Hoosiers dealing with own difficult situation
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP)
Surprise: It's the Hoosiers' Kevin Wilson.
''I think (their coaches) are doing a good job in a difficult situation,'' Wilson said this week, referring to interim coach Luke Fickell and his staff at Ohio State.
Wilson should know about difficult situations.
The Hoosiers (1-8, 0-5 Big Ten) have lost six in a row and are gushing points on defense, allowing 204 over their last four games - yes, that's 51 a game. They're also coming into Ohio Stadium, where they haven't won in 24 years.
And yet he feels some compassion for the Buckeyes, who have had to juggle lineups and confront embarrassing situations and questions for much of the last year because of several players' boneheaded NCAA violations and the dishonesty of former coach Jim Tressel (since forced to resign).
Yet the Buckeyes (5-3, 2-2) say all of the problems they've gotten through have actually made it easier to concentrate on the task at hand.
''We can't overlook any team,'' Ohio State offensive lineman Mike Adams said. ''We know a little bit about that. The whole country kind of overlooked us for a while.''
That has been the sermon of Fickell this week: Do not look past the Hoosiers. Even though the Buckeyes can still get to the Big Ten title game with a little help. Even though the offense is coming off its best game of the season (a dramatic 33-29 upset of No. 12 Wisconsin). Even though the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves playing for a decent bowl bid.
''We're in no place to look past anything,'' said Fickell. ''Our focus is one at a time. Our focus is about us getting better and hopefully that's where we are and we'll continue to pound it into their heads.''
Both teams, ironically, play a lot of freshmen and sophomores. The Hoosiers started seven freshmen on defense and five on offense in a 59-38 beatdown last week at the hands of Northwestern, which also came in having lost five in a row.
No wonder some of the Buckeyes on offense are licking their chops to pad their stats.
Asked if Ohio State would be looking to also score 50 against the Hoosiers, tailback Dan ''Boom'' Herron said, ''I think it's possible. It's definitely possible.''
Yet when Fickell turns on the video to watch Indiana, he's impressed with what he sees.
''It was 50-14 or 50-21 at one point in the last week's game, but they didn't change,'' he said of the young Hoosiers. ''You didn't see guys hanging their heads. You just saw guys continue to fight and battle. ... It's a team with nowhere to go but up and you can see it on film.''
That might be open to debate. Indiana also lost its two starting wideouts this week.
Adding to the Hoosiers problems is that the one thing they might be worst at on defense - stopping other teams from running - is Ohio State's strength. The Buckeyes have struggled mightily to pass the ball, but have gone back to their roots to build a ground attack. Over their last two games, they have run the ball 87 percent of the time.
That is not a good omen for the Hoosiers, who are giving up 235 rushing yards a game.
''Last week, we didn't do a good job defensively, especially stopping the run,'' Wilson said. ''That's three weeks in a row. Iowa ran the ball well and Wisconsin the same. We've had a few weeks where our defense has had a hard time making anybody one-dimensional. The run game, the inability to stop that was disappointing.''
So Ohio State is gearing up to score some points. Plus, it has a defense that has limited four teams to 17 or fewer points.
''This is not really a game for anybody's individual stats,'' Buckeyes wide receiver Corey Brown said. ''It's not like that. It's whoever the play's called for, that's what we're going to do.
''We're going to go after them just like we did Wisconsin.''
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