They come from different high schools, play different positions, have different roles but are of the same mindset.
Griffin Oakes and Mario Swann aren’t happy with simply getting to a bowl game.
Like their Indiana University football teammates, expect to win the bowl game.
“The big thing for us is, it’s not a game that you just want to be excited we’re in,” said Oakes, the Hoosiers’ standout kicker. “We’re excited to go in there and hopefully get out of there with a win.”
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Swann, a regular contributor on special teams, amplified the sentiment.
“We’re all happy to be in the postseason. All we have to do now is just win the game,” he said. “It’s not just getting to the bowl. It’s winning the game.
“We don’t want to be just participating. We want to be the champion.”
Oakes and Swann will get their shot at a championship on Dec. 26, when the Hoosiers play Duke in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. The postseason berth is IU’s first since 2007, and it is bidding for its first postseason win in nearly 25 years.
Indiana’s most recent bowl victory was in 1991, when it blanked Baylor 24-0 in the Copper Bowl.
Oakes, a Greenwood graduate recently named the Big Ten Kicker of the Year, is confident the Hoosiers (6-6) will end the drought. Coming off respective blowout wins against Maryland and Purdue, they enter the Pinstripe Bowl on a two-game winning streak.
“We’re riding some big quality wins,” Oakes said. “We’re excited to give it all we’ve got.”
A redshirt sophomore who joined the team as a preferred walk-on, Oakes has played a major role in the Hoosiers’ success. Awarded a full scholarship in September, he responded by making 22 of 25 field goal attempts and 48 of 52 extra-point tries, and has scored a team-high 114 points.
Oakes’ impressive season is an extension of last year’s success. He earned the starting job after a few games and made 13 of 18 field goal tries, including a school-record 58 yarder, and connected on all 23 of his extra-point attempts.
With two years of eligibility remaining, Oakes is confident the best is yet to come.
“My big thing is improving every year. I’ve seen major improvements from where I was last year,” he said. “I also see that I have a lot of stuff I can still work on, so I don’t think I’ve cracked the surface of where I could be.
“But it’s exciting to see that people are noticing the stuff that I’m doing.”
Swann, a Center Grove graduate, is also doing what he can to make an impression on the Hoosiers.
A 6-foot-1, 215-pound safety, Swann also joined IU as a walk-on after transferring two years ago from Eastern Michigan. He played in eight games at Eastern Michigan as a true freshmen before deciding the program wasn’t for him.
So he gave up his scholarship for a chance to play for the Hoosiers, a decision for which he has absolutely no regrets.
A regular contributor on special teams, Swann is working toward a larger role next season — and the possibility of earning a scholarship — while at the same time enjoying the postseason ride.
“If it (scholarship) happens, it happens. I’m just doing what I have to do to make that happen,” Swann said. “And if they see fit, I’ll receive one. I’m not worried about that. I’m not waking up every morning thinking, ‘OK, I’ve got to do this to earn something.’ I’m just doing my job because I want to help my team. That’s it.
“This program is second-to-none. I like the whole atmosphere.”
And he likes the Hoosiers’ chances of beating Duke (7-5) in their first postseason appearance in nearly a decade.
“It’s almost unreal. It’s still sinking in. Reality won’t hit until we actually touch down in New York,” Swann said. “Right now, morale’s high. We’re all happy to be in the postseason. I feel like the (momentum) is rolling again, and that’s what we need going into the Pinstripe Bowl.
“We’ll get it done. That’s our mindset, that we’re going to get it done.”
For Oakes, the chance to play in a bowl game is a literal dream come true. And he, like his teammates, plans to make the most if it.
“To play in a bowl game has always been a childhood dream of mine, watching bowl games during Christmas time thinking, ‘Ah, I’ll never be in one of these. It would be awesome, and all that stuff that comes with it,'” Oakes said. “Now that I’m actually getting the opportunity to go out there and play in one of these games, especially at Yankee Stadium, is awesome.”
What: The Pinstripe Bowl
When: 3:30 p.m., Dec. 26
Where: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, New York City
IU’s bowl history
Jan. 1, 1968;Rose Bowl;USC;L 14-3
Dec. 21, 1979;Holiday Bowl;Brigham Young;W 38-37
Dec. 31;1986;All-American Bowl;Florida St.;L 27-13
Jan. 2, 1988;Peach Bowl;Tennessee;L 27-22
Dec. 28, 1988;Liberty Bowl;South Carolina;W 34-10
Dec. 29, 1990;Peach Bowl;Auburn;L 27-23
Dec. 31, 1991;Copper Bowl;Baylor;W 24-0
Dec. 21, 1993;Independence Bowl;Virginia Tech;L 45-20
Dec. 31, 2007;Insight Bowl;Oklahoma St.;L 49-33