Growing up in northern Indiana, life was hard for Tom Allen.
The Purdue fans were unavoidable, even in his own family.
But seriously, the annual battle for the Old Oaken Bucket was part of Allen’s football centric upbringing in New Castle, Ind.
“I’ve seen the game a lot,” Allen said on Monday. “Watched it every single year. To me it was always cold watching those games it seemed like. But man you just throw out the records, I always wanted to watch the game.”
As an Indiana native Allen gets the rivalry in a way that others in his position before him didn’t.
Those Thanksgiving family arguments about Indiana and Purdue? He lived them.
“The fact that you’ve got people playing that have known each other for a long time, sometimes you even have high school teammates playing against each other, you’ve got families divided. Even my family is the same way,” Allen said. “I’ve got one side that’s predominately Purdue, and one side of my family is predominately Indiana just based on what part of the state they were raised and grew up in.”
Allen didn’t offer which side of the debate he stood on as a young man.
But of course there is no doubt where Allen’s loyalties are today.
“It’s personal, as all in-state rivalries are,” he said. “There’s a whole year of bragging rights for whichever side. It means a whole lot to me, I’ll tell you that much.”
Things are little more clear in the family of quarterback Jack Tuttle, whose father was a former walk-on kicker for the Hoosiers.
“My dad is not a big fan of Purdue and neither am I,” Tuttle said. “It is a great rivalry game and we are looking forward to this week. We are going to have a great week of practice.”
Here are some additional news items and notes from the Monday press conference that included defensive coordinator Kane Wommack, offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, linebacker Micah McFadden and quarterback Jack Tuttle.
Defensive line continues to impact winning
When Indiana announced before the kickoff against Wisconsin that it would be without defensive tackle Demarcus Elliott, the red flags went up.
The Hoosiers could not afford to be shorthanded against the Badgers’ mammoth offensive line and potent running attack.
“You never want to lose your starting nose guard going into Wisconsin week,” defensive coordinator Kane Womack said. “Those guys, as I think Micah McFadden put it, look like mountain ranges when they walk up to the line of scrimmage. I am really just impressed with a number of guys. It was certainly a collective effort to stop the run defensively.”
Wommack saw several players step up their efforts as the Hoosiers held the Wisconsin ground game in check reasonably well.
“Probably the guys are most excited that Sio Nofoagatoto’a was able to step in and I thought he just played so physical, so hard against some of their guys,” Wommack said. “They had some counter back blocks and a one-on-one with a guard. He just throwing people around in the interior and then probably most excited about what C.J. Person and Jonathan King both did at the defensive end position.”
Allen also noted the leadership effort by graduate transfer senior defensive tackle Jovan Swann.
“One thing I will say to you is you think about the game, leading the team, I felt that Jovan Swann’s leadership on the sideline just in that type of a game, that setting, on the road, his maturity showed,” Allen said.
Time for Miles Marshall to move on
When Dallas Cowboys’ tight end Jackie Smith dropped a sure touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII, the television announcer said that he’s “got to be the sickest man in America.”
Smith came to mind as Indiana wide receiver Miles Marshall dropped what would have been a sure touchdown and given Indiana a 21-6 fourth quarter lead in Madison.
Unlike the Cowboys, Indiana overcame the Marshall drop of course and triumphed against the Badgers.
Now Indiana’s players and coaches are focused on making sure that Marshall puts the mistake behind him.
“Miles Marshall is an absolute stud, he’s a great player,” Tuttle said. “That’s going to happen. You just get back together on the sideline and it’s 1-0.”
Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan cited Theodore Roosevelt and his famous “The Man in the Arena” quote.
“We encourage guys to continue to get into that moment,” Sheridan said. “Obviously nobody feels worse about it than Miles. We don’t spend much time talking about it. It’s a learning opportunity but we are moving on.”
Boilers have serious weapons at wide receiver
While Purdue’s once promising 2020 season has turned sour, they are still a dangerous team.
What stands out above all with the Boilermakers is their receiving threats in the passing game.
Sophomore David Bell has 53 catches for 625 yards and 8 touchdowns in six games. He has only been held under 8 catches once this season. Indiana fans will remember Bell’s 9 catch, 136 yard performance against IU in 2019.
Meanwhile electrifying playmaker Rondale Moore is back and has already amassed 35 catches in just three games.
Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack believes that tackling players like Moore and Bell in space will be a big key to the game.
“Ultimately, it comes to being able to fundamentally tackle in space,” Wommack said. “And I think that probably is one of the best things their offense does is they force you to make those plays in space and we’ve got to be up to the challenge. So, something that our guys take personally and are ready to go do what they need to do to win this game.”
Purdue is known for running trick plays under head coach Jeff Brohm.
At just 2-4 on the season and with nothing to lose, Wommack expects to see it all on Saturday.
“They’ve always thrown the kitchen sink at us, one way or another, so I don’t imagine this week will be any different,” he said.
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