- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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After the 2010 season wrapped up, Damarlo Belcher had Indiana's video staff compile cutups of all his catches and drops from the previous 12 games.
The catches far outnumbered the drops. Belcher had 78 receptions last fall, tops among Big Ten players. He ranked 19th nationally in receptions per game (6.5) and finished fourth in the league in receiving yards per game (69.3 rpg). The 6-foot-5, 214-pound Belcher emerged as the most consistent pass-catcher on the league's top passing offense.
Belcher reviewed every play, but he spent more time on the drops. Specifically, he watched The Drop.
Indiana fans don't need further explanation. Anyone who watched the end of the Hoosiers' Nov. 6 game against then-No. 15 Iowa understands.
After Iowa scored a late touchdown to take an 18-13 lead, Indiana responded with a drive to the Hawkeyes' 18-yard line. After three incompletions, quarterback Ben Chappell lofted a pass to the end zone on fourth-and-10. Belcher leaped above the defenders to grab it for the game-winner.
But the ball bounced off of his hands. Iowa ran out the clock, and another chance for Indiana to turn a corner had disappeared.
Belcher hasn't forgotten what happened that day.
“I can't," he said. "But it won't happen again, I'll tell you that. That’s the one I watch the most."
Belcher felt understandably sick after the drop, but his coaches and teammates rallied around him. Indiana's leadership council unanimously voted him a game captain the next week against Wisconsin.
Belcher finished the season with an eight-catch, 83-yard performance as Indiana knocked off Purdue in overtime to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket. But Indiana fell a win shy of bowl eligibility, and the school fired coach Bill Lynch the day after the Bucket game.
The Drop has lingered in Belcher's mind throughout the winter and spring.
"I think about it every day," he said. "Whenever I'm in the weight room or out at practice, I think about it. It gives me an extra effort or motivation to just go hard."
Belcher will be Indiana's clear-cut No. 1 receiver this fall after teammate Tandon Doss declared early for the NFL draft. Belcher also considered bolting after the coaching change.
Indiana's hiring of offensive guru Kevin Wilson helped keep Belcher in Bloomington.
"That was a big part of the reason why I stayed," Belcher said. "Coming from where he came from, I couldn't do anything but stay."
Wilson has talked to Belcher about former Oklahoma star tight end Jermaine Gresham and other standout pass-catchers he coached in Norman. Belcher has responded well to the new staff this spring.
"He's the oldest guy in the group, the most experienced, and he's been great to work with," co-offensive coordinator/receivers coach Kevin Johns said. "For someone who led the Big Ten in receptions, who made All-Big Ten recognition, he's very hungry to learn. He comes into meetings with wide eyes, not a guy who feels, 'I already know everything.'"
Belcher's hunger stems in part from the drop against Iowa. He can't wait for the season and a chance for redemption.
"If it can be close, man, I want it, I want the ball in my hands," he said. "That's how much it affected me. Whenever it's crunch time, I'll be ready."
4dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information
5dTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney