BLOOMINGTON – Tevin Coleman stood in front of two dozen reporters, his eyes cast down, his hopes dashed.
Another chance for Indiana to get over the hump. Another heartbreaking Hoosier loss.
And he had literally dropped the ball.
I didnt know it was live, said Coleman, the IU sophomore running back who watched a swing pass that was ruled a lateral bounce off his left shoulder pad, fall to the turf and get scooped up by Minnesota on the 10-yard line in the final seconds of a 42-39 loss at Memorial Stadium.
It was real hard. I put all the pressure on me and thought it was my fault.
It was as much the fault of Coleman, who ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, as it was redshirt sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson, who couldnt get the offense in rhythm in the first half as IU (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) fell behind 28-13.
And it was as much Robersons fault as sophomore Nate Sudfeld, who took time to adjust after replacing Roberson and saw the Golden Gophers (7-2, 3-2) finish a 28-point swing to make it 35-13. He also threw the ball behind Coleman on the swing play.
We got a lot of good fight, but were going to need to figure out ways to win in the end, said Sudfeld, who had 189 passing yards and two touchdowns. We thought we had it for a little bit. Were due for some of these wins, and weve really just got to finish.
The Hoosiers did have it for a little bit – and they almost had it at the end. IU scored 26 unanswered points and overcame a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit to get to that second-and-goal play from the Minnesota 9.
And coach Kevin Wilson, who went for two when the Hoosiers led 39-35 and failed to convert, shouldered plenty of blame, too.
If he had gone with the extra point on that score with 5:33 left, IU would have been down two and lining up for a field goal in the waning seconds. And the swing call at the end was questionable, especially since the team had done so well at the end on runs.
In crunch time, we dont make an ideal call and execute it right, and it cost our guys a chance to get a W. Or you kick one instead of go for two, and you run the ball, center it up, kick a field goal, get a W, Wilson said. Im very disappointed for them. As a coach, I didnt do the things I needed to do at the end. That was a W that we should have had.
It was on the defense, which gave up 573 yards of total offense and a career-high 298 passing yards and four touchdown passes to Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson, including a go-ahead 50-yard score with 3:06 left by an uncovered Maxx Williams.
There was an eye violation inside between some of the guys and the tight end squeaked through and was wide open, junior safety Mark Murphy said. Thats what their kind of MO is, you know, all the formations, motions: try to get your eyes off where theyre supposed to be.
So many little mistakes, magnified at a crucial time in a game that looked vital for IUs bowl chances.
Now, the Hoosiers have to muster three wins in their final four games. They face Illinois in Bloomington next week, play at No. 22 Wisconsin and at No. 4 Ohio State after that and have their regular-season finale at home against Purdue.
IU still has hope, but this one stung.
It hurts, junior cornerback Tim Bennett said. You got to learn from it, flush it out tonight and get ready for Illinois.