Allen sees IU reaping benefits of bye week

Nine consecutive weeks of football took a toll on Indiana.

Tom Allen saw it in the way his team played and practiced, and how it handled a four-game losing streak emotionally and mentally.

“You get worn down,” the IU coach said.

Since the bye week three weeks ago, Allen feels he’s seen the difference the getaway has made. The Hoosiers held on for a crucial win over Maryland two weeks ago, then posted the most yards Michigan’s tough defense has allowed all season in Saturday’s eventual loss to the Wolverines.

This is still a young and flawed Indiana team, one that has backed itself against the wall approaching this weekend’s regular-season finale against Purdue. But as his Hoosiers inch closer to the all-important Old Oaken Bucket game and their chance to clinch bowl eligibility on Saturday afternoon, Allen sees a team that looks sharp and is playing with a sense of purpose.

“I do think that the time away gave us a chance to get our bodies back and get our guys ready to have a strong finish,” Allen said. “That’s what the objective was, and so far they’ve responded. It’s really going to be critical that they finish the job.”

There’s that word again. Whether it’s finishing big games or finishing the season, Indiana is still trying to prove it can win when it matters most.

This is the second consecutive year that both IU and Purdue will need a regular-season ending victory to earn a bowl bid. The Hoosiers knew the stakes entering last year’s game, yet found themselves sleepwalking through the first three quarters of that contest in West Lafayette, eventually falling 31-24 and losing the Bucket after four straight seasons of possession.

“The way we lost last year, we didn’t like it at all,” safety Jonathan Crawford said.

This year, the Hoosiers feel like they’re equipped to get the Bucket back. That’s particularly the case on offense, where IU has received two of quarterback Peyton Ramsey’s best efforts of the year coming out of the bye.

Ramsey and the IU offense have made a more concerted effort to be aggressive and look downfield, complementing a running game that has established positive, consistent results during the second half of the season.

From Allen’s point of view, the bye week seemed to provide an important opportunity for his team to refresh themselves and reset their season.

With only one more game guaranteed to them, the Hoosiers now look like a team that’s capable of beating their rivals to the north.

To Allen, the chance to step away went a long way.

“I think that break came at a great time for us and allowed us to get ourselves physically and (mentally) rested, and to kind of get a chance to reset yourself a little bit,” Allen said. “… So I think the time off is just a refresher, and I think we did a good job, it appears, of getting our guys to maximize that.”