Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
The months of conditioning, the hours of film study, the thousands of repetitions in the weight room, the days and nights on the recruiting trail. For the Indiana Hoosiers players and coaches, every day of the past few seasons has, in a way, led to Saturday’s game in West Lafayette. For the first time since the 1940s, the Hoosiers can win the Old Oaken Bucket for the third straight time. For the first time under Kevin Wilson and the first time since 2007, IU can reach bowl eligibility. The stakes for this game, for the players and the coaches (and to a much lesser extent, for us fans), are gigantic. That’s not to say that if IU loses that this season will suddenly become a giant failure and the legacy of seniors like Nate Sudfeld and Jason Spriggs and Zack Shaw will be forever irreparably tarnished. However, breaking through and reaching a bowl game will leave a lasting mark on this program.
The time has flown by for the seniors, “when I first started, things were going by so slow,” senior Bandit Zack Shaw told reporters before Senior Day. “Now that I am actually in my fifth year, looking back on it, it feels like yesterday that it was my first day here. Now that it has hit me…it kind of sucks, but you know it has to come to an end at some time, I just wish it wouldn’t”.
The IU careers of the seniors do have to end at some time. However, a win Saturday will keep those careers going for one more game. A bowl game would mean 15 more practices, time that could be crucial for younger players as IU heads into the 2016 season. It would mean a trip to new city and more time spent with the guys that Jason Spriggs calls “his brothers”.
“I think most of my memories and most of my, I don’t want to say excitement, is here in this stadium with these guys. It’s in the locker room, on campus just with my friends, my boys and the team just hanging out,” the senior left tackle said.
Saturday is a huge opportunity for this IU football team. They can reach bowl eligibility and notch a third straight victory over their fiercest rival. They can create positive momentum for the program and accomplish something few thought possible by winning back-to-back road games. Perhaps equally important for this group of players and coaches though, they can extend this season and their time together as a team by one more game.