BLOOMINGTON -- Two weeks is a long time to stew. Sure, Indiana's football bye week was good for lots of reasons, but you lose a game, lose to an in-state team, lose in the last second when you could have won in a dozen different ways, it eats at you.
Oh, it does one other thing, defensive tackle Larry Black says. It provides a spark.
That's good because on Saturday the Hoosiers open Big Ten play at unbeaten Northwestern and they want to show the Ball State loss was an aberration and not an indication..
“It still kind of hurts, but we have a new chance on Saturday,” Black says. “Getting a loss going into the bye week kind of sits on you. We're trying to get over it, but it's hard. We watched the game film, all the little mistakes we made, including me. I'm starting with myself. I'm happy we have another chance.”
The chance comes with a 2-1 record, but from the Hoosiers' Big Ten perspective, it's 0-0.
“We're excited,” Black says. “It's like the start of a whole new season. It's a time to improve ourselves, prove ourselves. We're ready to take a big step out there.”
The step will come against a Northwestern team that is 4-0 behind an option/spread offense that punishes with the run. It ranks third in the Big Ten in rushing with a 221.2-yard average. It ranks 11th in passing at 186 yards.
The Wildcats use a pair of quarterbacks in Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian. Colter is a run-and-pass threat. He's completed 44-of-65 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. He's also the team's second-leading rusher with 210 yards and two touchdowns.
Siemian is 36-for-52 for 364 yards and a touchdown.
The bottom line, Black says, is pressuring the quarterbacks into mistakes. It means regaining the form that produced eight sacks the first two games and stay away from the zero-sack performance against Ball State.
“When it comes to the pass, we have to make sure we contain (the quarterbacks),” Black says. “We want to rush. We don't want to be so scared we stay at the line and let him throw it all over the place. We want to get a good, solid rush, and stop the run. We have to stop the option stuff, which is a big part of their offense. We're going to have our hands full, but we're up to the challenge.”
A large burden rests with Black, who at 6-2 and 294 pounds seems more than up to it. He leads IU in tackles for loss (4) and in sacks (2). He has nine tackles overall.
“I try to keep it balanced between stopping the run and the pass,” he says. “Of course, you want to stop the run. That's the main thing, but getting those sacks aren't bad. Getting those TFLs aren't bad. You want to be a balanced D-lineman and be great in everything you do. It's hard, but it can be achieved.”
That means assuming a fierce competitor persona.
“I always want to out-do the person above me or whoever I'm going against. If don't do that, I take it personally. It shoots fire into me to achieve what I want to do. It's part of me and part of the sport to always want to be the best I can be.”
And if the best comes from getting three days off because of the bye, all the better.
“It's always helpful to get days off, get your legs back, give your body a rest,” Black says. “We take advantage of those. Now it's time to go full force into the season.
“Coming out to practice (on Monday) my legs were fresh, but after about two days, it's over. The legs are never fresh playing college football. You have to get used to it.”