Doyel: The Hoosiers did this to themselves. They took this special season and stained it.

Gregg Doyel
Indianapolis Star

That was no way for such a special IU football season to end, with vomit on the field and disrespect in the humid Gulf Coast air, but it’s what we have: The Hoosiers’ best season in half a century finding a disgusting ending in a second-tier bowl against a second-rate SEC program.

Around here, Indiana’s 26-20 loss to the below-.500 Rebels in the Outback Bowl will go down about as well as whatever Ole Miss cornerback Tylan Knight had for breakfast, but the Hoosiers have no choice but to swallow their pride and accept the ugliness coming their way. The Hoosiers did it to themselves, removing the Big Ten logo from their jerseys and helmets, an act of defiance bordering on sedition, though IU coach Tom Allen has said his program “did not intend to show any disrespect to anyone” and remains “a proud member of the Big Ten.”

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Whether it was intentional or not — and how can the removal of both Big Ten logos be anything but intentional? — the wardrobe dysfunction made national headlines and put a magnifying glass on IU. The Hoosiers responded by surrendering almost 500 yards to a 4-5 Ole Miss team without its top two receivers, its No. 1 tight end and its leading rusher.

No, this won’t go over well nationally. To say nothing of how IU fans will take this. The thing is, the Hoosiers did this to themselves. They took this special season, and they stained it. Picture Tylan Knight, the Ole Miss cornerback, suffering in the 80-degree, 80% humidity of a sunny Tampa afternoon and vomiting — projectile style — seconds before an IU offensive snap late in the third quarter.

That’s how this bowl experience feels, right now, for IU.

Jack Tuttle's shoulder was jacked

IU quarterback Jack Tuttle played the second half — throwing the ball 23 more times, running quarterback sneaks into the teeth of the Ole Miss defense, flipping after one 9-yard carry onto his right arm — with a separated right shoulder.

That’s a fact. Read it again.

IU coach Tom Allen nonchalantly dropped that tidbit into his postgame media briefing on Zoom, answering a question about Tuttle’s shoulder pain from IndyStar IU insider Zach Osterman by saying Tuttle “had a separation in his shoulder. We did an X-Ray (at halftime). Thought it might be a broken collarbone. It was not the case.

“He just had to suck it up.”

Before anyone gets outraged — I’m aware that’s what we do as a society: Get outraged first, ask questions never — understand something: Tom Allen isn’t going to risk the long-term health of Tuttle, or anyone, just to win a stinking Outback Bowl game. Tuttle was dealing with an issue of pain, not structural damage, and we’ve already seen how tough the kid is. Remember the Wisconsin game, when he took a shot to the head, went to the locker room, and then came sprinting back onto the field before backup QB Dexter Williams could take his place?

Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Jack Tuttle (14) sits on the field after throwing the incomplete pass on fourth down against the Mississippi Rebels at the end of the fourth quarter of the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Ole Miss defeated Indiana 26-20.

Tuttle was playing with pain Saturday, and he wasn’t hiding it. He was grabbing his shoulder after throws, or he was hunching over in agony — picture him in the standing version of the fetal position — but he stayed on the field. He wasn’t throwing the ball terribly well after taking a shot late in the first half, and with almost no success down the field, but he was giving IU a chance.

Before the injury Tuttle was 13-for-17, but for just 84 yards. He was dinking and dunking, mainly hooking up with Whop Philyor, who set a Big Ten bowl record with 18 catches (for 81 yards), but after the injury Tuttle went into a 1-for-11 slump where he threw his only interception, a woefully underthrown pass downfield for Philyor.

Tuttle did some of his best work after the injury on the ground, converting a fourth-and-1 sneak on a touchdown drive by finding a hole on the right side of the IU line, then converting a third-and-2 sneak to the Ole Miss 33 with less than two minutes left. Alas, that was his final highlight. Tuttle’s next throw was a 2-yard loss to Philyor, and then he took a 6-yard sack. He threw incompletions on third and fourth down, and that was that.

Soon Ole Miss was taking a knee and Tom Allen was walking to midfield to shake the hand of Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin. That was quite the meeting of coaches’ sons: Allen, unselfish and self-made, who got his start at the high school level; and Kiffin, a silver-spooned and bombastic fool who was gifted his breakthrough job at Southern California by USC coach Pete Carroll, who was repaying a debt to Lane’s daddy, longtime NFL coach Monte Kiffin.

Lane Kiffin put an end to the Hoosiers’ special season? Gag me.

But let’s see the bright side here.

Logo-Gate required better response

Bowl games don’t matter. Not bowl games like this one, anyway. That’s the bright side, and it’s completely true. For proof, understand this: Tom Herman went 4-0 in bowl games in four seasons at Texas, including a 55-23 blowout on Tuesday of Colorado, and he was fired Saturday. Because bowl games, these bowl games anyway, don’t matter.

More proof: Remember what happened a year ago in Florida, when IU blew a 13-point lead in the fourth quarter of a 23-22 loss to Tennessee in the Gator Bowl? That 2019 ending was so debilitating, the Hoosiers went 6-1 in 2020, beating Penn State and Michigan and Michigan State and Wisconsin, and providing Ohio State more competition in a 42-35 loss on Nov. 21 than No. 2 Clemson gave the Buckeyes on Friday night in the Sugar Bowl.

But then, that was a different IU team than the one that tried to dink-and-dunk its way past Ole Miss on Saturday. Tuttle is a different quarterback than Michael Penix, who takes shots down the field. Tuttle? He completed 18 passes Saturday to the most explosive player on IU’s roster, Philyor, for a grand total of 81 yards.

IU’s defense was the bigger issue, though. The offense was serviceable — Tuttle threw for 201 yards, and Stevie Scott ran for 99 and two touchdowns — and the special teams were terrific. Charles Campbell booted field goals of 50 and 53 yards, the latter an IU bowl record, and Haydon Whitehead averaged 55 yards on three punts, with a net of 49.3 and a long of 64.

But Ole Miss torched the IU defense for 493 yards despite being so thin at receiver that reserve quarterback J.R. Plumlee had to be moved there this week. And Plumlee caught five passes for 73 yards, including a 44-yarder that led to Ole Miss’ tie-breaking touchdown with 4:12 left.

The Hoosiers couldn’t handle Ole Miss’ tempo, certainly not on a day when the muggy conditions had players on both teams suffering cramps and IU shuffling left tackles and Ole Miss’ Tylan Knight vomiting all over the field moments before Tuttle completed a 5-yard pass to Philyor on third-and-6 at the Ole Miss 41.

Afterward, Tom Allen sounded more hoarse than usual — seriously — and said he was “just heartbroken for them … at the end of the day I’m the head coach, and this falls on me.”

As for Logo-Gate, not Allen or anyone else at IU will say what happened to the conference logos missing from the helmets and jerseys of an IU program that was utterly forsaken this season by the Big Ten. Was it an accident, or a message? Allen deferred after the game to his statement on Friday, when he issued a non-denial denial about the Hoosiers’ intentions.

You ask me, removing the Big Ten logo from its uniform was a stroke of belligerent brilliance for an IU football program that wasn’t treated fairly this season by the league. But such a symbolic statement requires something of substance on the field, not a 26-20 loss to an Ole Miss team with a losing record and a loser head coach and a cornerback puking all over the field where this IU season just ended.

Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/gregg.doyel.