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September 4, 2017

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH ALLEN: Good afternoon. Just want to start by saying that still very excited about this past Thursday, even though it didn't turn out the way that we wanted it to. Encouraged by the support and all the positives that were gained from the experience that we had against the Buckeyes here at home and the way that our fans showed up and gave us a great opening to our season.

Obviously the ability not to finish is very frustrating and disappointing and not acceptable. But I thought our players were ready to play to start the game. Played a tremendous first half, and with two minutes to go in the first quarter we were down by six and had a lead with up to four minutes to go in the third quarter. And then just a series of plays that we weren't able to make and they capitalized on and were not able to recover. So disappointed in that part of it.

But as I said afterwards, and will continue to say, BreakThrough is a mindset. It's a culture change. It's an expectation. And you know, we're raising the expectations here. People are -- and I share in that disappointment when you don't beat the No. 2 team in the country and you feel like you should have, even though we didn't and had a large gap at the end.

But the bottom line is, that's where we want to be. And being close, you know, playing a great first half, all that, isn't good enough. That's how I want it to be.

So we embrace that and we also take that, all the positives from the experience and allow those to help us grow and move forward. It's about learning from your mistakes and pressing on and that's my mindset. That's our expectation as a staff for our guys.

Thought we had a good couple days with them here the last Saturday and Sunday with our team, getting our guys' minds right and getting them ready to have a great week of preparation for our most important game of the season, which is Virginia, because it's the next game, and that's how we approach it. That will be the case every single week. The goal is to be 1-0 at the end of this week, as we have to take on an ACC program that has momentum with Coach Mendenhall in his second year. He's done a great job at Brigham Young for many, many years and is building his own culture and his expectations there, and you can see the growth in what they do.

So in wrapping up our game from last week, wanted to go through the players of the game in regards to our preparation. Really believe in honoring our scout team guys that give us a great look and really allow us to be prepared to participate at the highest level on game day and the defensive scouts for last week were Andrew Stamm, linebacker; LaDamion Hunt as a DB.

Offensive scout team players of the week, Nick Tronti at quarterback and Isaac James at receivers. And there was multiple guys on both sides of the ball that were mentioned that could have been awarded those. I thought the attitude was tremendous and effort was great by those guys.

Players of the game, offensively was Simmie Cobbs, and his performance has been well documented; was a good start to the season. He still has things to work on. He knows that. But he did make some plays and played well.

Defensively, Tegray Scales was the Player of the Game for us, as voted by the coaches and he was as disappointed as anybody in our performance. So he took it personal and that's what we want.

Special teams was Chase Dutra, who continues to be, was last season and is this year, even though he started in the game, his role on special teams is huge for us, and his energy and his focus and his execution was what it needs to be. But did not have enough young men to receive what we consider winning performances and thus was the result of coming up short and not finishing. But proud of the effort that was given. Just had to go through and evaluate why things went the way they did.

Also, before we take questions, just wanted to recognize the ten players from our program that are on NFL rosters in various roles and excited for them, proud of them, and I'm anxious to see them have a great season and represent Indiana University in a first-class way in their communities and the teams that they are on.

Ready for questions.

Q. Anything stick out to you that you really need to work on or improve?
COACH ALLEN: You know, I think the thing that jumped out, you know, we went through and did an evaluation of the third quarter to kind of go through and figure out exactly what we thought happened, and it became pretty obvious as you go through and do the evaluation of it is that we began losing first downs on both sides of the football.

The way we gauged that, and we do competitions in practice throughout spring ball and fall camp where we have first down competition, and the defensive goal is to hold them to three yards or less. And if that happens, then the defense wins. The offense has to get more than three yards; they have to get four yards or more to win those snaps.

And as you saw the game unfolding, in the first half, we were winning those and getting multiple three-and-outs, defensively getting first downs on offense. Had 17 of those in the first half.

And then in the third quarter, everything started changing. You know, even though when we got that -- and this is kind of a prime example. We got a key fourth down stop in that third quarter, and then went and got a three-and-out the very next series. And that went back to not winning first down. If we don't win first down, it limits us in our ability to get our momentum going and our tempo going on offense. And it also defensively gets us behind the chains defensively and what we want and gave them too many third-and-shorts. They had ten of those and that's too many. Those are not easy for the offense to execute and to win but easier than third-and-six-plus. So we had way too many of those.

It was interesting how it all kind of flipped. In the first half, we were gaining those, winning those. I thought that was -- and that adds to too many drives by the offense; not enough rest because we are not getting off the field. And then offensively, we are not staying on the field, so it just compounds the issue.

But you know, another thing that was glaring to me was just depth. You know, just depth and ability to take our starters out, especially defensively and not have a drop-off in production or in performance by our twos and threes.

So that will continue to be addressed. Challenge our guys to step up in those roles to be able to be on the field and make plays against a great football team, you know, whether it's ten snaps or 12 snaps or whatever your role happens to be. When you're in the game in those situations, we need you to play at a high, high level and that to me is something that was pretty glaring.

Q. What's the latest on Westbrook?
COACH ALLEN: Unfortunately he has torn his ACL. So he'll be out for the season. We had the MRI on Saturday and so, hurt for him. But as we've shared with our team, you know, sometimes life's not fair. Things happen and it's tough and he's got a good attitude about it. He.

Just knows that this is a challenge he has to overcome. And you just watch the games, even yesterday and the day before, things like that happen, and it's unfortunate but it's part of the game.

Q. Virginia's quarterback was completing about 70 percent of his passes. What do you need to do defensively to limit him?
COACH ALLEN: You know, he's a really good quarterback, very accurate. Big thing, you know, with quarterbacks like him, pressure is a big deal. You know, everybody's a little different at that position when they have pressure.

Also, being able to disrupt the timing of the routes. They are getting the ball out pretty quick in their system and what they do. I'm sure that will continue and that's what they are going to try to do. Just being able to disrupt timing and disrupt his rhythm is a key.

Q. I know obviously Donovan started over Nick at wide receiver, or at least he was listed at the depth chart. But with Nick out, how encouraged were you by not just Simmie's performance but by Donovan's performance?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, there's a lot of guys. We had about ten different receivers catch balls. Donovan played to the way we expected him to play, as we saw in practice all fall camp.

So we have -- it's one of our deeper positions, even though you hate to lose a guy of this calibre, definitely he's going to hurt. But you know, younger guys got to step up, and opportunities will be given to them, and that's what this is about is one individual has a challenge and somebody else has to rise up and create his own opportunity and take advantage of it. So it will be more of that.

Q. Same thing happened with Simmie last year and Nick stepped up; with Nick out, who are the younger guys you are hoping or expecting to step up?
COACH ALLEN: Well, you know, right now, obviously the guys that played will be given opportunities to be -- just like they did in the game, because he didn't play a snap. He got hurt on the first play and we actually addressed that with our team. I talked to our players about that.

You know, a year ago, Simmie was injured on the offense in the first play of his season and Nick on his first play on special teams. Just have to be able to -- as the guys did in the game, we expected to have him and we didn't and had to adjust.

But I think we've got a couple freshmen: Walt Filior (ph) is a young man that is a special player. Was injured right prior to fall camp so was put -- which put him behind, for sure, in learning the system, but very, very talented. So he will be in the mix to see where his preparation is.

And Ty Fryfogle is another young man that's a freshman that's going to be in the mix, as well. We have got other guys that are already on the team that we'll see how they respond.

You know, so I always tell our guys that -- and we use our scout team as obviously preparation for each side of the football but it's evaluation time. We'll have guys that are going to be dressing and playing and on the scouts at certain times in practice, and giving us a look.

But when I'm down there with the defense, you know, I get to see all those receivers and offensive guys, and it's their job to convince their position coach and the head coach that they deserve to play.

So those are opportunities for those guys, when they are down there, because I obviously talked to our offensive coaches and say, hey, this guy, this guy, this guy, is catching our eye, or same thing happens on other side of the ball.

So I think that's where those guys like that are going to have opportunities, and it's a long season, and that's why you have to have depth. Things happen to guys and sometimes there's injuries that last a whole season, and some programs lost their quarterback for the whole year this weekend. So it's obviously a part of this game.

Q. At center, are you guys going to continue playing two centers or have you settled on one?
COACH ALLEN: We will continue to play two. Harry Crider is a very talented freshman, and tough position to play at that age, but he's continued to develop and we'll see how we bring him along. Allows us to play two guys at a position I feel like is a critical position.

He did well when he was in there, but that was pretty heated fire to throw him into as a true freshman against that calibre of a defensive line, so he did well.

Q. The line play, was that just how good Ohio State was and the push they were getting both sides of the ball in the second half, or is that a red flag for you guys?
COACH ALLEN: You know, I don't -- it's a concern, you know, and we had a concern going into the year with our depth there and Brandon being out. And so the depth, well, with him coming back, he practiced yesterday. So he will help us with that depth. We'll see how much he plays this week.

But we've got to keep growing that. I think it was the combination of both. I think that -- I know for a fact that they are extremely talented. I watched them live and I watched a lot of games over the weekend, and I didn't see anybody any better than the crew we just played up front all across the country.

So very, very talented up front for them, for sure, and their coaches agree. I think that a little bit of combination of both.

Q. How quickly --
COACH ALLEN: Brandon, I would say initially, that's the thought. But he's a guy that can play multiple positions. So I think it's about getting the best five on the field. So we're not ready to say where that would be yet. It's doing to depend on how he comes back this week and we'll see where that goes. The goal is to get the best five linemen on the field.

Q. Getting re-acclimated -- I know he missed kind of the whole first season.
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I think realistically, you practice him yesterday and you practice him all this week and you monitor his reps and you see how he's progressing and see how it feels after he's practicing, and then you build from there.

So you like to systematically bring him back into the fold. I think that's the wise way to do it because you've got to think of the whole season, not just one game.

Q. Two All-American defenders in safety and linebacker, what other challenges do they pose to the offense?
COACH ALLEN: I tell you, they do and have always done -- as a defensive coach, I've always watched Brigham Young teams play and how they play defense and they are so aggressive and well-coached, very disciplined, and very multiple in the looks that they give, especially in the back end. Just all sorts of different combinations and exotic pressures. And their head coach is a defensive coach, too, and he's the one kind of orchestrating all that.

So they give you a lot of challenges because they are hard to run the ball on by structure. That's kind of how they are built. And then when they force you to throw, they try to give you and try to confuse you with the multiple looks. Had a lot of success with that and that's why last year, even though they didn't have the record, I'm sure, that they wanted, the majority of their games were very, very close. You know, they had very tight games against good teams and went to Duke and beat Duke on the road last year.

So just when you play good defense, be good on special teams, you're going to have a chance. They control the ball very well and they have a good quarterback. It's a good combination. It's a good football team.

Q. Putting so much into a game whether you won or loss --
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I think that's a key. I know for me, I was very careful with our guys. I know the media, you know -- and I said what it was and it was the truth; it was the biggest home opener in the history of our program and that was true.

The bottom line is that throughout the process, though, I would always talk to our guys about understanding, regardless of what happened in that game, win or lose, we have to turn around and play Virginia the next week.

We talked about that in the spring, in the summer, during fall camp; that it was a big, big game because it was our next game. It was the biggest game of the season because it was our next game and that's the way I have always approached it as a head coach.

And I told our guys when we met on Saturday: Virginia is the biggest game of the season. Why? Because it's the next game. And that was the approach. There's no question there's a lot put into that.

Everybody puts a lot into our opening game, and it was a conference game. But to say you win that game and you don't play well the next several weeks, then you're back to where you were before. So that doesn't -- it can't be focused on just one thing. And obviously there's a danger in that, I think, whenever you approach a game.

But at the same time, you know, there has to be maturity to your staff, to your players. We've got some older guys on our team to understand that. Yeah, sure, you're disappointed and you don't get the outcome that you want, and that's -- you should be disappointed. You should be, you know, don't want to use the word devastated but when you play that well for so long and then you don't finish, it's frustrating.

But at the same time, you know, you have to understand that you have to have lasting mental toughness, and that to me is the key and that's what -- that's when you build a program. You're trying to build a program, and that's where, for me, you know, the things that you say you do, you're trying to change a long-standing mindset of things that have been a certain way for awhile. You know, ever since our kids have known Indiana Football, in terms of, they haven't seen us playing at a consistent level year after year after year. You know, it hasn't been that way.

So that's what we are trying to change. It's not going to be an easy change. It's going to be challenging. There's going to be disappointments, and we definitely embrace those head-on. I think that you just have to be a football team that understands it's a long season, and you know, something happens good to you, you don't overreact. Something happens bad to you, you don't overreact. You just keep plugging away.

Q. The most improvement you make is between week one and week two. How much does it help having a couple extra days in between?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I think it helped. We were able to have a practice yesterday that was a different kind of practice than a normal Sunday because of the time we had as coaches to prepare.

So we feel like you gain an extra day in your preparation, in both getting your body back, getting your mind back, and then getting yourself a jump on them schematically and that's what we were able to do in all three phases. So that was very, very beneficial for us to have that day yesterday, even as a coaching staff in our preparation.

I do think that, having coached for many years, do you see that improvement from one to two in your season. That's our expectation for our guys, and I believe that's what's going to happen.

Q. The balance you strike, guys can get hurt just about anywhere, but what's the balance you strike when using first-team guys, prominent role-players on special teams, as well?
COACH ALLEN: I think that's program philosophy. Did you pay attention to who blocked the punt against Florida State? Their starting tailback. And their backup was on the other side. And that's that way, every year. We talk to our guys all the time about, if they want to make an NFL roster, they better be able to play special teams if you're a wide receiver. There's a toughness to it.

I mean, you watch the play, I don't know how he got hurt. It's just one of those things where he planned it, and you know, just it happened. It could have happened when he went to block a guy on a first play of the game as a receiver.

So I'll never -- to me, that's -- we've got to have our good players play special teams. Tegray Scales is on the punt team, you know, and covering kicks. That's part of it. If you want to be a great football player, you'd better be able to play on special teams.

Now, you've got to be smart about it. He wasn't an owl four. But I believe in your coverage units, especially, you'd better have guys that you trust and they can run and make plays.

So you look back, obviously you say, hey, would we have -- we don't want to get injured, for sure, but I don't regret putting him on the kickoff team. I think that's what you do. You just put your best players on the teams. If you say it's a third of the game and you don't put your best players on that, that doesn't really make a lot of sense.

So it's either important or it's not. And depth comes into it, too, for sure. We played an Ohio State team that has the luxury of rolling in a lot of their twos on special teams, and there's not much of a drop-off in talent and speed from that.

So that's -- I haven't coached many places where that was the case where you had that luxury to be able to do that. So we have to use our guys and unfortunately, you know, you don't play scared to get hurt.

Q. Watching the tape --
COACH ALLEN: Not good enough. We do have the RPO system. We have 18 RPOs that were called that ended up being passes that could have been runs. So that's 18 more runs that we could have had.

But not effective. To me it's about being effective. You can take what they give you, for sure, but we've got to be able to run the football. I've said it from the beginning, you have to stop it from defense, which we didn't do on the second half, and you have to be able to run it on offense based on what they give you.

If they are going to load the box and do certain things to force us to get the balls out, those balls on the perimeter are often, in our system, are considered runs. We've had that kind of a system and I've been part of that for a long time.

So that can change the number of them that you have because you call them with the ability for the quarterback to read the situation to make the call and whether it's going to be a run or a pass. But we do need to run the football better, for sure. But they were a tough outfit to run on, no doubt.

Q. What did you see from Chris Covington?
COACH ALLEN: You know, I thought that wasn't as consistent across the board as I'd like for him to be. But saw a lot of good things. Saw a flash of making plays and running the way he can run, and sideline-to-sideline guy. Got good length. So encouraged by his progress. Just needs to -- he's one of those I think will grow from one to two because he hasn't played a ton of snaps at that position, you know, being a former quarterback. So just -- but he did some good things for sure.

Q. How encouraging was it to see the way he was clicking with Simmie -- -
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, we played really well in the passing game early, for sure, for, you know, the whole first half and a chunk of the third. But as they make their adjustments, we have to be able to make ours and continue to stay confident and throw the ball well.

But yeah, he did some good things. It was pretty obvious he was creating a lot of challenges for their defense and making plays, which is what we expect him to do. That's the guy that I saw throughout fall camp, and even this past spring, and just got to build off of it. He should come away from that. We have got to protect the football. That's always going to be a priority. But a lot of positives to build off of for sure.

Q. Other guys that made a lot of plays against Ohio State --
COACH ALLEN: His role is going to increase for sure. But he played in that game the way I saw him play in practice. I think he's a great player. We awarded him a scholarship during fall camp and he earned it. It was definitely very well deserved and I expect him to continue to make plays. He's got great hands and he's very smart and he understands how to get open.

Q. Showing a different package, is that something you look forward to --
COACH ALLEN: I do. He has a valuable skill set. It was good for him, number one thought is that you have to have more than one quarterback to prepare for whatever may happen in the future.

No. 2, I think he brings a different kind of skill set that can create some challenges for the defense and advantages for us. We have total confidence in him, and the more he plays, the better he's going to get. I was encouraged to see him make plays in that environment for the first time, and that's his first, you know, college experience in a game.

So he has a lot of great attributes.

Q. Scholarships for award videos on Twitter -- are we allowed to ask what all walk-ons ended up on scholarship?
COACH ALLEN: Ryan Watercutter was awarded a scholarship. Did a -- had some fun with that. We do -- and it was kind of humorous because he's very conscientious, and everybody on our team loves him and respects him because he's just an awesome kid.

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