Kevin Wilson, Indiana dealt humbling dose of reality in Wake Forest loss
You can’t blame Kevin Wilson.
He had a legitimate gripe. His team wasn’t playing a full four quarters. Indiana fans — the ones that did make their way into Memorial Stadium — weren’t staying a full 60 minutes, either. For an Indiana team that was hoping to improve to 3-0 for the second straight year, that was tough to stomach.
But Wilson’s words landed flat on his team and IU fans.
The Hoosiers’ interception-filled day was a deflating reality for Wilson. All that excitement and momentum from last year’s bowl berth didn’t matter anymore. This is definitely a new team that’s still figuring out how to get out of its own way. And winning over the Indiana fan base is still an ongoing process.
Wilson had two weeks to prepare his team to take on Wake Forest at home. The Hoosiers were seven-point favorites against a Power Five team. Injuries aside, IU was still expected to come into Saturday ready to go.
They weren’t. IU fans were ready to go, but in the literal sense.
Shake off that bad attempt at humor and understand this. Every time a program like Indiana goes into halftime down two touchdowns, it’s “hear we go again.” After a long morning/afternoon of tailgating, Indiana students face a dilemma at halftime. Stay for a 20-minute band performance and roll the dice on the possibility of IU turning it around. Or watch the second half from a comfortable couch/bed that doesn’t involve standing with a fading buzz.
Is that fair to Wilson or his team? No, but it’s the reality. Wilson knows that.
So picture that scenario on Saturday. Three first-half interceptions, seven points and a 14-point deficit didn’t exactly scream “stay tuned.” That’s why IU’s student section was an embarrassment in the second half:
Start of the second half. pic.twitter.com/3rpOA1vskF
— Hoosier Huddle (@Hoosier_Huddle) September 24, 2016
We can get into an ethics debate about what students should and shouldn’t do. Wilson can’t control the mind of a 19-year-old kid when he makes that “should I stay or should I go?” decision. He can’t control a 21-year-old quarterback making bad decision after bad decision, either. Unfortunately, the latter impacts the former.
That’s not to say that Richard Lagow was entirely to blame for the loss. Like anybody in his position, he took the blame.
At one point, Wilson actually did his best to try and rile up the fans who did stay in the second half. Frankly, it’s a minor miracle that the Hoosiers only lost by five points despite losing the turnover battle 5-0.
Would a more hostile road atmosphere have prevented any one of IU’s five turnovers? We don’t know.
Wilson doesn’t deal with hypotheticals. How many more fans would’ve stayed if IU was leading at the half? Would Lagow have felt more comfortable with his All-American offensive lineman active on Saturday? What would Memorial Stadium look like if IU started 6-0?
There are no definitive answers to those questions. Right now, Wilson is searching for answers after a humbling loss. He’ll have to get four conference wins if he wants to get IU to its second consecutive bowl for the first time in 25 years. IU hasn’t won four conference games since 2001.
As it always is, the first half will be huge for the Hoosiers. Let me rephrase that. The first half of the SEASON will be huge for the Hoosiers. As everyone in Bloomington knows, basketball starts up in a month.
If Wilson’s crew can’t get off to a better start in B1G play, he’ll have even fewer fans to call out.