IU is finally back in game week mode, preparing for this Saturday’s Outback Bowl.
Head coach Tom Allen met with the media on Monday afternoon to discuss the latest with his team and their bowl game week preparations. Below are some of Allen’s more noteworthy comments.
Indiana (6-1) and Ole Miss (4-5) will kick at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Tampa, Fla.
NOT YOUR TYPICAL BOWL GAME WEEK
Playing in a bowl game is about much more than the game.
In a normal year both teams arrive nearly a week before the game, hold several practices, and attend various events.
Not surprisingly, the pandemic has caused the schools and event organizers to dial-back the schedule.
“Because of COVID-19, you will not have the events or go to any amusement parks or anything like that or go to beach or things you usually do around the game at this location,” Allen said. “But you still get a chance to go down there a couple of days early, so it is not like a true road game.”
Allen said the team is leaving for Tampa on Wednesday, and they will get to enjoy a “taste of Florida” meal for the players at the team hotel Thursday.
TEAM GETTING CLOSER TO FULL STRENGTH
It has taken a while, but after pausing all team activities in early December due to a COVID-19 outbreak that impacted 28 players and coaches, the Hoosiers are back close to full strength.
“The whole group’s not back yet, but we are getting closer,” Allen said. “We may have them all back (Tuesday). We do not know yet. But definitely getting closer to that. You would like to get them all back at least by Wednesday so you can have a chance to get a full practice in before we head out of here. But ideally you get them back tomorrow and you got two practices in pads. Bottom line is that is still yet to be determined but definitely have a lot more guys back than we had before.”
Indiana will continue practicing at a local high school in Tampa later in the week.
TUTTLE SHOULD BE READY TO GO
Indiana starting quarterback Jack Tuttle will end up waiting nearly a month to start his second game.
The Hoosiers week eight and nine contests were both canceled due to the team’s COVID-19 situation, meaning Tuttle missed multiple opportunities to gain valuable experience.
“I think you would like to have him obviously, the more you play the better it is, but cannot control any of that, cannot change any of that stuff that happened in the past,” Allen said.
Instead Allen is choosing an optimistic outlook. He likes that Tuttle is still coming off leading his team to a win over Wisconsin in Madison.
“It is always a great thing to be able to have your last experience of playing and being the starter like it was there up in Wisconsin and the way we played and were able to finish out that game and get the big road win against a ranked opponent,” Allen said. “So it was huge for him, huge for his confidence and I think that he will carry that into the bowl game.”
On the season, Tuttle is 18-of-27 passing for 161 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The long layoff should be nothing new to Tuttle, who hadn’t started a game before Wisconsin since his high school days back in 2017.
SHAKING OFF THE RUST
Any bowl game follows an abnormally long layoff, but when coupled with Indiana’s pause of team activities, Allen has legitimate concerns about his team’s readiness on Saturday.
After playing seven Big Ten games in seven weeks, there were no doubt some benefits to the time off as players were able to rest and refresh their bodies.
But how much is too much?
To keep his guys sharp, Allen has cranked up the competition level at practice.
“That has been a challenge, and you’ve just got to stay sharp,” Allen said. “That is why we have done some ones versus ones even last week to try to keep our guys sharp going against each other and not doing as much scout work. Just trying to simulate game situations and keep our guys focused and locked in for that.”
On the other side of the ball will be an Ole Miss team that just played on Dec. 19.
But like everything in 2020, it’s not about what is fair or normal — it’s about how you adapt.
“I think anytime you have a delay you are concerned about it, but once again just like anything else as this year has shown, we just have to adapt and find creative ways to keep our guys ready to play so when we do play on Jan. 2 we are at our best,” Allen added.
END THE BOWL GAME DROUGHT BY FOCUSING ON A BOWL GAME LOSS?
That is the last time Indiana won a bowl game. The players from that team are right around 50 years old now, give or take.
Allen often says that he wants to focus on controlling what he can control, and not dwell on the past.
But winning a bowl game has been a program goal since Allen took over in late 2016, and his Hoosier let that achievement slip away in January at the Gator Bowl.
With less than seven minutes remaining in Jacksonville, IU punted the ball to Tennessee holding a 22-9 lead.
Allen is intent on not repeating the same mistakes that cost Indiana its first bowl game win in nearly 30 years.
“I choose not to forget about things like that, in a positive way,” Allen said. “That’s where you talk about earmuffs and blinders. It doesn’t mean we’re deaf and blind. Those things are filters. There are things from that game that I don’t want us to ever forget.”
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