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Success Breeds Confidence
"We went into halftime, and we knew we were going to win this game," Kirlew said. "We were doing what we needed to do, and we knew we had the edge, and we had the mindset we weren't leaving this stadium with a loss."
Kirlew proved to be correct, as Indiana retook control of the game in the third quarter and came away with a 38-20 win over Iowa, earning IU its first win in Iowa City since 1999 and just its second Big Ten road win in six years.
It wasn't so much Kirlew's prediction that stood out, though, as the confidence with which he said it. Absent was the mindset of impending doom that's often followed IU teams in the past when they've ventured into opposing Big Ten venues.
A redshirt sophomore, Kirlew has seen that approach from past Indiana teams, but says it's not a characteristic of this year's squad.
"In past years we didn't necessarily hang our heads, but I didn't see the spirit and everyone keeping their heads up and wanting to go out there and fight like we do now," Kirlew said.
The reward for that approach was an upset win that has all but erased the disappointment of the previous week's 27-14 homefield loss to Illinois, an outcome that some thought served as a signal that the wheels were about to come off. Instead, the Hoosiers find themselves at 4-1 overall and with a very winnable game this weekend against Minnesota that could move them to within one win of bowl eligibility for the first time in 13 years.
While the Gophers have been shredded defensively on their way to a 1-4 start, this is the same team that took a wrecking ball to Indiana's bowl hopes a year ago when it opened a 35-0 lead and cruised to a 63-26 win in Minneapolis. That loss is still fresh in the IU's players' minds, and they're looking to make amends for the result.
"That was kind of embarrassing," said Greg Middleton, who leads the Big Ten with 7 ½ sacks. "They put up 63 points on us. We have to come out and make a statement."
If that's going to happen, it will be up to Middleton, Kirlew and the Hoosier defense to slow down the Adam Weber-led Gopher passing attack. Weber is averaging 252.6 yards/game, and he's been sacked only three times in five contests.
He'll be going up against an Indiana defensive front that leads the nation with 27 sacks, including nine in last week's win in Iowa City.
"It's going to be one of our biggest challenges," Kirlew said. "They are three step, quarterback gets the ball out real quick. We'll have to get our hands up, knock the ball down a couple of times, but we're still going to keep the pressure on. I think we're going to add a lot more sacks to that three they've given up. That's our goal."
News and Notes:
- IU wide receiver Terrance Turner is scheduled to have knee surgery in a couple of weeks and has likely been lost for the season. Turner suffered the injury late in the Iowa game while blocking downfield.
Lynch said the team will also likely be without tailback Demetrius McCray this week. McCray has missed the last two games with a foot injury, and Lynch said it's doubtful he'll be ready to go this weekend. The Hoosiers will welcome back wide receiver James Bailey, though, after he served a one-game suspension for violating an unspecified team rule.
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