Wednesday, October 12, 2011
IU downplays revenge factor vs. Badgers
By Adam Rittenberg
Here's what Indiana linebacker Jeff Thomas remembers about last year's game at Wisconsin.
"It was really loud," Thomas said. "And it was a lot to a little."
Yep. That just about covers it.
The Indiana-Wisconsin game made national news last fall because of the final score. As Thomas said, Wisconsin had a lot (83 points), while Indiana had a little (20 points).
Indiana allowed the most points in team history and tied for the largest losing margin in team history with another 63-point defeat in 1915. Wisconsin scored the most touchdowns (11) in team history, put up the third-highest total in a Big Ten game in league history and racked up the most points in a Big Ten game since Ohio State scored 83 against Iowa in 1950.
For Thomas and his teammates, it added up to one very painful afternoon.
"It was pretty tough," Thomas said. "You never want to lose by that much. I've never really been on that side of the ball before. But there's nothing you can do about it now."
Indiana returns to Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday to face No. 4 Wisconsin. While the Hoosiers have plenty of reasons to gear up for the game, revenge isn't at the top of their list.
"The motivation we've got going right now is we're 1-5, and we want to win," Thomas said. "That's motivation we need to address more than beating a team that beat us pretty bad last year. Just wanting to get a win in the Big Ten, that's more motivation than anything."
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson wasn't in Madison last year. Wilson, then Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, spent the day enjoying a lopsided, 45-7 win against Texas Tech.
As part of his effort to change the culture at Indiana, Wilson hasn't spent time discussing the team's past struggles. But he has been on both sides of blowout games, and he has seen different approaches to rematches.
"Every time I’ve used the revenge word or been around coaches that did it, I don’t know if we got the [desired] outcome," Wilson said. "We're a team still trying to find our identity. … We're preaching more about how we want to keep moving forward instead of what happened a year ago."
Last year's game sparked questions of whether Wisconsin ran up the score, especially after Badgers coach Bret Bielema faced similar accusations following a game against Minnesota earlier in the season. Bielema reiterated this week that the claims about running up the score stemmed in part because of the perception Wisconsin has a team that rarely puts up such point totals.
Thomas harbors no ill will about what happened.
"It's just part of the game," he said. "They kept scoring. They obviously didn't have their starters in, so it's our job to stop them on defense. I'm not really mad about it. You keep scoring until somebody stops you."
Indiana has tried to foster a new attitude on defense this year, and while the wins haven't come, there have been some promising signs.
The defense forced four turnovers against Virginia in Week 2 and had a 54-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Lawrence Barnett. Indiana recorded two red-zone takeaways against Penn State in Week 5 and limited the Nittany Lions to 16 points.
Wisconsin poses a much greater test and many are forecasting another beat-down, but Thomas and his teammates are excited to face the Badgers.
"It's a potent offense, and it's our job to stop 'em," he said. "It's a huge opportunity."