Terry Hoeppner provided plenty of memories for IU football fans in his two short seasons in Bloomington, but he provided a couple of important things to this year's football team as well.
The first was a slogan. As soon as Hoeppner arrived in Bloomington after a successful coaching stint at Miami
(Ohio), he immediately began talk of playing one more game after the regular season came to a close. In 2005 that meant to "Play 12" with the 11-game regular season, while the goal has been to "Play 13" in each of the past two seasons with the new 12-game slate.
"Coach Hoeppner provided a goal for us and also provided us a slogan," said co-captain Josiah Sears
But Hoeppner also provided this year's squad with plenty of motivation and inspiration after his passing. The team's goal was to "Play 13" in his memory all season long, and his courageous battle has also served as inspiration as the team has gone through a series of ups and downs this fall.
"It was just incredible how through all the adversity that he lived in his life and had to deal with, he didn't quit," Sears said. "He kept pressing forward and lasted and pushed forward as long as he could."
There's plenty about the Oklahoma State
offense that concerns the Hoosiers, but wide receiver Adarius Bowman
is among the biggest challenges.
The 6-4, 220-pound Bowman has led the Cowboys in receiving in each of the past two seasons. He caught 60 passes for 1,181 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2006, and followed that up with a 61 catches for 932-yards and seven touchdown this year despite missing the final two games of the regular season with a sprained knee.
Bowman has been practicing at full speed in Tempe and figures to test an IU secondary that surrendered 238.8 yards/game through the air.
"Bowman, he's one of the top receivers in the country," said IU senior Tracy Porter
, who figures to be matched up against him Monday night. "He is a guy if you mess up in coverage holding the zone, he can find it and hurt you on your mistakes."
Bowman has done just that throughout his career, catching eight touchdown passes from at least 40 yards out.
"He is a great player," said IU Coach Bill Lynch.
One of the things that makes Bowman great, according to Lynch, is the fact teams can't focus all of their attention on the OSU passing attack. Cowboy tailback Dantrell Savage
– who rushed for least 100 yards in each of the last nine games - leads an OSU ground attack that averaged 245.7 yards/game this season. Savage carries 200 times for 1,172 yards and eight touchdowns.
"I think the toughest thing about defending (Bowman) is the balance they have in the offense," Lynch said. "Like any good offensive football team that has balance, you go to be able to stop the run. That limits some of the things you can do in your coverage. He's a great player, but he is a piece of what I think is a great offensive football team."
's defense has no excuses for being unprepared for OSU quartrerback Zac Robinson
The Cowboys' record-setting quarterback is coming off a huge season, totaling a school record 3,299 yards of total offense. He rushed for 777 and seven scores, threw for another 2,522 yards and 20 TDs, and gave everyone on the OSU roster fits with his dual threat capabilities.
He'll certainly test Indiana, but the Hoosiers have had 40 days of the best the best preparation available – Kellen Lewis
Like Robinson, Lewis is a dual-threat quarterback who re-wrote his school's total offense record book this fall. During the last six weeks Indiana's No. 1 defense has spent a good portion of its time trying to keep track of Lewis, and that should pay off as it tries to do the same against Robinson.
"Kellen is hard to contain, and I'm sure (Robinson) will be hard to contain," said IU defensive end Greg Middleton
. "You get used to seeing Kellen running around back there and you know what type of angles to take and how to cut him off."
While there are some differences between the two as well as the two teams' offenses, Lynch also thinks the last month of practice will pay dividends.
"The defense has had a great month of preparation," Lynch said. "They stretch you pretty well. The quarterback is such an important part of that offense just like Kellen is to ours."
Considering everything this Indiana football team has been through, its last bit of adversity has done little to phase them.
The Hoosiers were originally slated to arrive in Tempe early Thursday afternoon and go through a walk through at Sun Devil Stadium. But mechanical issues forced the team to scratch its scheduled departure from Bloomington, and they eventually had to bus to Indianapolis to catch a flight some eight hours later than originally scheduled.
The team arrived in Tempe a bit weary, but it has done little to sidetrack the team in its mission to win its first bowl game since 1991.
"We had a tough time coming – we lost a day of practice because we had some flight delays," Lynch said. "Again, I think it shows these guys have been through so much. There has been so much adversity, a little delay on a tarmac didn't bother them at all.
"Missing a day of practice, it seemed like we went out the next day and we picked up right where we left off."
Josiah Sears wishes he remembered a little bit more of the biggest game of his IU career.
Indiana's regular-season ending victory over Purdue
sent the Hoosiers to their first bowl game in 14 years, but Sears doesn't remember everything about the contest. That's because he was forced to the sidelines with a concussion early on, ending his afternoon with just three rushes for 24 yards.
"That was a special night – I wish I remembered more of it with the injury I had," Sears said. "It was a great night and I think it was a great night for our program, an opportunity to build on that and kind of get over the hump. It had been a while since we had beaten Purdue. It was just an incredible experience for all of us."
While Sears is a bit foggy about the particulars of the game, he does remember its conclusion and celebrating the victory.
"I know I will never forget the things I do remember," Sears said. "It was incredible holding the Bucket and putting the ‘I' on the bucket."
With the Hoosiers' 2007 season about ready to come to a close, Lynch is pulling for his team – and his conference counterparts.
After having two of the country's top teams a year ago, the Big Ten was a bit maligned this season. It started with Michigan
's season-opening loss to Appalachian State and has continued throughout the season. Other than Ohio State
, most observers have said the Big Ten hasn't stacked up to the SEC, Big 12, Pac 10, and ACC this season.
But the Big Ten is off to a 2-1 start in bowl games, with both Purdue and Penn State
coming with victories and Michigan State
dropping a three-point decision to No. 14 Boston College
. Indiana, Wisconsin
, Michigan and Ohio State are still yet to play.
"I don't think there's any question, when you get to this time of year you are pulling for all your Big Ten counterparts," Lynch said. "We certainly keep a close eye on that.
"We certainly know we're representing the Big Ten and we are proud to be doing that."
The Hoosiers' 14-year bowl drought will come to an end in less than 24 hours as IU gears up for its Insight Bowl match-up with Oklahoma State. IU Coach Bill Lynch talks about the match-up; Tracy Porter talks about Adarius Bowman; and Josiah Sears talks about what he remembers about the Purdue game...