The talk is subdued. The hype is lower key. But the Indiana University football game Saturday against Maryland is just as important to the Hoosiers in its own way as last Saturday’s meeting was with Ohio State.
IU is 4-1 and ranked No. 12 in the country. The Hoosiers were up to ninth before facing the No. 3 Buckeyes, always a powerhouse. IU made a statement of its newfound strengths in a loss.
The Maryland match-up is a particularly sneaky one at noon at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington for a couple of reasons.
In recent years the Hooisers have had trouble with the Terrapins. Plus, it is somewhat difficult to tell just how good Maryland is. The last two weeks in a row the Terrapins have had their games called off because of the coronavirus. Even coach Michael Locksley tested positive. So Maryland hasn’t played since Nov. 7 and is just 2-1.
Maryland gave IU a scare last season, though the Hoosiers won, 34-28.
“They’re a very good team,” said sophomore running back David Ellis in a university Zoom conference. “Last year it came down to the final drive.”
Maryland has been idle so long it’s hard to tell if the Terrapins will be stale, or if their hunger to play for a change will make up for the inaction.
IU could not pull off the upset against Ohio State, falling 42-35, but must rebound to maintain its national status. Some forget the Hooisers trailed 35-7, but coach Tom Allen has not. Coming off the Holy-Toledo game versus Ohio State, Allen said the Hooisers must “play four quarters of our best football.”
Seasons, he said, have ebbs and flows and “you have to be able to respond to those whether you get a big win or you have a tough loss.”
Never do coaches want the past to be present and how a team does respond is critical to how it goes forward long-term. When the Hoosiers reported to practice two days after the Buckeyes’ defeat, Allen said his men seemed to have their heads in the right place.
“I liked the look in our guys’ eyes,” he said.
Maryland throws out many creative offensive looks that can fool defenses.
“They’ve got a lot of speed,” Allen said. “It just puts stress on you.”
Linebacker Micah McFadden has seen enough of the Terrapins in recent seasons to know that’s true.
“They run a lot of different formations,” McFadden said. “We’ve just got to be honed in.”
The Big Ten issues a challenge a week of a different kind. No one is claiming Maryland is as good as Ohio State this year, but despite having their season disrupted more than most other teams’, football fans understand the Terrapins can cause trouble for IU.
On Thanksgiving Day, Allen conducted a Zoom press conference. Ordinarily, with typical conference scheduling, IU would be meeting Purdue for possession of the Old Oaken Bucket this week. The Hoosiers, who were going to be eating their holiday dinner together, have much to be thankful for, he said.
It’s too late for Indiana to go undefeated, but it is not too late in this oddest of seasons for this team to make it a memorable one.
“Response,” Allen said of what he is looking for as the answer to last week’s loss. “That’s what great teams do. They respond. This team’s got a chance to be really special.”