Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Saturday, March 2
The Indiana Daily Student

sports football

Bye week allows team to heal from nagging injuries


Despite a roster depleted by season-ending injuries at several positions, the Hoosiers have more of one thing heading into Saturday’s road contest with Michigan State than they have had all season: time.

Last week brought the Hoosiers’ annual bye week and a chance to recuperate from injuries and refocus on fundamentals.

“I think it’s a benefit,” senior linebacker Leon Beckum said. “It makes you rest your body. A lot of us are kind of beat up. It gives us time to relax a little bit, refocus. It’s beneficial. It’s not making us rusty or anything.”

Beckum is one of a number of Hoosiers who has missed time with injuries this season.

Several players, including senior right tackle Josh Hager and sophomore wide receiver Duwyce Wilson, have been lost for the season, while others, such as sophomore quarterback Dusty Kiel, true freshman right tackle Peyton Eckert and junior defensive tackle Mick Mentzer, will probably not play this week due to ongoing injuries.

Junior center Will Matte missed the last three games due to an injury, the first time in his IU career he has been sidelined.

He is expected back against Michigan State and listed as the starter at center. Redshirt freshman Collin Rahrig, who started at center in Matte’s absence, has moved back to right guard.

“It was perfect timing,” Matte said. “I pretty much healed up completely, and I know a lot of guys got to go home and regenerate. It just helped our bodies get back, and that’s always important deep in the season. It was good that we had that where it was.

“It’s been really weird these past few weeks sitting out. It definitely wasn’t enjoyable at all, so I’m happy I’ll be able to get back against a talented team and prove myself.”

Given the plethora of injuries the team has encountered, though, some in the program wish the bye week had come earlier in the season. Last season, IU’s bye week came after its first game.

“Unfortunately, ours was toward the end of the season, so it was kind of a grind early on,” Co-Offensive Coordinator Rod Smith said. “It would have been nice to have had it at the beginning of the year, but it is what it is. You play the cards dealt to you, and you move forward.”

The No. 12 Spartans are the second-highest ranked team the Hoosiers have faced this season, aside from Wisconsin.

Like the Badgers, the Spartans employ a balanced offense featuring quarterback Kirk Cousins and running backs Edwin Baker and Le’Veon Bell.

“They’re big,” Co-Defensive Coordinator Mike Ekeler said. “They’re physical. Obviously, they have a phenomenal senior leader in the quarterback, the running backs. They’re loaded. They’re loaded at the skill positions.

“They’re a great team. There’s a reason they won the Big Ten last year, and there’s a reason they’re in the position they’re in right now.”

Senior linebacker Jeff Thomas sees similarities to a different Big Ten opponent IU has already seen this season.

“They’re a similar team to Ohio State,” Thomas said. “They like to run the ball with power. They like to stretch. It’s a lot of the things we’ve seen before with Ohio State.

“It’s just their quarterback can throw a little bit better than Ohio State’s, but Michigan State’s is not as mobile. We’re just taking our Ohio State game plan, tweaking it and doing our own thing with it.”

IU Coach Kevin Wilson said IU’s game with Ohio State was among their best performances this year. He hopes the team takes a similar approach against Michigan State  but emerges with a different result.

“I thought to some degree we went on the road to Ohio State with a greater sense of energy and a greater sense of purpose, a greater sense of confidence,” Wilson said.
“We battled and didn’t get it done, so we’re disappointed and frustrated by that. Our goal wasn’t to be close. We thought we could win that game, and we didn’t. Our goal this week in going to Michigan State is to put a plan together that we think will give us a chance to win.”

Get stories like this in your inbox