BLOOMINGTON | The age-old question has arisen for the Indiana football program: "Are we there yet?"
Three weeks ago, Indiana trailed Northwestern 27-0 in the second half, rallied to get within eight points before losing 44-29. The next week, the Hoosiers led Michigan State 27-17 at the end of the third before losing 31-27.
Last week, the Hoosiers (2-4) trailed No. 7 Ohio State big before scoring two late touchdowns and losing 52-49.
So, are the Hoosiers there yet?
Coach Kevin Wilson's answer is a resounding no.
"I told my kids the other day as a team, 'Don't start acting like my kids when they were little, and every time we were going somewhere, they say, 'Well, when are we going to get there?'" he said. "My answer was, 'We're going to get there when we get there. We've got to keep going because we're not going to win, we're not going to get there until we get there, and we've got to keep going.
"So, just like my little kids complaining about it, if we stop, we're never going to get there. So quit worrying about it, quit complaining about it, let's keep fighting, let's keep going down the road and see if we can get there."
Wilson believes there is something to be said for almost being there, he just doesn't want his team to be satisfied with it. There's some buzz in Bloomington because the program hasn't been successful enough in recent years for fans to be too upset with the losses, and being close is an improvement.
Competitive might be good enough for the fans, but not for Wilson.
"We're trying to address it just internally that too many people maybe around here can congratulate you on almost winning because we have struggled," he said. "And at the same time, that needs to be a sign of confidence. You're getting better. You should feel good about yourself, but you need to keep pushing."
It won't be easy Saturday at Navy. The Midshipmen (3-3) have bounced back after getting pummeled 50-10 against Notre Dame in Ireland and 34-7 against Penn State and have won three of four, including a 28-21 overtime victory over Air Force two weeks ago.
Coach Ken Niumatalolo's team averages 231.7 yards rushing per game using the triple option; the Hoosiers already allow 221.2 yards rushing per contest and have struggled against mobile quarterbacks. Northwestern's Kain Colter ran for 161 yards and three touchdowns against the Hoosiers. Last week, Ohio State's Braxton Miller rambled for 149 yards and a score.
Navy quarterbacks Keenan Reynolds and Trey Miller have combined for 390 yards on 128 carries in six games this season.
Wilson said he went out to Air Force over the summer to learn how to run the option in hopes of figuring out how to stop it. He said Navy's wishbone is tough to defend because it is capable of gaining chunks of yardage off of play-action passes. Reynolds passed for 134 yards on just six completions last week in a 31-13 win over Central Michigan.
"This team is very difficult," Wilson said. "Everybody talks about their option, their wishbone, but what really makes it difficult is how they put it all together."
If the Hoosiers don't play disciplined assignment defense against Navy, the positive vibes built from three weeks of improved football could vanish. Wilson said this week's game will offer a test of his team's mental approach.
"Just because you got close or just because you made some strides, if you don't keep coming, you were just a pretender," he said. "You gave a nice try, but you gave in. Really good teams get tougher, stronger, better down the stretch. As we build, the guys have to embrace that. We'll see if we can."