Indiana head football coach Tom Allen held his regular Monday media availability to review the win over Penn State and preview this Saturday’s game against Rutgers.
Joining Allen were offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack.
Below are some of the key news items and notes from the session.
Indiana and Rutgers will kick-off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.
“I Love This Team”
The program released post-game video from the locker room of Allen talking to his team and then jumping into their arms.
Allen confessed it was the first time he had crowd-surfed in his life, and like most things he does, it was just a spontaneous moment of passion.
“You know what, I am just going to launch into these guys and have a little fun with this,” Allen recalled of his thinking at the moment. “I just took off, and I’m glad they caught me.”
That catch wasn’t a sure thing.
Cornerback Jaylin Williams told Allen “Coach, you’re a little heavier than I thought you were.”
— Indiana Football (@IndianaFootball) October 25, 2020
Allen became emotional when he reflected on what the moment symbolized.
“I love this team,” he said. “A lot of hard work has gone into this. A lot has been sacrificed by a lot of people for many, many years to create this opportunity. So I just wanted to jump on ’em, and hug on ’em, and have a little fun with ’em.”
Putting the emotions of a signature win behind them and moving on to an improving and easy to overlook Rutgers squad now becomes the big challenge.
Allen said he has had trouble sleeping, his phone is blowing up, and he has been besieged by media requests.
“You work so hard for something for so long,” Allen said. “But you’ve got to come back down, and you’ve got to get back to work. You’ve got to learn to manage all of this.”
Don’t blink has become a team motto over the course of a tumultuous 2020 calendar year, and it applies equally after a big win.
“Not blinking also applies to how you handle success,” Allen said.
Early Impressions of Rutgers
Coming into the season, perhaps the lone game on the revised Big Ten only schedule that looked like a clear win was week two against Rutgers.
The outlook for that game became cloudy even before Indiana kicked off against Penn State on Saturday as Rutgers upset Michigan State on the road, 38-27.
Allen reminded reporters that this is a completely different Scarlet Knight program.
“Rutgers is a very much improved football team,” Allen said. “Completely different team than what you saw on film a year ago. Coach (Greg) Schiano is a tremendous football coach, he’s done a tremendous job there in the past, and he has a ton of belief in what he can do there. They did a very good job in their first game against Michigan State on the road. New quarterback, new system, new coordinators. A lot of respect for their coaches. The staff they’ve put together is excellent.”
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan’s father coached under Schiano at Tampa.
Sheridan Knows IU Needs More From Offense
Sheridan will always remember his first game as a play-caller.
But it was almost one that he would rather forget.
Despite putting 36 points on the board, Indiana’s offense struggled for the first 58 minutes of Saturday’s contest.
“We didn’t play well for a large portion of the game,” Sheridan said. “Obviously proud of how we finished.”
From the players to the coaches, Sheridan said improvement is needed across the board.
Sheridan was proud of his young receivers Jacolby Hewitt and Javon Swinton, referring to their play as “incredible.” Both players made their first career catch during Indiana’s game tying drive at the end of regulation.
“Now we get to coach them even harder. We get to push them even more,” Sheridan said.
If there was one position group that stood out on the offense as needing to improve the most it was the offensive line. Allen called out the unit that as not meeting expectations on Saturday.
(See also: Penn State report card)
Defense Tackles at a High Level
Considering the long layoff, Indiana’s defense looked to be in midseason form on Saturday against Penn State.
After missing 26 tackles in the program’s 2019 season opener against Ball State, defensive coordinator Kane Wommack counted just 8 versus the Nittany Lions.
The performance was by no means flawless, however. For the second straight season, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford gouged the Hoosiers on the ground. His 119 yard rushing day was helped in part by an ineffective pass rush and an inability to contain Clifford in the pocket.
“We have to do a better job on the pass rush, we let the quarterback off the hook way too much,” Wommack said.
Indiana generated just one sack on the afternoon.
Conversely, Wommack was pleased with the defensive line play against the conventional running game.
“I thought the physicality we played with in the run game was very exciting,” Wommack said.
Allen did not have an update on starting wide receiver Miles Marshall, who left Saturday’s game with an apparent concussion.
“I have no idea what his status will be,” Allen said for this week’s game against Rutgers.
David Ellis, who missed Saturday’s game and is expected to play a big role in the offense both as a receiver and running back might return against Rutgers. Allen indicated that Ellis has a lower leg injury and “definitely will be back soon.”
Indiana’s Nov. 7 home contest against Michigan will kick-off at Noon ET and air on FS1.
View what is known about the 2020 schedule HERE.
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