BLOOMINGTON – Indiana senior tight end Ted Bolser knows most of the pundits have counted his team out of the bowl picture.
But the 6-foot-6 Cincinnati native hasnt given up on the Hoosiers. He has some lofty goals for the final four games of his career.
Win them all, Bolser said. Thats what were going into every game for. Were not doubting ourselves against any team.
Even against No. 4 Ohio State and No. 24 Wisconsin, both of whom IU will play on the road between games Saturday against Illinois and the Nov. 30 finale against Purdue. Despite the odds stacked against the Hoosiers (3-5, 1-3 Big Ten) after their 42-39 loss to Minnesota at Memorial Stadium on Saturday, the team remains strong internally.
Prognosticators say everything is over, but in our world theres a lot of football to play, a lot of things we can accomplish, coach Kevin Wilson said. The teams kind of right there, and thats our deal. Were at that part of the race where you can keep pushing and stop, or you can keep going. Weve come too far to get nagging and stop.
Junior safety Mark Murphy, like Bolser, is trying to take as many positives from the Minnesota game as possible. It was a heartbreaking loss for the Hoosiers, who fumbled on their own 9-yard line with less than 20 seconds to go in the fourth.
The frustration simmered after the game, Murphy said, but the team knew it needed to move past the loss by its meetings Sunday.
We review our film every Sunday, see what we need to get better at and then we put that game behind us, he said. Full focus is on Illinois.
Thats what Wilson, and his staff, wanted to hear.
The Illini (3-5, 0-4) fell victim to the first Big Ten victory in the Wilson era, a 31-17 victory in Champaign, Ill., on Oct. 27, 2012.
Like the Hoosiers, Illinois is playing for a bowl game in its final four games and will have to claw its way through tough opponents to earn a postseason invitation.
Theyre actually very similar to how our offense operates, Murphy said. Good, balanced attack, a good, mobile quarterback who can run and pass.
That quarterback, Nathan Scheelhaase, has thrown for 1,970 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. Its been an up-and-down year for him, as well as his team, which started 3-1 but is winless in conference play.
Both teams could use Saturdays game as a springboard into the last leg of the season. I dont think were that far away. I think weve been very competitive, and our offense has always given us a chance to win, IU defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. Its frustrating for everyone – as a staff, as a player, and we put a lot of effort into this to not get the results that we want.