Two weeks after Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner underwent brain surgery, he returned to the sidelines to guide his team in their conference opener against Wisconsin. His resilient comeback inspired all who witnessed him leading his team into Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon.
Unfortunately, Hoeppner’s team failed to convert the feeling of inspiration into success on the field. The Badgers used today’s game in Bloomington as a mode of gelling their offense. Last week, Wisconsin fell to the sixth ranked Michigan Wolverines and the three non-conference games prior to Michigan didn’t exactly represent Steve Spurrier type offensive fireworks. Today, Wisconsin would finally examine all corners of their playbook and execute each page with perfection. The 35-0 halftime lead provided evidence that they had the power to be offensive.
Indiana, coming off two losses without their head coach, couldn’t move the ball even if they had a UPS truck on the field. Many Hoosier fans left at halftime. Those who stayed left as soon as Wisconsin extended their lead to 42-0 early in the third quarter. Then, raindrops began to fall sending more Hoosier fans to the exits, while Badger fans switched to raingear and watched their team tally a 52-0 advantage at the onset of the fourth quarter. Indiana managed a few late scores to avoid the shutout and prompt the remaining Hoosier students to chant, “Double Digits!”
Fans driving down I-37 can see Hoeppner’s impact on this university with billboards drowning the area reading, “Defend the Rock,” which is the new nickname for Memorial Stadium. The new coach had instituted a few new traditions in Bloomington including a large boulder that the players touch during the entrance to “The Rock.” In addition, t-shirts with the Rose Bowl emblem and the words, “Closer Than You Think,” float around the stadium advertising the high expectations Hoeppner has placed on this team. The fact that the Hoosiers haven’t booked flight plans to Pasadena since 1967 make that goal loftier than any other Big Ten squad. Therefore, Indiana’s inability to defend the rock today certainly was a tough pill to swallow for fans and Coach Hoeppner.
On the other sideline, Bret Bielema, earned his first conference victory as Wisconsin’s headman. He ran off the field acknowledging the host of Badger fans waiting to greet him. Wisconsin’s favorable remaining schedule has fans in Madison thinking the best. Hoosier fans are glad that struggling Illinois is next on their schedule, but even the Illini managed a stunning win at Michigan State last week. For us, we had to bolt out of Memorial Stadium to catch our second game of the day – an evening kickoff in Muncie, Indiana pitting the Northern Illinois Huskies against the Ball State cardinals…