BLOOMINGTON — Indiana receiver Shane Wynn cannot defy gravity. Isaac Newton told us that.
Or was it Vince Lombardi?
No matter. Wynn had a key catch in a key moment to help propel the Hoosiers over Illinois. He hopes to do something similar Saturday at Wisconsin.
What does that have to do with gravity?
Consider Wynn's how-to-catch-a-ball strategy.
“I try to stop in the air and catch it,” he said, “then push my weight down to stay in bounds.”
“But the little weight I have carried me right out of bounds.”
To get what that means, you must understand Wynn, who is small in stature, big in game. In particular, you must understand his seemingly gravity-defying catch against Illinois that was spectacular enough to generate "SportsCenter" TV time.
First, Wynn is listed at 5-foot-7 and 170 pounds. By comparison, fellow receiver Cody Latimer is 6-foot-3 and 215. Another receiver, Kofi Hughes, is 6-foot-2 and 217.
Wynn has surpassed 100 catches and 1,000 receiving yards for his career, one of 18 Hoosiers to do so. He ranks fourth in the Big Ten with seven touchdown catches. He's caught 29 passes for 510 yards this season, which is 17.6 yards a reception
Wynn's prime-time moment came Saturday while soaring through the air to catch a Nate Sudfeld pass. He caught the ball and somehow managed to get a leg down in bounds before flying off the field.
The initial call was that he was out of bounds, but a review changed it to a completion.
“I saw the pass coming and knew I had to dive,” he said. “It was like, 'Oh, man. Here we go.'
“During the play, I hurt my ribs, so I didn't see the replay on the big screen (scoreboard). When I got to the huddle, (quarterback Tre Roberson) said, 'You caught the pass.' (Receiver Isaiah Roundtree) said, 'You caught the pass.'
“I said, 'The ref just told me I was out of bounds. What are you talking about?'"
Wynn found out. He's even seen it replayed on ESPN.
Can he make similar catches against bruising Wisconsin? The No. 17 Badgers (7-2 overall, 4-1 in the Big Ten) are known for powerful running (10th nationally at 280.6 yards a game), but now they have a defense to match it. They rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (15.2 points allowed) and eighth in rushing defense (98.4 yards allowed).
Chris Borland is one of the nation's best linebackers. He leads Wisconsin with 70 tackles, 5.5 for loss and 4.0 sacks. His 16 tackles against Ohio State are the most by a Big Ten player this year.
Also, Wisconsin is 11-1 at Camp Randall Stadium since 2006, outscoring opponents by 23.3.
The Hoosiers (4-5, 2-3) know all about that. Their average margin of defeat in their last three trips there is 48.3 points. They have lost eight straight times to the Badgers overall.
“They're a pretty solid all-around team,” Wynn said in understatement.
As for the Hoosiers being intimidated despite being 24-point underdogs, well, Wynn wants none of that.
“Every team is hungry to play a team that's ranked,” he said. “You get their A game. We have to go in with a chip on our shoulders. Don't let this game get too big. Just face the battle you have in front of you.”
That battle figures to get the fiercest for IU's battered defense. It must stop the run without getting burned by play-action passes. It must tackle like a college team and not like a junior high squad. It must pressure the quarterback, preferably without blitzing. When it sends six defenders against five blockers, somebody better get to the Badger with the ball.
Did we mention it must not get burned by play-action passes?
“We know they'll come out physical,” safety Greg Heban said. “We can't lay down the first couple of quarters to give them the momentum they seek. It will be big for us to punch back, to throw the first punch.”
Wisconsin has scored at least 52 points in five of the last seven meetings. In the last three meetings the Badgers have scored 83, 59 and 62 points.
“The way we've played against them the last couple of years puts a bigger chip on our shoulders,” Heban said. “They haven't played this Indiana team. We're excited about this challenge.”
As for Wisconsin, coach Gary Anderson put it this way:
“We've got to do what we do. We've got to run the ball, hopefully get a little bit more of the play action game going and continue to protect the quarterback.”