BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Indiana plays its third ranked team of the season when No. 18/16 Penn State comes to Memorial Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 20, with a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The game will be televised on ABC.
Head coach Tom Allen and selected players met with the media on Monday to preview the matchup with the Nittany Lions. Below is Allen’s transcript.
TOM ALLEN: Good afternoon.
Just kind of follow up from last time we spoke, to be taking things personal. It’s my responsibility to get this team ready to play each and every week. It’s my responsibility that they play their very best. We didn’t do that. That’s on me. I have to own that. I will and I do. We got to play better, we got to coach better.
We got beat by a team on that day that was a better football team in all three phases. I give them credit where credit is due, but also look internally and challenge ourselves.
Had a great team meeting this morning. Players came to me and wanted to meet. We were all in there together, coaches included. They wanted to speak. A bunch of seniors got up and spoke and did a great job of just being leaders, saying what needed to be said in the right way, from the heart. Just really challenging our guys to respond the right way.
You look at the slate on Saturday, seven top 25 teams got beat. Several more could have gotten beat. You better bring your A game every single week. We play at the highest level of college football in the Big Ten, therefore you’re going to be playing against the best of the best.
Challenged our guys to be able to respond, to own it, to flush it, press on. That’s what our guys have done. Great workout this morning. Good practice on the field. Ready to focus now on the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Going through our guys, recognizing them. Had some players play well. Ty Fryfogle did some good things offensively. He’s our offensive player of the game. Defensively Jerome Johnson wasn’t feeling well, really sick. Fought right through all that, played his tail off.
Didn’t have anybody on special teams to recognize.
From the scout’s perspective, very good week of preparation from those guys. They continue to work extremely hard, play with everything they have each day. On defense, the defensive scout players of week, Connor Schneider, defensive line, Gavin McCabe. Scout team players of the week, T.J. Ivy, Shaun Bonner, Ryan Barnes. Special teams scout of the week was Kristian Pechac. Those guys deserve to be recognized for their hard work, all that they do to help us get ready each and every time we take the field.
Brings us to today. Beautiful day outside. Sunny Bloomington, ready to go.
Q. You said preseason the quarterback battle would come down to who is protecting the ball. Peyton has thrown seven interceptions, which ranks second to last in the Big Ten. How is he going to improve that? Is that a factor in trying out a different quarterback?
TOM ALLEN: This last game to me, the two throws he made there in the red zone, chances to score, obviously trying to create something both times, but at the same time got to protect the football, get points. The last one we were trying to score a touchdown, not kick field goals.
He has to protect the football. It’s part of his job. I don’t think he played very well during the game. We’re not bashful about saying those kind of things. We’ve praised him when he has played well. He didn’t play his best game.
So you always look at all your options with everything you have on your roster to be able to help your team be successful. He obviously has to do a great job. We talk about that position, being a protector of the football, distributor of the football, moving the football team down the field, getting first downs and scoring touchdowns.
Didn’t score enough touchdowns and turned the ball over. Have to do a better job. So yes, that will be addressed.
Q. Regarding the players meeting this morning, who approached you to lead that effort? What does that tell you as a coach as far as where the players are at right now?
TOM ALLEN: It was awesome. It was Wes Martin, Jacob Robinson were the two guys that reached out to me. They just said to me, Coach, during our team meeting in the morning can we have a few minutes to talk to the team. I said, Absolutely. We talked some things through. Those guys are just really high quality guys that care a whole bunch about this place, have been here for a long time, seen a lot. They just more than anything wanted to challenge our guys to react.
We got a lot of new guys, young guys, that haven’t been through the grind of a Big Ten season. We’ve had no bye week yet. It’s week after week after week. It can be draining on you physically and emotionally, mentally. I think they needed to remind the guys that it’s part of the process. You have to own things on film when you get challenged by coaches, you have to own your play, your practice habits, everything that you do, and it’s the little things, focus on those little things.
Really neat. Sit back and let the guys talk. I didn’t tell them what to say. Once I had a good idea what they wanted to say, it was all very necessary. It was encouraging to see them in their own way, in their own tone, personality, say the things that we’ve kind of been preaching here since I’ve been here.
Just being able to let those guys say it, it’s always a powerful thing when it comes from a player. They want all the coaches, everybody to be in there. We were. That was really good.
But bottom line is you have to respond. It’s a tough league, tough schedule. You got to be a tough guy. I thought those guys stood up and really said some good things that needed to be said.
Q. You talked about it Saturday, but in terms of evaluating, in the back half of the season, Mike Penix has played two games, as you evaluate a potential role, maybe saving that redshirt, is it one where you go into certain things thinking you could use him or do you want it to be more on feel so maybe you don’t lock yourself into a plan that maybe backs you into getting rid of the redshirt?
TOM ALLEN: Like you said, it’s totally situational. Peyton is our starter. Michael is going to play. Exactly when I’m not sure. I just know it’s not set in stone, we’re not going to map this all out. Definitely a feel, for sure, as the game is unfolding. Want to give us the best chance to be successful on game day. That to me is how I would approach that. We’re not going to be too specific in that regard.
I do think he has to be ready good, 100 percent. I think even with a lot of these younger guys, it’s the challenge of staying in that mindset week after week, no matter whether you’re playing a lot, not playing at all or playing a little bit.
It’s tough for younger guys right out of high school that have never had this long of a season, this much of a schedule that you have to keep, places you have to be all the time, a lot on your plate.
I think that’s part of managing all of our guys that are in his position, in his age group. But, yeah, that’s definitely something we’re looking at all of our options, be able to have a good plan.
Q. You talked about taking it personally. With the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, is there a point where you have to tone things down, maybe not chase officials all over the field? What is your own thought on that?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I’m an emotional guy. I want to defend our guys. Now, they obviously decided to throw the flag on me on the second one. The first one was another coach. He and I talked that through. But they give the head coach a little more leeway on things, all that. But obviously this guy was not feeling that in that situation. But I take responsibility for that.
My approach is that I want to defend our guys, I don’t want to be distracted by the officials. I can’t control what they do. But I also want to stand up for our guys. I’m not going to back down from that. I’m going to be who I am. I don’t want team penalties. That’s on me. That’s not acceptable. I don’t want that to happen again. That just hurts our team.
But I also want them to know that I am watching, I do care. Our guys matter. I want to defend them, I’m going to fight for them. I have to make sure I do it by not stepping on the field. I literally took one step out. Not supposed to do that, so I got to hold myself accountable. It’s part of my passion.
Q. Given some of the best defenses, any thoughts to reevaluating schemes, looking at different personnel?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, you go through, we had these discussions yesterday, evaluate what you’re doing. As you watch it, you see it, I see it, we weren’t cutting guys loose. It wasn’t blown coverages. Lost one-on-one matchups at times. Sometimes they had a couple steps on our guys.
We just got to play the ball better, look at all personnel options, for sure. Don’t have unlimited depth to be able to make a bunch of changes. Talked about scheme, be able to do things that help our guys. There’s no question. We’ve got to evaluate everything we’re doing.
Don’t like the outcome. That was part of taking it personal is the way we played defense was not acceptable. Very, very upset about that. Really bothered by it. Was here all weekend trying to fix it. That’s got to change. No one is going to work any harder than I do to get it right.
Yeah, we’re looking at all those things, kind of all of the above to help our guys be successful. It wasn’t effort. Our guys played hard. I don’t think we had the same juice we’ve had. That’s hard to do week after week after week. You have to bring it, have it in you. I know it’s expected of me to be that way. It’s expected of them.
We have to help these younger guys know how that looks each and every time you take the field. That’s my responsibility to get the guys’ minds right, to get them to play to their proper effort, have the schemes that’s going to be most successful on game day.
Q. You preached being aggressive on defense, aggressive as a program. How do you get that aggressive mindset to the offensive side of the ball?
TOM ALLEN: To me, I challenged the guys in that regard because I want to be of that mindset the way we attack defenses. I know the scheme has a lot to do with it. A lot of the things they did to us on Saturday made some of that more difficult than it was even the week before.
At the same time I agree. I think that’s our approach. I want to push the envelope in both tempo and creating bigger plays, trying to get our guys in position. We went through the beginning of the season, evaluating top guys we wanted to get the ball to, most explosive guys.
Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, those guys aren’t here right now. We have to adjust, get Whop dressed, a couple snaps. He could happen to be effective. Got Luke back. Got Whop back. He’s a guy that can help create some plays for us, create explosive plays.
You got to be able to find creative ways of trying to do that. To me it’s learning to push the envelope in that regard. I’m going to continue to talk through that, want to see it happen. I want to see us be able to put pressure on the defense.
Q. You said you talked to other coaches who coached their sons about just the way they did it, the way they approached that. I imagine the coach-versus-parent relationship. What was maybe some of the advice you got and how much have you seen that play out or maybe not?
TOM ALLEN: The advice was really twofold. Number one, don’t be his position coach. Don’t think that’s healthy. That’s really hard to do. If he’s the quarterback, don’t have him play for you because that’s really, really difficult. That’s exactly what I was told. I think that’s very true.
But he’s a linebacker, which is a position that I have coached most of my career, but don’t coach here. It all worked in that regard.
The other part of that was, everybody I talked to, there was always growing pains in year one of kind of figuring it out for both sides.
I think the biggest challenge is the locker room, for the individual, for the son involved. You’re always perceived a certain way, especially when you’re there year one. That’s the head coach’s son. How do you just be yourself.
He has to earn their trust, I think both as a player, then as just a teammate. I think that’s the thing that people don’t really get. I’ve been in his shoes before. I played for my dad. Yeah, not at this level where it’s all magnified. But the locker room is still the locker room. You’re still the head coach’s son. You have to prove yourself in a lot of ways.
I think that’s where the growth comes in. Everybody I’ve talked to before all this would say, there were times where it was hard. Once you figure it out, man, I would never, ever trade that time we had together. So that’s kind of really what was a big deal for us in kind of making the decision to go forward with it a couple years ago.
I just think you got to separate. When you’re on the field, you’re his coach. That’s the key. He’s one of your players. It’s easy to say. He’s still your son. But you got to be very impartial. But I’ve never meant too many parents that weren’t biased. I deal with parents all the time. Not as much as in high school when I was a coach. Never met one yet, it’s still their son. At the same time I got to treat him like everybody else. I really do. It takes discipline to do that.
It helps because he works extremely hard, does everything the right way, made a big play on Saturday. He’s young, growing, developing and all, but that helps. My wife, I told her, my prayer was that he’s going to be really good or really bad. You didn’t want him to be in the middle (laughter). Just make it easy. If they’re in the middle, that’s when it gets really rough. Fortunately he’s done a great job, so we’re proud of him.
Q. You mentioned mindset a little bit. Having a game against Iowa, obviously not the performance you wanted, but is there something to having a wake-up call with five games left in the season?
TOM ALLEN: I’m one of those that even when something happens that’s bad, I’m going to find a way to make it positive. That’s exactly how I look at it. There’s no doubt, getting hit upside the head with a two-by-four doesn’t feel very good, but I promise you it will get your attention. This is one of those kinds of situations.
I think our guys were shook a little bit by it, responded by wanting to say some things. I thought the way we responded today, our energy, focus, effort was excellent.
We’d rather not have it happen that way, rather have the opposite side, catapult you with momentum the other direction. It’s in the past. We can’t change it, but we can learn from it, choose to use all the things that led up to it, try to decide what caused us to be in this position, to have a game like that, address them right now at a critical point in the season, when everybody is kind of trying to figure out.
It’s amazing how one game changes how you feel, one way or the other. It can change the trajectory of your season. You see it all across the country. You see it happen in places. I’ve been part of it both good and bad. Man, you have to just — to me it takes tremendous mental toughness to be able to persevere.
Our one word last week was ‘grit’. It takes a tremendous amount to be able to persevere through life challenges, season challenges. How you respond to those is who you become, how you are known.
For me, it’s an opportunity for us to really challenge our older guys, say, hey, the clock is ticking, only so many opportunities yet. Younger guys, You’re defining and laying the foundation for your future program. To me, those are both critical things.
Q. Penn State is going to come in not in the best of moods either. They lost two tough ones at home. They outgained Ohio State by 200 yards when they played them. Talk about the challenge your defense faces this week.
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, there’s no question that they’ve had two tough ones. But that doesn’t take away from who they are. They’re a very talented football team. Got a lot of weapons. It’s the best offensive line they’ve had. They’ve said that pretty clearly.
I think everybody that has watched them would agree since coach has been there. Very experienced quarterback that we know full well how good he is, both when we played him two years ago, then when we played him last year. Talented receivers. Graduated a really good tight end, then they bring in another true freshman that’s talented.
The running back is special. Sometimes I think it’s the same guy. They brought him back from last year, you know (laughter). He’s his own guy, for sure, but he’s a special talent. He was the number one running back in the country coming out of high school.
That’s kind of what they’re able to do. That’s a tribute to how they’ve recruited, the guys they’ve got and developed. Very, very talented football players.
For me, as a defensive coach, the challenge of stopping the big receiver 84, Johnson, or number 1, who is a fast guy, took the slant, went to the house against Ohio State. Extremely gifted athlete.
Their defense is very aggressive. As you said, they were very, very dominant in that first half. You look up, it’s 13-7 at the end of the half, then Ohio State scores quickly in the third quarter, they’re up 14-13. They race ahead, get a 12-point lead, Ohio State comes roaring back. Great game between those two teams.
Very talented football team that has high hopes and expectations for the season. They’re going to be coming to Bloomington, be very hungry, ready to play and get their season back on track.
Q. Injury update. Did you lose anybody Saturday? What about Coy Cronk?
TOM ALLEN: We’re hoping to get Coy back full bore. I think that looks good, promising at this point as of today. I know Devon Matthews is a guy we ended up sitting out, hoping to get him back last weekend, we did not. He needs to continue to get healthier in order for him to play. Then continue to monitor T.D. Roof, see that he’s able to get his body back ready to go. Those would be the three guys that we’re looking at. Not to mention Whop and his ability to get back. He was out there today running routes. Still the process continues to get him full speed.
I think we have a chance to be healthier this weekend. You always seem to gain a guy or two here or there, lose a guy or two. We had several guys that got some things they had to address, but several of those injuries are able to be cleaned up over the weekend, then continue to rehab them throughout the first half of the week.