Coach Bill Lynch talked a lot this summer about Indiana being only 12 plays away from a nice season in 2009.
The Hoosiers got even closer to an elusive bowl berth this fall, winning five games and playing competitive contests against Michigan, Northwestern and especially Iowa. But a program that can't seem to get over the hump in Big Ten play fell just short again, and Indiana athletic director Fred Glass determined that the time had come for a change at the top.
Glass' decision to fire Lynch on Nov. 28 wasn't an easy one, but it made sense after Lynch won only three Big Ten games in the past three seasons. Like several of his IU predecessors, Lynch fostered success on offense, as quarterback Ben Chappell had another big season as one of the Big Ten's top signal-callers. He got plenty of help from his outstanding receiving corps, led by All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss and fellow junior Damarlo Belcher.
But Indiana's defense continued to struggle mightily, despite the arrivals of several junior college players. Indiana allowed the most points (408) of any Big Ten team and didn't generate much of a pass rush aside from end Darius Johnson.
The Hoosiers' wins came against four weak nonconference foes and a banged-up Purdue team in West Lafayette. Although there were some nice moments, especially the players lifting the Old Oaken Bucket on Nov. 27, the time for change had arrived.
Offensive MVP: Ben Chappell. Few Big Ten players meant more to their teams than Chappell, who led the league in passing yards (3,295) and tossed 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions for a one-dimensional Hoosiers offense. Overshadowed by so many other great Big Ten quarterbacks, Chappell ranked 22nd nationally in total offense and recorded six 300-yard passing performance this season. Belcher and Doss merit mentions here.
Defensive MVP: Tyler Replogle. Indiana endured another rough year on the defensive side, but Replogle did his part. The senior linebacker led Indiana with 87 tackles, six for loss, and added an interception, three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. His leadership for a young Hoosiers defense was invaluable.
Turning point: Indiana still had a chance to make a bowl game when it hosted Iowa on Nov. 6 at Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers' defense kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone until the closing minutes, and Iowa took an 18-13 lead with 2:50 remaining. Chappell drove Indiana downfield and lofted a fourth-down pass to an open Belcher in the end zone. But the normally sure-handed junior dropped the ball. Indiana was pasted 83-20 the next week at Wisconsin.
What's next: Glass acted quickly to find a successor for Lynch and will introduce Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as the team's new coach today at a 4 p.m. ET news conference in Bloomington. Wilson has Big Ten ties at Northwestern and brings a strong track record to Indiana, which returns several exciting offensive weapons for 2011. His biggest task is no different from the one facing the men who came before him -- fix Indiana's defense.