“Tell me about yourself.”
You’ve all been there. You’re sitting in an interview, looking like you belong, feeling like this might just be the opportunity you’ve been waiting for, your resume looks good, everyone’s telling you that this, finally, is your time.
Then this question hits, and you realize that your greatest successes are meager compared to your peers, that every opportunity you’ve had to establish yourself as something greater has either been snatched away from you by outside forces or just utterly failed on your own merits, and that yet again, this #breakthrough is anything but.
This is not the tale of an employment interview gone wrong.
This is the truth of the 2017 Indiana Hoosiers.
What Went Wrong?
There was palpable excitement heading into the 2017 season. Sure, there would be some rough stretches on the schedule, but to even the most pessimistic, a bowl game for the third straight year was certainly within reach. Opening with Ohio State was never going to be an easy task, but at home, under the lights, maybe, just maybe, the near thirty year string of futility might be brok....
Nope. Not a chance. A halftime lead utterly squandered. 0-1. Not surprising, but definitely disappointing.
A somewhat longer layoff (Thursday to the following Saturday does that) produced the best result of the year: a 34-17 win over a Virginia squad that went bowling, and the game wasn’t even really as close as the score suggested. 1-1, with momentum.
Then Mother Nature decided that Week 3 was a much better bye week for Indiana than Week 5 (you know, the week before Michigan). Apparently, we really needed that extra week to rest up and prepare for.... Georgia Southern. 2-1.
Oh man, trip to Happy Valley, shut down Saquon last year, maybe we can pull the ups....
LOL NOPE. Failure to hang onto the ball and making Trace McSorely look like Tom Brady ends games quick. 2-2, but we knew this wasn’t gonna be easy. Good things come to those who wait, right? Right?
Hey, you know what’s better than a bye week? Playing an overmatched team in a downpour. Yep, definitely better to have played this game than have a bye right here. Can’t think of any reason why resting now would have made a difference later. But hey, gotta play who’s in front of you, I guess. 3-2, with the real meat of the schedule up next.
Well, you know, we couldn’t break the skid against the Buckeyes, but people keep saying that Michigan isn’t quite as good, maybe we’ll snap this awful streak and finally beat a good te.....
KARAN SAYS HI ON HIS WAY TO THE END ZONE, SUCKERS! 3-3, but you know, we beat Michigan State last year, so maybe we can do that aga....
HERD YOU LIEK FIELD GOALS, TOO BAD WE SCORED TOUCHDOWNS, OUR SPITTOON AGAIN! 3-4, and starting to lose hope, but we’re hitting the easy part of Big Ten play, and Maryland’s on like their 7th string QB, that probably means our defense will stop the....
I’m sorry, did you say defense? You realize you’re In_iana, right? 3-5, and although we didn’t fully know it yet, dead for a bowl game right here. The moment when the rest of the conference finally realized that Indiana wasn’t actually good, and cold, cruel reality started to awaken.
Beating Wisconsin was never going to happen. While the losing streak isn’t as long as against OSU or Michigan, it’s far more painful, because it’s rarely close. Even being spotted the first 10 points only made it a ‘respectable’ 45-17 beatdown. 3-6, and now needing to win out just to maintain where last season’s mostly good vibes ended.
You know how this story ends. How could you not, it’s Indiana football, that perennial under-achiever, almost every Big Ten fan’s second favorite team because they never have to worry about their favorite losing to the Hoosiers (offer not valid in Champaign-Urbana, varying eligibility in Piscataway), and all-around hard luck program.
Barely beat Illinois? Worrying, but right on par.
Utterly trounce Rutgers? Sure, the rest of the division’s done that, you might as well take a turn too.
And then, the Bucket Game. Indiana, going for history (never won 5 straight against Purdue, trying to go bowling for 3 straight seasons for only the second time in program history, trying to win their last three Big Ten games in a season for the first time in at least 20 years), against a Purdue squad that looked nothing like the mediocre squad of the Hazell Era. There could really be only one outcome that made sense for this Boiler-dominated rivalry, and unsurprisingly, that’s exactly what happened. Jeff Brohm leads Purdue into the postseason, and Indiana watches what had been a firm grasp on the Old Oaken Bucket slip away, along with just about every bit of positive momentum the program built under Kevin Wilson disappear into thin air.
No bowl, no Bucket, almost the entire starting defense graduating, the best receiver declaring for the draft and another promising wideout transferring to Pitt. Bright spots for 2018? A couple, to be sure (Morgan Ellison, Peyton Ramsey, some incoming freshman who look talented), but whether or not it will all pan out is for the future.
The oft-quoted cliche is that it is always darkest before the dawn. It’s pitch black in Bloomington, and dawn doesn’t seem any closer now than it was last year.