FORT WAYNE – Will Matte admits he was a little overwhelmed when he played his first game at Memorial Stadium.
I didn’t think I played too well, Matte said with a laugh during a phone interview Tuesday.
That was in 2009 against Eastern Kentucky. The senior center’s final game at Memorial Stadium will be one of Indiana’s biggest in a long time.
The Hoosiers face Wisconsin at noon Saturday. The winner will have the inside track on representing the Leaders Division for the Big Ten championship.
Ohio State and Penn State are ineligible for the title game, leaving Wisconsin (6-3, 3-2 Big Ten) and IU (4-5, 2-3) as the top two teams in the division vying for an opportunity to play for a trip to the Rose Bowl.
It’s great that we’re in a position to have something to play for at the end of the season, said Matte, one of 12 players who will be recognized on senior day. In years past it’s been a different story. With this week and being able to position ourselves to possibly play in Indianapolis, that would be great. But right now, we’re just looking to get better today and go from there.
IU coach Kevin Wilson also tried to downplay the significance of the game during the Big Ten teleconference.
We are a long way from being a good football team, but we are getting better every day, Wilson said. The kids have bought into it. Adam Replogle and Will Matte and the seniors have set a good tone, and the young group is following.
The Hoosiers have won back-to-back Big Ten games for the first time since 2007. The last time IU won three straight conference games was 1993.
Both IU quarterbacks, Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld, have contributed to the victories. Sudfeld led the way against Illinois, throwing for 107 yards and two touchdowns.
Coffman had 315 passing yards and three touchdowns last week against Iowa. Cody Latimer caught all three touchdown passes on the way to gaining co-Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Defensively, Replogle continues to play at an All-Big Ten level. He had seven tackles, two tackles for loss and one fumble recovery against Iowa. Replogle has 59 tackles, which ranks third on the team, and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss (9) and sacks (4).
He’s a great practice player. He’s a special guy playing at a high level, and he’s doing it week after week, Wilson said.
It’s led the Hoosiers to their most important home game since at least the 2007 finale, when IU defeated Purdue to reach a bowl for the first time since 1993.
Not that the players are thinking in those terms.
You can’t do anything about the past, and you can’t do anything about the future, Matte said. The mentality has been what can you do to make yourself better right now.