BLOOMINGTON – And so the Indiana Hoosiers stew. They do more than that, of course, in a season still rich in possibilities, but a bye week after a blowout home loss is not easy on the competitive psyche.
A sun-splashed morning at Memorial Stadium finds defensive tackle Bobby Richardson on edge. This is a good thing, if it pays off in performance.
The Hoosiers are in the midst of a two-week break between the 45-28 Missouri loss and the Oct. 5 Big Ten opener against Penn State (3-1), and Richardson radiates resolve.
“Losing is not OK with us,” he says. “That's how we view it. That's what we talk about after we lose – respond. Even after a win, we have to be better, be stronger. We have to respond.”
IU is 2-2 when 3-1, even 4-0, seemed possible. It is a time for reflection, development and self-evaluation.
And, in the end, perspective.
“It's tough to have a bye now,” Richardson says. “It eats us up. We're ready to go again, attack the next team. We have two weeks to wait. It's time to wait and learn and be better.”
Coach Kevin Wilson gave the team Sunday off, then followed with three straight rigorous practice days. Richardson calls it “thumping every day.”
Wilson wants a team on the attack, something he didn't see against Missouri. The bye week, which also includes off time to heal bruises and refresh spirits, is designed to foster that.
“It's about evaluating play calling and preparing, how can we find a run game, how can we stop a run game, how can we be a team that stays in rhythm,” he says.
Wilson wants the Hoosiers playing as well as they practice. That's only happened in spurts.
“We've had good practices, but that's all talk. We need to take our practice habits and performance to the game.
“We had a coach show 25 clips of preseason at his position and then show game clips and ask, which looks better. (The players) said preseason. Take your practice to the game.You did it against us. Where was it on Saturday (against Missouri)?”
One solution: Lighten up.
“Everybody talks about being 'sound,'” Wilson says. “I use the phrase 'reasonably sound,' because when you're playing fast, you won't be perfect. If you try to be perfect on defense to stop everything, you're thinking too much to play hard enough, fast enough, physical enough.”
It's a problem, Wilson adds, that's affected quarterback Tre Roberson. Losing the starting battle to Nate Sudfeld has left him pressing instead of just playing.
“It's like the golfer thinking so much he can't release the club,” Wilson says. “I was talking to Tre the other day and told him to see it and rip it. He's not as pure a passer as other guys. See it and rip it. He's done that the last week and a half. He's been better.
“The players want to do well. The coaches want to do well. Make sure we as coaches don't get in the way. We need to coach the effort, attitude and being sound. Get our guys lined up, get our eyes where they need to be and attack the ball. Be fundamentally clean and then let's play harder.”
As for Sudfeld, there's plenty to learn from his three-interception effort against Missouri. Wilson says the lack of a running game (IU rushed for 98 yards on 26 carries), play calling, pass blocking and pregame preparation contributed to that.
“The protection is breaking down, you're getting second and long, third and long, you're getting one-dimensional,” Wilson says. “He didn't have a lot of help.
“He didn't play poorly, but you look average if you get hung out to dry, and he got hung out. He responded. He'll learn and grow from it.”
All the Hoosiers need to do the same.