels’ defense was a terrible 104 out of 127 in the FBS against the run.
And the whole Big Ten logo fiasco the day before the game was a mess, as well. The Hoosiers removed the conference patch on their helmets, a sign some saw as a clapback to the Big Ten’s late-season disrespect. Allen said it was only so that the Hoosiers could put their season-long motto “LEO” — “Love Each Other” — in its place. But come on, Allen had to know there would be skepticism and his explanation seemed hollow. Allen isn’t the first coach to try to mold a media narrative to his liking, and he won’t be the last.
But all this for what? Indiana needed to win the game, that was the only way it could prove that it had in fact been dumped on. Instead, the Hoosiers added yet another bowl loss to their streak, now up to six in a row since the last win in 1991.
And this is a sting that will last.