Indiana is hungry.
It’s been a month since the Hoosiers last won a game. It’s been six years since they last qualified for a bowl. And after last weekend’s bungled finish against Minnesota, players and coaches are eager to make amends. The next quest begins Saturday.
“In our world, there is a lot of football to play, a lot of things we can accomplish,” Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson said. “Two weeks in a row we played a pretty good team, got them into the fourth quarter, haven’t been able to get over the hump. We’re getting close. We’re in those games and our deal is we’ve got to keep fighting and pushing to knock that thing down.”
The Hoosiers’ next chance comes against Illinois (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten), which looks like it’s stolen Wilson’s playbook.
Both teams throw first. Both offenses score points by the dozens. Both defenses give up more than 32 points per game and both coaches are trying to get their programs bowl-eligible.
The winner on Saturday will end a losing streak — Indiana has lost three straight, Illinois has lost 18 consecutive conference games — and move within two wins of that magical sixth win.
The question, of course, is which team is better positioned: Indiana (3-5, 1-3), seeking a breakthrough November victory, or the Fighting Illini, who are trying to prove they can just win a Big Ten game.
“When we get down there, we’ve got to all be able to step up and have each other’s back and make plays for each other,” Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase said, referring to the Illini’s red-zone proficiency. “It might not always be pretty down there, but one way or the other we’ve all got to be able to step up and make plays.”
Meanwhile, Indiana is simply trying to recapture the excitement swirling around the program when the season started — just in time to prove the so-called experts wrong about their postseason hopes.
“We’re at that part of the race where you can keep pushing or stop, and we’ve come too far to stop pushing,” Wilson said. “We’re down to two at home, and we need another good crowd to get some energy in the stands for the guys this week.”
Here are five more things to watch Saturday.
Indiana, Illinois in similar positions as Big Ten matchup looms
Indiana is hungry.
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