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‘A tough reality’: 2023 season becoming a disaster for Indiana football with tough conversations looming



Indiana football head coach Tom Allen
The Indiana football program is eyeing another horrible season and will have major questions to answer in the coming weeks. (Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times-USA TODAY NETWORK)

The 2023 season for the Indiana football program hasn’t gone as planned in numerous ways. And Saturday’s 31-14 loss to Rutgers was just another way in which Indiana has failed to show any progress throughout this season, but more important … show how much it has regressed in the last few years.

Following an 8-5 season in 2019 and then a record-breaking season in 2021, finishing 6-2, there was finally a sense of hope that Tom Allen had truly turned around the Indiana football program. Then a 2-10 season followed in 2021. It was a disastrous season that brought the question of; which was the outlier? That 14-7 record from the two years prior or the 2-10 season that looked all too similar to some of the years before.

Now, Indiana sits at 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in Big Ten play. And, it’s a third-straight season that seems lost with still nearly half of the season remaining.

“Yeah, there’s no question. I don’t think I feel it, I think it’s a reality that you get to this stage of the year and you’ve got several losses now in a row,” Tom Allen said postgame when asked about the season slipping away. “That’s a tough reality. That’s where you don’t hide from it. You’ve got to address it head on, and you’ve got to really work hard together to help your guys.”

Indiana is 2-20 in the last 22 Big Ten games, with an average loss of 24.3 points. Big Ten losses this season have been by 17, 20, 27 and 45 points.

Indiana has been outscored 150-41 in its four conference games this season.

The Hoosiers scored just three points against Ohio State, seven against Michigan, 14 against Rutgers and 17 against Maryland — with 14 coming after the score was already 37-3 in the fourth quarter.

In the last three years, there have only been five Big Ten games where Indiana has scored at least 20 points. On the flip side, there are nine games where IU has scored less than 10 points. There are also five additional games when Indiana has scored just two touchdowns.

“We’ve got to execute better in regards to scoring more points. Haven’t scored enough points to win games. Keep the defense off the field,” Allen added. “The defense has got to get key stops at key times. Special teams can’t give up a blocked punt. Those are going to get you beat pretty much every time that happens statistically.”

With Indiana’s inability to score points, it puts pressure on Indiana’s defense to play at an exceptional level for large stretches. At the end of the day, however, two touchdowns is not good enough to win a Big Ten football game.

“Yeah, that’s a concern, there’s no question. But at the same time, you just have to — we’ve got many games left, and we’ve got to find a way to improve,” Allen said. “Yeah, there’s no doubt at this stage after playing this many games, you get guys that get down and get discouraged, and we’ve got to battle that, without question. That’s where your leadership comes in from your players and coaches, as well.”

Indiana has games against Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan State and Purdue to close out the 2023 season.

While the goal at the start of the season of making a bowl game is still in play, needing four more wins seems like an absolute unlikely task that Indiana can accomplish.

“Well, the past is the past. We have a big challenge ahead of us, all we can do is focus on the future,” Indiana defensive back Nic Toomer said after the loss. “We still can make a bowl game. That’s our goal right now, so just putting that behind us and going back to work.”

Indiana’s once very promising stretch has turned into anything but. And with little promise on the horizon, there is a large cloud over the Indiana football program and lots of questions that continue to arise.

“Not a good situation to be in. Not a good place to be, without question,” Allen said. “But it falls on me. I’m the one in charge. I’m the one responsible. This is on me.”

“We’re all locked arms, and we’re all in this together. It’s what we are. It’s what we do. You just continue to teach how to handle challenging times and how to handle a chance to put the stake in the ground and change momentum, which is what we need to do.”

SEE ALSO: Indiana Football dropped to 0-4 in Big Ten Play after Homecoming loss to Rutgers

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.