Coming off its first of two bye weeks, IU football will attempt to earn its first homecoming game win since 2010 on Saturday at noon against Rutgers.
At Monday’s weekly media session, IU head coach Tom Allen said the team “had a really productive week together” while resting and watching film. The Hoosiers, 3-2 overall and 0-2 in Big Ten play, look to build upon their most recent performance although it was a loss.
Here are three takeaways.
Defense was a focal point during bye week.
The coaching staff’s number one concern out of the team’s breakdown in the 40-31 loss at Michigan State was far and away the defense.
Having it come right before a bye week gave the defense more time for that to sink in and to respond positively.
IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack mentioned the Monday practice following the MSU game was the most “locked-in” he had seen the defensive players since his arrival earlier this year.
“Really thought just the urgency to get better with our defensive guys was there and the energy that they brought in practice, the way they communicated,” Wommack said. “There’s things that we have to continue to work and clean up, and that’s what bye weeks are really for.”
The Hoosier defense allowed 442 total yards to the Spartans and failed to force a turnover. IU let up a combined 33 points in the second and fourth quarters.
IU doesn’t want to get complacent with Rutgers.
The Hoosiers are favored to beat the Scarlet Knights by more than three touchdowns this weekend, but Allen couldn’t care less.
“Been in this league long enough to know those things are irrelevant,” Allen said. “They've got a unique situation they're in right now, but we have no control over that. And all we can control is how we prepare.”
Rutgers recently fired its head coach and offensive coordinator and redshirted a few key players, so IU’s coaching staff has limited film of exactly what it’s going to see. Although the Scarlet Knight game plan shouldn’t be all that different, the Hoosiers want to stay on their toes.
“We’re never gonna feel comfortable or feel like we’ve arrived,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said. “We’re just gonna keep moving forward one day at a time.”
Allen, DeBoer and Wommack all emphasized the focus of the next team up and not looking any further into the schedule. During IU’s bye week, however, its next two opponents – Rutgers and Maryland – played each other, giving the coaching staff a chance to double-down on scouting.
Progression is a key leading up to second bye week.
Allen not only watched Maryland and Rutgers play this past weekend, he also watched some other Big Ten teams IU is still yet to meet.
The way the Hoosiers’ schedule breaks down, they play two home and two road games before their next bye week. Then leading up to IU’s clash with Purdue in West Lafayette to conclude the regular season, it has its marquee matchups at Penn State and versus Michigan.
Allen talked to the players about the mental and physical progressions that come with their remaining schedule, but in the end he just wants to see improvements out of individuals and the team as a whole every day.
“We just gotta keep getting better every time we take the field and every time we strap it up on Saturdays,” Allen said. “That’s the goal, but we have to have a great plan for that and our guys have to buy into that. So I think that's what we set out to do, and I feel good about the direction we're going.”
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