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Indiana Begins Unusual Bowl Week Preparation

Indiana coach Tom Allen barks out instructions through a megaphone at practice.

Indiana coach Tom Allen barks out instructions through a megaphone at practice. (Indiana University Athletics)

The Indiana football team has almost everyone back from COVID-19 protocols as it prepares for Saturday’s Outback Bowl game against Ole Miss.

The seventh-ranked Hoosiers had their final two games of the regular season cancelled due to a number of positive cases of the virus in the program.

And because of Big Ten guidelines about how long a player must be quarantined before rejoining the program, several players were sidelined from practice last week. Some remain sidelined.

“They have been out for all that time, so the challenge now is to get back and have a great week of practice as we said we tried to get,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said. “The whole group’s not back yet, but we are getting closer. We may have them all back tomorrow. We do not know yet. But definitely getting closer to that.”

Getting most of the players who tested positive back on the field will be key to bowl preparation this week.

Allen said it has been difficult fielding scout teams and scrimmaging without a full squad.

“We’re able to practice now and have the numbers to be able to get the proper look,” Allen said. “That has been a challenge … and why we have done some ones versus ones, even last week, to try to keep our guys sharp going against each other.”

The Hoosiers will have two more practices in Bloomington before leaving Wednesday afternoon for the bowl game in Tampa, Fla.

Once there, the Hoosiers and Rebels will not enjoy the usual activities and pageantry that surround bowl games. That means no trips to the beach or Disney World or get-togethers with the opposing team.

Instead, the team will have a normal practice Thursday, then do a walk-through at Raymond James Stadium

“We will have a special thing we will do on Thursday night there at the hotel, kind of like ‘a taste of Florida’ type deal for the players that we will put on for them so they can enjoy the Florida food many of our guys really like from down there,” Allen said. “So, that will be fun and just things kind of around the hotel.

“So, because of COVID-19, you will not have the events … you usually do around the game at this location. But you still get a chance to go down there a couple of days early so it is not like a true road game.”

But it will be a big game for the Hoosiers, who are looking for their first bowl win since 1991 when they defeated Baylor in the Copper Bowl.

Since then, Indiana has lost five straight bowls. And that’s something Allen is trying to change.

“I challenged our guys today as we left the field, we need to have our best Tuesday,” Allen said. “Tomorrow, we get our best Wednesday on Wednesday. So that is the mindset and our guys have bought into that. And they have worked hard. They have trained well. Just got to keep preparing.

“We have a big saying around this place, just keep coaching until kickoff. And it is just that mindset that no matter what is going on we just keep preparing, keep preparing, keep preparing.”

And if the Hoosiers need any extra motivation, they need look no further back than last year’s Gator Bowl. That’s when Tennessee scored twice in the final 4½ minutes to beat Indiana 23-22.

“I choose not to forget about things like that, you know, in the positive way,” Allen said. “That's where when you talk about earmuffs and blinders, it doesn't mean we're deaf and blind. Those things are filters. And there's things from that game that I don't want us to ever forget.”

The Outback Bowl kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

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