Kevin Wilson thought his IU team was ready for Wisconsin.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – Ticket scalpers worked the parking lot at Memorial Stadium Saturday. ESPN.com dispatched one of its Big Ten football bloggers to Indiana for the first time in his career at the web site. He's worked there five seasons.
A bowl scout was in the house to watch Wisconsin and their Heisman Trophy candidate, Montee Ball, as well as the Indiana football team.
Get this: The loudest cheers were not reserved for members of Tom Crean's basketball team.
Then the football game between Indiana and Wisconsin began.
"We just kind of got spanked in all areas," Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said.
Whack, whack. The coach was talking about Wisconsin's jumbo-sized, 62-14, victory.
"They imposed their will on us," he said. "We didn't try to make this game bigger than it was, but we didn't handle it well."
The Badgers hit the Hoosiers firmly where they always hit the Hoosiers – right between the tackles. Eight plays, 69 yards, touchdown. Eight plays, 69 yards, touchdown. Eight plays, 59 yards, field goal.
Before you could say, "Cody Zeller," the score was Wisconsin 17, Indiana 0. By the end of the first quarter, it was hard to imagine that anybody had purchased a scalped ticket. The exit poll projections have Wisconsin rushing for a school record yards 564 yards, the sixth largest total in Big Ten history. In this era of pass-happy college football, Wisconsin threw the ball seven times.
"We could have done better," said Flo Hardin, an Indiana linebacker from Ballard High School in Louisville.
From there the Badgers rocked and rolled, squashing any further conversation that the Hoosiers could win the Leaders Division and play in the Big Ten championship game.
This is not a great Wisconsin team. The Badgers are just 7-3. They had scored more than 30 once in their first five games. On Saturday, they relied on a no-name senior quarterback who had never started a game. The last time Curt Phillips (Mr. No-Name) had completed a pass was 2009.
There was another reason the Badgers were only favored by a touchdown. Indiana had won back-to-back Big Ten games. The Hoosiers had scored in 16 consecutive quarters and hung 49 points on Ohio State.
But the gap between the Badgers and Hoosiers stretches from here to Lake Geneva. The strength of this Wisconsin team is between the tackles. Just as it was last season when the Badgers beat IU, 59-7. The weakness of this Indiana team is between the tackles. Just as it was two seasons ago when Wisconsin beat the Hoosiers, 83-20.
That is the definition of a bad matchup – a schematic advantage that Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema pounded and pounded. The average weight of his starting offensive line is 326 pounds. Three of his backs ran for at least 96 yards, led by Montee Ball, who finished with 198 and three touchdowns.
"I don't like it, don't want to like it," Wilson said. "Don't want to have any excuses. We all need to do better."
The gap between the programs isn't as considerable as it has been the last two seasons, but Wilson needs another recruiting class or two to find bigger, faster and more determined players to plug into his lineup, especially at defensive end and linebacker.
At 4-6, Indiana is improved. The combined margin in four of its defeats has been 10 points. Prior to the Wisconsin game, the Hoosiers' offense ranked first in the Big Ten in passing, second in total offense and third in scoring.
The Hoosiers start only three seniors – one on offense. Tre Roberson, Wilson's best quarterback, has not played since breaking his leg in game two. He figures to return next season.
But Wilson is not a big Next Year Guy. IU has already won three more games than last season. He expects them to win more – this season.
Indiana must win its final two to qualify for a bowl, a concept nobody was discussing in August, September or even October. Both games are winnable, but both are on the road – at Penn State next weekend and then the Old Oaken Bucket game at Purdue Nov. 24. IU has never beaten the Nittany Lions. Purdue is a rivalry game.
"If we're worth a flip, we'll keep learning," Wilson said.