BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana travels to Ohio State on Saturday, Oct. 6, for a 4 p.m. ET kickoff. The game will be televised on FOX.
Head coach Tom Allen and selected players met with the media on Monday to preview the matchup with the Buckeyes. Below is Allen’s transcript.
TOM ALLEN: Good afternoon. Excited to be able to stand before you after a solid road win. Obviously didn’t finish the second half the way I wanted us to, but just to kind of rehash a little bit about the game — and I know we have had a history of not going there and being crisp and sharp — and thought the guys were prepared and played well in the first half. Mentioned I think after the game, just not pleased with the opening drive in regard to that first third down, had a chance to get off the field and did not with the penalty and then a couple third downs afterwards. But after that settled down and didn’t give up any points the rest of the half and really played well defensively. Offensively, came out of the gate and never punted the entire half and scored every time we had the ball. Really controlled the clock, 35 minutes time of possession, really something that we wanted to be able to do, control the line of scrimmage in that area. And then wanted to come out and finish in the second half and really that’s been our focus. Opening drive didn’t get it done and then just didn’t, weren’t able to kind of put them away and let them hang around and then unfortunately turned the ball over, which we cannot do and then they got a chance to get in the end zone and it got interesting. But as I told our team today, really good talk about that whole process as we grow and continue to improve and emphasize that the defense’s last series was a chance to hold them to a field goal and a long field goal into the wind and then the offense was able to come out on the field and get a first down, which is what we had to do to go win the game. So in that regard we finished that last series, but not to our standard. And looked at the film, addressed that and just continue to work and get better but with some guys that weren’t there, thought the receiving corps really stepped up as a complete group and played really, really well. A lot of big third down catches and conversions and Peyton Ramsey was just really tough, hard nosed competitor and very gritty and a lot of key runs and key execution and key throws, good patience as he moved around and found guys down the field. So just kind of as we wrap up the game from our perspective, defensive scout team player of the week, a couple guys, Joseph Daniels and Gavin McCabe two young men that continue to work really hard and do a good job for us. And offensive scout team players of the week Kristian Pechac and Connor Thomas, a couple running backs that give us a great look each and every day. And then special teams scout of the week was Justin Berry, guy just gives a great look at receiver, all special teams, just whatever we ask him to do. Offensively, players of the game we selected the four receivers, just felt like that they were big. As I already mentioned Ty Fryfogle, Nick Westbrook Donavan Hale and J-Shun Harris just as a collective group making key plays. I hate that Ty got that touchdown taken away from him, great play on his part, showed a great burst. Just thought he was clutch many times. So really pleased with his progress. He’s really stepping up. Thought Nick did some great things and Donavan continues to be an issue for defenses with his size and they had to grab him quite a bit and so that’s what they pretty much have to do to control him at times. And J-Shun just is consistent. Defensively Raheem Layne was our defensive player of the game, had some big tackles, really good coverage, continues to progress this season and we’ll need his growth and development throughout the rest of the year. And special teams play was Mike Majette, just great dependable great decision-maker back there for us and helping us keep our guys grounded and be a great leader on our team. So not our best effort from start to finish, but getting the W on the road is always the objective for sure and really happy for our team to be able to be at this point in the season and our first five games and finding ways to win our first four of those five and now we have a chance to get ready for the heart of our Big Ten schedule. So really important to get that last win on the road and now we focus our attention to a very talented and very good football team in Ohio State. Obviously they played well at Penn State, most of us watched that, I’m sure, and to see them do what they did to come from behind and score those last two touchdowns in the last eight minutes to win on the road is a great testament to their program and where they’re at and the level they’re playing at. I’ve been here for my third season, it’s the most talented Ohio State team I’ve seen since I’ve been here. So very, very good football team, on both sides, and special teams, just a lot of play-makers and speed and athleticism and size and very accurate quarterback and very, very athletic defensive unit. So Coach Meyer always has a very talented team that’s well coached and plays extremely hard. So tremendous challenge and opportunity wrapped up into one as we head to Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday for a 4:05 kick off on Fox Sports. Thank you. Questions?
Q. You had a few explosive plays this week — two-part question. How do you measure explosive plays in your program? What qualifies as an explosive pass or run?
TOM ALLEN: 15-yard pass, 15-yard run is how we gauge that. And we do it for offense, defense. We gave up two during the game defensively, our goal is zero. And so obviously on offense you want as many as you can get. So that’s a ratio that we look at and compare to the opponent, just like the turnover ratio is a huge part in the game, the explosive play ratio to me, what you allow or what you, compared to what you gain yourself as a team, the difference is often the factor in the game. So try and get more of those, offensively, for sure, and that’s a big deal. And that’s — this team we’re playing this week that’s what they lived off of, they have really created a lot of explosive plays, that’s kind of their formula and it’s been good to them. You watch the game the other night, I mean they kind of just were held at bay for awhile and then, bam, a couple big plays and they’re winning by a point and it looks like they were, the other team, Penn State was kind of dominating the game in some ways at that point, but then it all flipped. So that’s a big part of our strategy and preventing them and trying to get them.
Q. You talked after the game about the fourth down situation in the red zone and basically that you take a more mathematical, kind of deductive approach to those situations. Not asking for the whole bible, but what makes a situation like that more of a go for it than a field goal? I know you talked about it a little bit after the game.
TOM ALLEN: Without giving away the complete strategy, the thought process, I would say this, for me, just as a coach and as I’ve grown, I would have always said in the past, hey, you got a chance to kick a field goal, kick a field goal. Get as many point as you can get. But as I was challenged a year ago in the offseason to go through and evaluate that mindset towards the difference between a six-point lead or making it more. So, obviously, you score a touchdown there you put the game out of reach. If you just kick a field goal, you now get a situation where you’re up by 13 and then they go score two touchdowns and they win the game. Whereas, if you score, then you got, you make it a three, they got to score three full times to beat you. So you’re kicking a field goal puts you up by, yes, they got to score a touchdown, yes, but now you’re only up by 13. And so that to me — and even when you think about strategy defensively, if I know a team has to go just kick a field goal, that affects the way you call it. If they got to go score a touchdown, they’re down by six, and the touchdown and the PAT wins the game for you, they’re going to be very aggressive. Every third down is a fourth down situation. And it just, it changes the whole psyche of how you approach the opponent when you’re down by six or when you’re down by 13 you got to have that extra touchdown. So bottom line is that we go through it and we have — we’re talking the whole time on the head sets and as a matter of fact the exact comment was, hey, 13 doesn’t really help us, we need to, book says we need to go for it. And then I just got to will to follow my gut. The book doesn’t make me do it, but — and we do that for all fourth downs, whether it’s fourth and two, fourth and one. We get, as we cross the 50, get in the field goal opportunity range, we’ll just says hey, guys in the press box say, hey, you know, two or less is a go, three or less is a go, four or less is a go. It’s based on the time on the clock, it’s based on the score. It actually configures our stats compared to their stats put into that booklet before the game starts. So it’s based upon our offense versus their defense and vice versa. So it’s a whole, it’s a chance to be able to play the percentages of the likelihood of your chance of having success. And then you got to go execute. I mean, there’s no magic wand to say, hey, this is the right way. You got to follow your gut at the end of the day. I got to follow my gut at the end of the day. The last call of the game, I didn’t even ask what the book said, I said, we’re going for it. Because I just knew we needed to put this game away and go win it. So at the end of the day you try to — I’ve tried to grow and in regards to how you approach it, some people might disagree, it’s like anything else, you make a call like that and it works out you look like you really had a great plan and you look like you’re a great coach. And if it doesn’t you look like an idiot. So, I don’t think that made us look like an idiot, I think the bottom line is you just kind of have to decide how you want to play that. And it worked out for us. And we talked about it as our staff in our meeting yesterday and, hey, is that, if we had to do it over again would we do it that same way and we all agreed that you got to go for it. Because there you could have got a first down too. If it would have been more than the distance it was we probably would have kicked the field goal. If it was too far to get a first down. But we felt good about the call we could make and, go after it, execute.
Q. Talk about Peyton a little bit, at the end when you’re going to try and draw them offsides, you got a special set, you put Hendershot in motion, you do in fact draw them offsides, but then Peyton understands, yeah, I got a free play here and he literally had the possession within himself to wave Hendershot down the field. Talk about how he has progressed in terms of the last year.
TOM ALLEN: Well, I mean, that was just, a veteran play on his part. Obviously sealed the win, for sure. But just to have an awareness about him and the confidence to be able to, you know, when — because if you remember there was this confusion about the spot of the ball, and the officials, and this and that, and we’re kind of — you’re yelling at the guys, you don’t want to take a timeout and everything, so the clock was running in certain parts of that so, yeah, I thought it was a tremendous heads-up play on his part, and they jumped.
And we had the penalty, so he waved him to go and he used his big frame and threw him a jump ball and he came down with it, and the game was over. I just think, he’s a year older, may not have made that play a year ago, but he did now. We try to work on as many of those — we do situations throughout the season every single Tuesday we finish practice with a situation. To be able to — no timeouts, one timeout, gotta have a field goal, a touchdown, we have certain calls we use for those types of things, and we have to work on ’em.
Until it comes live, and the bullets are flying and it’s real life, you’re going to find out if all your training has been effective, and it proved to be effective on Saturday, and he was the reason why.
Q. Can you update us on Luke Timian and Whop’s status, and isn’t it nice to have this redshirt rule now where you can play a Miles Marshall?
TOM ALLEN: It really is, and when they passed that rule, I was like, man, I sure wish we’d had that last year, because we really could have used several guys but thankful for the rule, and it gives us tremendous flexibility when situations like this occur, and we’re trying to get those two guys back.
We don’t know yet still today if they will be ready, they’re trying to get ready. We will know later in the week, and they’re working hard to get themselves back for Saturday, but because of the new rule we can play some of these young guys and not hurt the redshirt and have them give us some depth and that’s big.
Hopefully we will be able to get a couple guys back that didn’t play Saturday. I really don’t know any of those yet; I will know more in a couple days. We’re trying to continue to maximize that rule as best we can and communicate with players and sometimes with families about their status and where they stand on all that.
So just really helps a bunch, especially as the year progresses and injuries happen and situations come up and you gotta to be able to, you know, spot a guy here or there and not have to burn a year just for playing him — or just even having him ready to play. Now you put a kid out there for a couple of key snaps and it can be the difference in the game because he’s a guy that is ready to play, but in the past you wouldn’t have played him for those couple of plays because it would have burned a whole season. It’s great.
Q. Guys, including Reakwon, were talking about his postgame message and you talked about him stepping into a leadership role. As a coach what does that mean to you, a guy having the confidence after a win to sort of step out of his comfort zone and deliver a message in that setting?
TOM ALLEN: I considered it growth. He came up to me as we were walking, and I walked in the locker room and he grabbed me and he said, “Coach I got something to say when you’re done,” I didn’t know what he was going to say. I trust him, I knew he wasn’t going to say anything crazy, and I did give him the platform.
I could tell by his tone that he had something important to share. He had confidence to stand in front of his peers, and he didn’t do it in a negative way. He said, it’s great to get a road win; they’re all important, but we didn’t finish. He took it personal, and that’s what leaders do.
Because we’ve made it such a huge priority of not just finishing drives, it’s finishing the quarters and finishing the half, which we did a good job of finishing the half, and got a field goal, and overcame some penalties and stayed in field goal range, and they blocked several field goals throughout the season, so that wasn’t a “gimmie” but then you gotta finish the game, you gotta finish the second half and be able to put teams away, so he understood that.
It’s always more powerful when it comes from a player so to me that’s growth from him, that is him stepping up as a leader. He’s on our leadership council, we meet Monday evenings with the players. I meet with these guys, and I challenged them last week about some things, and I saw much of that manifest itself throughout the game and in that situation as well. I just think we have said many times with him, he’s a junior, yes, but he’s young in his playing experience.
I feel like the more those guys learn and grow and learn to step up and their confidence grows, they feel like they’re empowered by me to say those things, and I think the guys will respond because they respect him.
Q. Dwayne Haskins, what stood out to you about him this year?
TOM ALLEN: Quick release. He’s big. Very accurate passer, and if he has time he’s deadly. He’s really, really accurate and got a strong arm. It’s a very different challenge that he creates than since I’ve been here. So just really good football player, and he’s not, experienced by any means in terms of multiple years, but he sure plays like he is. He’s got a lot of poise and confidence, and he’s got a lot of weapons around him.
He came up big for them this last week, and they got a couple games where they’ve really been tested, the TCU game and then that Penn State game, and he’s done a great job, and he got a chance to play last year at Michigan at a critical time. He’s proven he’s a big-time player and is a guy we have to have some answers for, but it will be a tremendous challenge to keep him from being as effective as he’s been, but that’s what we’ve got to do.
Q. Could you talk about J-Shun, his reemergence in the passing game, especially in lieu of not having Whop and Luke available, and he gets seven catches Saturday. Talk about that.
TOM ALLEN: I tell you, just — the kid just never ceases to impress me. I know returning punts is one thing that he does extremely well and been very good at, but to be able to play the number of snaps it takes to be a receiver in both preparation and during game day, with all of his history with his knees and all that, just a tremendous testament to his perseverance and his toughness and his fight.
He’s got so much to him and his core character that this team — you trust him. You count on him. You depend on him, and he comes up big for his teammates, makes great decisions back there with handling, they’re always trying to kick the ball away from him, whatever kind of kicks, trying to get it on the round and roll, I understand all that, he handles those well, and you so trust him with that. Making plays, critical third-down catches, several of them, again, and we need him. He’s a valid part of our time, and with having Luke and Whop down last week, that was huge for him to step up and that may have to continue, and the whole group is going to have to keep doing that until we get those guys back on track and healthy.
Valuable part of our football team in so many ways and can’t be more — said it before, but I’ll say it again, can’t be more happy for a kid to be having the success he’s having, as hard as he’s worked and what he’s overcome. It’s great to see.
Q. Tom, I know you tried to establish the run game in the second half against Rutgers on Saturday. Looking back at the week before and that half of football, are you concerned about this offensive line right now and what they’ve been able to produce here in the last couple of weeks?
TOM ALLEN: Well, we had one three and out in the second half, and that was the first one, and we ran the ball three times there and didn’t get a first down, and that set a tone. That was disappointing. I was frustrated by that. But we were 50/50 running the ball and throwing the ball the rest of the half. They’ve got to be more consistent. To me they did some good things in the first half, but it’s got to continue. We play for 60 minutes. That’s a group that I feel like has got to continue to keep working.
And a lot of it was communication, it was working together on certain calls and adjustments we make up front. I didn’t think our running backs did a great job, and our staff would agree of reading our blocks. That happened multiple times in this game more than it’s happened the entire season, so working on that, getting those things cleaned up. Those guys are still young back there, that we’re relying on to run the football, and really just two true freshmen doing most of the running, at this point.
So I think it was a combination of both of those. Continues to be a point of focus for us, because you have to — as I always will say, you run the football, and stopping the run is where it stops and starts offensively and defensively so it’s a group that we have a lot of confidence in and they need to progress together and play better and better each and every week.
Going against one of the best front lines in the country on Saturday in Ohio State, and we need to create creases and allow them to play the football and Peyton was part of that, too, and he was effective to take pressure off those guys in some ways, but they didn’t play — and Coach Hiller will be the first to tell you, that second half wasn’t up to our standard of offensive line play, and we’ve got to improve. I sat in there and watched the second half plays and different things we did, so working through that together. We’ve all locked arms, side-by-side, getting everything fixed and getting ourselves in position to keep winning games.
Q. You referenced the fact that Penn State fairly well bottled them up until the final eight minutes Saturday night, which is similar to your game here last year. How much pressure does that put on a defense?
TOM ALLEN: It never stops until that last whistle blows their play-making ability as we saw last year. We did some really good things and all of the sudden, bam! Within a couple of plays you’re — you know, they got two big long touchdowns, catching and run, run itself, and their explosive athletes they have to get in the space are impressive. That’s how they build it, that’s what they want, that’s what they do, and that’s their philosophy. It puts a lot of pressure on the defense.
I felt like last year we struggled when we had to put some subs in and those guys to be able to play at the level that we were playing at prior to them coming in wasn’t able to be sustained, so I just challenged our team when I left practice today about how critical it’s going to be that we get as many guys ready as possible to play in this game, to be able to create the depth and the opportunity so guys won’t have to play 60, 70, 80 snaps, like they did last year.
So they can keep the guys — more of our guys fresh to be able to take better angle and not get us out of position. You get out of position, one step can be the difference against this team, with all their speed. That includes special teams.
That’s an area that we have focused on, worked on, and we’re not where we need to be yet but we’re getting closer in that area, so it’s going to have to show itself on Saturday against a team like this.
Q. Question about Jamar Johnson. At what point did you know he would be a guy that you could trust to play at five different spots in the secondary, and how uncommon is that when you can trust a freshman to handle that responsibility?
TOM ALLEN: First of all, I would say that’s uncommon. It’s rare to have a guy that can do that physically. We don’t have too many on our team that I can say, hey, this guy can play five different spots in the secondary. When did we figure that out? Once he got here. I would say probably once we got into fall camp, after a few weeks you could just tell. You saw the athleticism over the summer, can’t watch the football part of it, but the workouts and the running, and you talk to your strength staff, and I trust those guys a lot to tell us the athleticism of our guys, especially when you get the new ones here, and they spend a couple of months with them.
They know a lot. Then when you start practicing, the football part of it — I knew in high school he played both sides of the football, safety, corner, slot receiver, running back, all those different things, and returner, and just like with Stevie Scott, you say, hey, you recruit the best players you can find and you figure out what side of the ball you’re going to put ’em on once they get here.
We kind of thought this guy could play corner or safety, and then you get the element of a husky, which to me, the element of a husky there is a physicality to you, not just the speed and athleticism but can he have the girth and the size to be able to tackle Big Ten running backs. He is a 200-pound guy.
You saw the way he covered that route, snapped his head around, very natural, get the interception, very critical play, huge play in the game. I made a big deal about that, because, as I said, a week ago he was really fourth string at that position, because he was playing several spots. We had him here and there and trying to get him ready, and obviously we needed him to come into the situation with Lino and with Cam being out. I think he continues to impress us by what he’s done; happy for him.
He’s got to keep working hard, and now the challenge is to figure out moving foward where is he going to be best to play, but it’s great to have a guy that’s got that flexibility, and it helps you become a better football team and he helps on special teams.