BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — This has been a different week for Indiana football.
Usually, the week of Thanksgiving is when the Hoosiers are gearing up for the Old Oaken Bucket game against in-state rival Purdue.
It's usually Indiana's final game of the regular season, and, usually, the players are allowed to travel home and spend the day with their families.
But with COVID-19 and a delayed start to the season, none of that was the case throughout the week.
Instead, the No. 12 Hoosiers are preparing for their sixth game of the season against Maryland, who hasn't played a game in two weeks after dealing with their own COVID-19 problems.
As for the players, they didn't go home with their families, but they still spent Thanksgiving with another family — their football family.
It's the culture Tom Allen has built in Bloomington. He emphasizes the importance to his players about playing for one another, loving each other and sticking together no matter what happens on the field.
"You're blessed, I'm blessed, we're all blessed, it's Thanksgiving," Allen said to his team after practice on Thursday. "Time to set aside and be thankful for our health, for our families, both here and at home, opportunities you've been given.
"How you respond in life defines who you are. How you respond as life hits you in the face, rewards you, whatever it is, good or bad, how you respond, that defines who you become."
Allen continued, explaining why the game of football is so great because it teaches life.
"It's not what you get for playing, it's what you become because you played."
It was a special and passionate speech Allen gave his players on Thanksgiving morning.
Allen said it was a really good practice for his team, who have done a nice job staying focused throughout the week after a tough 7-point loss to Ohio State last Saturday.
Then the whole football team had a "hearty meal" in the Henke Hall of Champions in Memorial Stadium.
"It is neat and I think it will be neat to be with our football family," Allen said on a Zoom call Thursday.
Some family members of the players were already in town because Indiana allows them to attend home games, so they were able to attend the dinner as well.
"But it is kind of a weird feel," Allen said. "Even last week, we found it hard to believe that this week is Thanksgiving. Everything is out of sync in regards to the flow of a regular season."
But regardless, Allen said the Hoosiers will be ready to go against a Maryland team that has given them fits in the past.
Although this year's Maryland squad hasn't played in a few weeks, they have looked solid in their first games of the season.
Indiana will be doing walk-throughs like they always do on Friday, and then the Hoosiers will be prepared for kickoff at noon ET on Saturday.
The last thing Allen said to his football team after practice Thursday reiterated the foundation he has built in Bloomington.
"I love you guys and can't wait to see you guys play for each other on Saturday."
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