Close doesn’t cut it, moral victories not enough for Hoosiers

 Indiana Football is beyond moral victories.  Image: Cam Koenig HoosierHuddle.com

Indiana Football is beyond moral victories. Image: Cam Koenig HoosierHuddle.com

Written By: Nick Holmes (@HoosierHolmes)

They took Ohio State to the wire in 2012, had the Wolverines on the ropes in the Big House in 2013, and gave the eventual National Champion Buckeyes about as much as they could handle in Columbus last fall. Those, for all intents and purposes, were moral victories. However, expectations were different for those teams, for varying reasons.

The 2015 Hoosiers want, no expect, more than ‘keeping it close.’ The mantra that I heard from both Coach Wilson and his players on Saturday night was, “there are no moral victories.”

Getting a win over the number one team in the nation would have been the leading story on all the major sports networks. Instead, the narrative reads, for the most part, ‘what’s wrong with Ohio State?’

You could hear the frustration, the disappointment in the coaches’ and players’ voices after coming up just short on Saturday. And why shouldn’t they be unsatisfied with the outcome?

This team believed it belonged on the same field as Ohio State, that they were their equals. And from where I was sitting, they proved that and more. They not only stood toe-to-toe with the Buckeyes, in a lot of ways, the Hoosiers outplayed them.

"We don’t like to say we are trending in the right direction after a loss," said senior tight end Anthony Corsaro. "We expected to win the game.  I’ll give you a coach Wilson line, 'we are not into moral victories'"

As someone who has watched Indiana Football for over two decades, I can tell you that this one of more gutsy performances I had ever seen. So many things were going against a group that entered the game as 21-point underdogs, yet none of that seemed to phase them. This says a lot about how far the program, its players and coaches have come over the last few years.

But again, close, is no longer good enough. Now is not the time to pat these guys on the backs. This might sound like tough love, but these players want to be held to a higher standard than teams in the past have. They expect more of themselves, they expect to win, regardless of what history or the odds-makers in Vegas tells them. 

"I think we can play with anybody in the country," said sophomore quarterback Zander Diamont. "I think people around here are starting to realize this is a really, really good football team and really good football program. And we’ve known that for the past few years. Like I said, we can play with anybody. When we play as a team we are really good. We came out here to win."

Fans should hold this team to the same standards as they hold themselves to. These players and coaches work too hard for fans to expect anything less than their best. And the best way for fans to show that they care, that they expect more, is to show up on Saturdays. The players certainly notice, as it appeared to give them a big shot in the arm when the game seemed to be getting out of reach. 

“The fan support today was great," said Corsaro. "We loved it. We need those guys. We need those guys behind us. We fed off their energy. Their energy was great, you can’t replace that. We love our fans and we hope the comeback when we play Rutgers for homecoming.” 

I can’t tell you how the rest of the season is going to shape up for this group, but if they play with as much grit, tenacity, and heart as they did Saturday, no game is out of reach. But for now, both players and fans alike need to put Saturday behind them, because as exciting as it was, this team is no longer satisfied with close enough. Or more simply, there are no 'moral victories' for this group.