Kevin Wilson Did It Again … and It Cost Indiana This Time

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New Indiana University football coach Kevin Wilson is quickly developing a reputation as a riverboat gambler … to a fault.

He unsuccessfully attempted a fourth-down conversion rather than kicking an easy field goal last week in the Hoosiers’ season-opening loss to Ball State, but it didn’t make a difference in the final score of that game.

This time, it did. Wilson tried a fake field goal in the third quarter of Saturday’s 34-31 home loss to Virginia that would have greatly affected the outcome with an easy three points.

Granted, the Hoosiers, who trailed 23-10 before and after the fourth-down attempt, still mounted a huge comeback that saw IU score 21 unanswered points and gained a 31-23 advantage late.

The Cavaliers then methodically drove down the field and scored a touchdown, which they followed with a successful two-point conversion to tie the game with 1:36 remaining.

The curse came back on IU’s would-be game-winning drive. On third down in the team’s own territory, quarterback Edward Wright-Baker was sacked and lost a fumble, which Virginia recovered.

Four plays later, game-winning field goal. Game over.

That should have been the game-tying field goal. Wilson’s decision to go for it took three easy points off the final score.

Although Wilson’s methods have produced the same results thus far as those of former coach Bill Lynch, they’re undenaibly deifferent.

Lynch was way too conservative as the Hoosiers’ head man. He often would opt for draw plays and other running plays at the ends of halves rather than deploying a hurry-up offense to score some points and build some momentum heading into the locker room.

When Lynch did push the envelope, he often mishandled it. The lasting image in that regard is IU’s 2009 contest at Northwestern. Up 28-3 before a furious rally by the Wildcats, Lynch faced a fourth-and-goal and opted to go for it rather than take the easy points. The play call? A scramble by utility quarterback Mitchell Evans that was stuffed short of the goal line. Northwestern would proceed to win, 29-28.

Wilson, in contrast, has taken too many chances. Don’t get me wrong, I admire his aggressiveness. He seemed to have his players emotionally invested throughout the home opener. It’s something that could be a foundation from which this program grows.

However, Wilson needs to understand that some gambles — the ones he has taken, to be specific — are unnecessary and can be detrimental to the final tally and the win-loss ledger.

Hoosier Nation has to hope Wilson will start playing it more safely before Big Ten season comes along.

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