The Struggle Is Real

In case you didn’t know, writing can be very therapeutic. When you are a sports fan with a favorite team(s) that can come in very handy sometimes. The need to get all of the thoughts running through your head out is a must or they can completely consume your thoughts and even effect your everyday life.

Being an Indiana football fan should come with self help guide to deal with the roller coaster like ride it can be. Not only from game to game, but from half to half, quarter to quarter, series to series, and even down to down. Now don’t get me wrong, the improvement and the entire aura around this group headed by coach Tom Allen is evident. But that in a way makes it an even tougher pill to swallow when you see how close they are to being a really good football team, only to see them not be able to get over the hump, or even take a step backwards.

The frustration doesn’t always come from losing a game. It sometimes stems from how they lose a game. Take yesterday’s loss against #3 ranked Ohio State for example. Now, I’m sure there isn’t any IU fan out there that realistically felt as though the Hoosiers would just roll into Columbus, beat the Buckeyes, and head back to Bloomington. But I am sure that there were fans, myself included, who felt as though they could make it a much tougher game than OSU thought it would be, and they did. For three quarters anyway. And a simple executed play here or there in the those three quarters, especially in the first half, and it could have been a whole lot tougher game for the Buckeyes than they imagined.

Teams that haven’t had much success actually have to learn how to have success, and that’s where this program is at this moment, learning. As silly as that may sound, they need to learn how to win. They need to have success against one of these teams that look at their schedule and automatically see Indiana and think, “that’s a win.” There are people that didn’t watch this game who will wake up this morning, check the score, and think it was about what they figured it would be. None of them will have any clue that Indiana had chances in the first half to really put a scare into the Buckeyes and possibly make them change from the things they are most comfortable doing, which is exactly where upsets come from.

A completely blown coverage on defense. A dropped pass or two. Missed tackles by the first defender to the ball. An overthrown ball to an open receiver. A questionable play call. A penalty in the midst of a drive on offense, or on defense when they had put OSU in some third and long situations. None of these seem all that important at the time, but over the course of a game they are more times than not the difference between success and defeat.

Some will say that it was close early on due to OSU taking the Hoosiers lightly. I say, “probably.” And, “so.” But that is on Urban Meyer and his staff to see that that doesn’t happen. The challenge for Tom Allen and staff is to get this team to take advantage of those opportunities because they will continue to get them until they learn how to win. When, yes when not if, they learn to do that they will break through with a big win against a team that looked at their schedule and saw a “W” when they saw Indiana as the opponent. Then the challenge becomes handling success.

Building a winning program takes steps, a lot of steps. Leadership. Belief. Passion. Recruiting. Facilities. Execution. Winning. Support. Yes, those things take time, but I believe they are all heading in the right direction in year two of Tom Allen’s tenure in Bloomington. As the clock wound down yesterday on yet another Indiana loss, I caught myself being somewhat ho-hum about it. As I sat and replayed it in my head frustration starting setting in. There were more little things here and there that caused this loss than there were just flat being outmanned. Which has been the case to often in the past.

Indiana is oh so close to a win that could jumpstart their not being an automatic “W” when an opponent sees them up next on the schedule. Until that time comes, as fans. let’s hope this roller coaster keeps climbing rather than taking a nose dive over the next hill. Having a lackluster showing against Iowa next Saturday at “The Rock” in B-Town will be much more of a disappointment than going into “The Horseshoe” in Columbus and losing was in terms of how long we as fans, and the Hoosiers as a team, have to wait to enjoy the success that I think is coming.

As next Saturday draws closer the frustration I feel now will slowly turn to excitement. As I anxiously await this program to finally break through, I also know that you have to win the games against the teams you’re supposed to beat, or should beat, to be able to have real success. Truthfully, they are more important than the big upset. Establishing consistency is a cornerstone to a winning program. Even with the improvement they’ve shown, not knowing what to expect from game to game, and playing to the level of the competition are the types of things that they are most consistent with right now. Let’s hope that trend ends Saturday against the Hawkeyes, because as anyone that is associated with the Hoosier football program can tell you, from the administration, the coaches, the players and the fans…the struggle is real!