Ball Durham Pinstripe Bowl Q&A

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This week’s Ball Durham Mailbag features a Pinstripe Bowl Q&A with Brian Fox who’s the editor and a writer for IU athletics on FanSided’s Hoosier State of Mind. Check out our Duke-Indiana bowl game preview below and make sure to send in your questions on anything about the Blue Devils next week:

1. Both Duke and Indiana have always been labeled as “basketball schools”, and rightfully so considering the histories of both of the men’s basketball programs. Kevin Wilson is taking the Hoosiers to their first bowl game as the head coach, so what do you think this means for the future of the Indiana football program?

The last 3-4 years we’ve been hearing such positive things about how “this is the recruiting class that turns the defense around”, which we’re obviously still waiting for. But Wilson can coach offense. We saw what we did with Sam Bradford at Oklahoma, and now with Nate Sudfeld here at IU. Not only that, but Wilson’s work with the offensive line (He’s a former offensive lineman himself) has been phenomenal, producing two All-Americans this year in Jason Spriggs and Dan Feeney. The fan base is definitely optimistic, as IU took one of the biggest attendance leaps this year. Playing in the Big Ten East is always going to be a challenge, but there is definitely more optimism for the future than there’s been since Wilson took over. Going to the Pinstripe Bowl is a vindication of years of hard work.

2. What are some of the similarities that you have seen between the Duke and Indiana football teams this year?

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Both teams started strong before fading down the stretch because of injuries, losing quite a few games that should have been won. Most of the losses came in a deflating losing streak, but I think the big difference for Indiana is that the Hoosiers finished the year with a huge win over their rival, Purdue, on the road. Indiana is probably the most upbeat .500 team in the history of college football, and the offense especially is playing with a ton of confidence.

3. It seems that running back Jordan Howard might be able to play in the Pinstripe Bowl after suffering an injury earlier this season. Can you talk about what his return would mean for the Hoosiers and the impact he’s had on the offense?

I don’t know if I can quantify just how huge his return would be. Howard only played six full games this year (and was limited by injuries in parts of three others), and was still named First Team All-Big Ten. He was leading the country in rushing after four games, right before his injury troubles started against Ohio State. I don’t think it’s ridiculous to suggest that he’s an All-American if he plays all 12 games. In his absence, Devine Redding has been solid and freshman Mike Majette has been a big surprise. But Howard’s return would mean that Duke has to respect Indiana’s run game, and cannot just sit back in coverage to try to take away Sudfeld. Whereas Tevin Coleman had dynamic breakaway speed, Howard is a workhorse who can carry the ball 35 times and pick up six yards per carry. Iowa and Michigan were thought to have two of the best run defenses in the country, but Howard gashed them for a combined 412 yards and four touchdowns.

4. Indiana started the season 4-0, then lost six straight before winning their last two games which they needed to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. What do you think was the major cause of the losing streak and how much momentum do the Hoosiers have heading into the Pinstripe Bowl?

I realize injuries happen in football, but Indiana just does not have the depth to deal with injuries to its two best players, Sudfeld and Howard. Losing both of those guys against Ohio State was crippling, but IU still had a fourth and goal with time expiring where they could have tied the game! Against Penn State, missing both those guys meant nothing happened offensively. All of those close calls against top-ranked teams were one gut punch after another, especially the Iowa and Michigan games back-to-back. It got to the point where it felt like this season was another missed opportunity, much like last season where Sudfeld got hurt in October against Iowa and the Hoosiers limped to a 4-8 record. Having Maryland and Purdue, arguably the two worst teams in the Big Ten, at the end of the season was a godsend. Indiana was able to move the ball at will even without Howard, and as I said earlier the Hoosiers have all the confidence in the world right now.

Next: Duke-Indiana Pinstripe Bowl Predictions

5. To return the favor on the basketball question, why do you think the Hoosiers have struggled so far this season after being a preseason Top 25 team and how can they turn their year around?

In the preseason, Coach Crean stressed again and again that minutes would be determined based on defense, and so far that hasn’t been the case. IU has fallen behind in games due to “matador” defense, so Crean has played good offensive players in an attempt to cut into the deficit, which usually only exacerbates the problem. The win over Notre Dame was huge, and the second half of that game was indicative of how good the Hoosiers can be if they play to their strengths. It comes down to being unselfish and decisive on offense, and helping (but not over-rotating) on defense. Considering how bad the Big Ten has looked outside of Michigan State, Purdue, and Maryland, I still think Indiana can right the ship and be a fringe contender for the conference title.

6. And finally, what’s your Pinstripe Bowl score prediction?

I like Indiana in a shootout, 42-38.