BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) – Indiana football won its first four games this season for the first time since 1990. Since then, the Hoosiers have dropped three in a row to open Big Ten play – and the schedule gets tougher.
The next three games are against ranked teams beginning with a visit to No. 7 Michigan State on Saturday.
So how do the Hoosiers (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) avoid not letting a three-game losing streak turn into a six-game skid?
“We’re sitting here 4-3 and I kind of like it,” coach Kevin Wilson said Monday. “Because we’re 4-3 and we’re mad and we’re losing games on the last play. And now we’re getting to the Big Ten East and this is where you want to be. You’re getting to where you’re playing the football you want to play and now you’ve got to play winning football and it’s our job to create that culture to win.”
Indiana blew a 25-point lead in the second half Saturday in a 55-52 loss to Rutgers. Wilson said he still sees a lot of positives.
“The way those kids came out and battled and fought was very encouraging,” Wilson said. “That’s why after that game I wasn’t blowing those guys up. We’ve got to keep getting better and it starts with me. I need to call a better game. I’ve got to manage games better, the staff has to do better, the kids have to do better. But that’s a great group of people that are working hard and I think we’re pretty close.”
Players said they were focused only on Michigan State (7-0, 3-0) and made no mention of the next two games against No. 12 Iowa and No. 15 Michigan at home.
Junior wide receiver Mitchell Paige, who had career highs with eight catches for 126 yards against Rutgers, said it’s not difficult to stay in the moment.
“It’s really not that hard to stay focused because you’re playing such good teams and you have to make sure you focus as much as you can on the one that you’re playing now,” Paige said. “If you don’t things can kind of get in your head and get you messed up.”
Sophomore wide receiver Simmie Cobbs Jr. said nothing good comes out of looking ahead.
“When you start thinking about games that you have to play even before you play the first one you get off track of what you need to do for this upcoming week,” Cobbs said. “Once we get through this one, we can worry about Iowa and Michigan and all of those other teams.”
The consensus early was that Indiana had the potential to be a bowl team. After the 4-0 start, Indiana only needed to win two of its final eight games to become bowl eligible. At 4-3, with three ranked teams ahead though, the margin of error is much smaller.
Indiana closes the season with road games at Maryland and Purdue.
“I think we’re definitely a winning team but now we need to win games,” Wilson said. “We need to get to six wins but our goal wasn’t to get to six our goal was to be the best we could and get as many (wins) as we could. I don’t put pressure on our team to win and I don’t put pressure on our team to be a bowl team. I put the pressure that every day there is energy and you’re getting better.”