BLOOMINGTON – Even after a coordinator change, embarrassing losses, and a quarterback carousel, the goal for Indiana’s players and coaches remained the same: get to a bowl game.
With the Hoosiers’ 20-14 win over Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, they’re one step closer.
Indiana is now three wins away from making their first bowl game since the famed 2020 season. Even though fans are doubtful, IU head coach Tom Allen says this has been a goal all along. Now that the team is in must-win mode for the remainder of the season, a win at this stage gives them much-needed momentum.
“I tell you, it gives you a lot of confidence,” Allen said on Saturday. “There’s nothing like game day success. I said it for the last several weeks: We need some game day success, reinforce, give them some positive energy to say, ‘Man, if you just stay the course, you’re going to be rewarded on game day.’ They finally got it today.”
There’s no doubt Allen has confidence in his team to reach postseason play. Sixth-year senior Aaron Casey feels the same way.
“It’s a higher sense of urgency,” Casey said. “We look at these games as playoff games. We know we have to win out to go to the postseason.”
Casey ended Saturday’s game with nine tackles, including four for loss, and a forced fumble. One of his two sacks came in crunch time, with Indiana needing a stop late in the fourth quarter to keep their lead.
A recurring theme for Allen has been the importance of his team captains to finish the season. He’s continuously mentioned Casey as a quiet yet crucial part of the leadership he’s looking for.
“I just gave him the game ball in the locker room without knowing all of those stats,” Allen said after hearing Casey’s numbers. “He’s just a special, special person. He’s the leader of our defense, and he’s the leader of our team.”
Punter James Evans may not be the most impactful, but he’s still doing everything he can to achieve a postseason berth. Evans played a crucial part in flipping field position on Saturday, forcing Wisconsin to start inside its own 20 three times.
Even if his role is limited, Evans still recognizes the mentality needed to finish out the season.
“One game at a time,” Evans said. “We all realize that we have a goal to make a bowl game. … We just need to attack every day.”
IU needs to go undefeated against Illinois, Michigan State, and Purdue to become bowl-eligible. Indiana’s remaining opponents all hold a losing record, and, like IU, have only one conference victory.
So the Hoosiers’ postseason opportunity remains alive, if they can capitalize on it.
“We knew where we are with the team earlier this week, last Sunday, that it was a four-game season. The goal is to be 1-0 after each week,” Allen said. “That’s been the focus, the playoff mentality. We know we got to win each week.”
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