About this time last year, most of the Indiana football team's freshmen had already finished, or were close to finishing, their high school football seasons. A year ago, the speed was slower and intensity not as high as the college game.
So it's understandable that those players were probably feeling a little tired and ready for a week of recovery after the Michigan State game, the second-straight game IU's defense gave up at least 540 yards of total offense.
"The bye week's always a great week, especially at the timing it came at," redshirt junior safety Chase Dutra said. "We've had a lot of tough games lately, a lot hard battles all the way until the end, so this week off really allowed a lot of the players who played and some of the players who didn't play as much, it helped them more mentally throughout the week. They get a lot more reps than the ones did, obviously. All around, it help the whole team."
Dutra, the most experienced returning defensive back this season, has played in a secondary which has rotated at least four freshmen into it every week. Safety Jonathan Crawford is one of them, and according to IU defensive coordinator Brian Knorr, he has played over 500 snaps so far this season.
The Hoosier defense played 96 snaps against Michigan State on Oct. 24, but it felt like more.
"Defense, I know we had around 100-plus reps or something on Saturday versus Michigan State, so coming into the bye week it was a lot refreshment throughout the body, recovering," Dutra said. "It gave us a jump on Iowa and it gives us more time to see what they're doing with their tendencies are. So more of a mental engagement early in the week with the bye week, and then throughout the week we were just recovering our bodies."
Having that extra time to learn Iowa's tendencies was beneficial for the Hoosiers, who will face the fifth-ranked scoring offense in the Hawkeyes this Saturday. The Hawkeyes, ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25, have averaged 32.6 points per game through eight games this season and have the sixth-best total offense in the Big Ten.
Iowa also has been known for its long drives this season, averaging 33 minutes and 26 seconds per game for time of possesion - third in the conference.
With the chance to be on the field for a long time this Saturday, the bye week last week was much needed for Indiana's young secondary. After Iowa, its remaining three games are at home against No. 16 Michigan, on the road at Maryland then on the road at Purdue. It's a challenging four-game slate for a secondary that will be critical in Indiana making the postseason for the first time since 2007.
"Some of those young guys, a chance for them to catch their breath," Knorr said. "We didn't practice them that hard. They had time off. But we still were able to prep for Iowa, so I think they'll be very well prepared for Iowa yet I think they'll have that energy they need for that November run."