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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 25, 2017
COACH ALLEN: Good afternoon. Just wanted to begin by saying, once again, just really proud of our football team and the way that they prepared and focused and finished on Saturday. I know that's a game that we're supposed to win. But I also have been here enough to know that has not always been the kind of focus and the kind of consistent execution throughout the game in those situations in the past, and so I really made a point of emphasis to be able to have consistent performance from our guys and really challenged them in that area, challenged our coaching staff and was pleased with that part of it.
You know, we did do some good things. Did some things we need to work on. But to be able to come out here and to play to the level that you're supposed to play at is what's important. That, to me, was encouraging, of us moving in the direction of continuing to grow as a program.
Also, from the game, had some fine performances that we recognize. The defensive players of the game: Allen Stallings is a young man that we recognize for that award. Really thought his play was taken to another level. With Greg Gooch's situation, he was bumped up to being the starter, which was a great opportunity for him and he responded. Thought he played throughout the game, from start to finish, at the level that I want to see him play at. And with all the different things that they did offensively, it was good for him to see.
And with Andre Brown, they were Co-Defensive Players of the Game. And Andre, I thought played really well throughout the game. There at the end, the strip, and the defensive touchdown was just great technique. Even the tackle that he made prior to stripping the ball was textbook, and really proud of his toughness and effort throughout the game. So those were the two guys there.
Offensive player of the game, Morgan Ellison. You all know what he did statistically. But true freshman, is playing the way I -- after fall camp, the way he convinced me he could play, and he's proven that he's a young man that has a bright future if he stays hungry and humble and keeps working hard.
Special Teams Player of the Game is J-Shun Harris. Again, and really proud of his execution and the whole -- we call it the score team. That's our punt return unit, and they have done that twice now, they have scored. So we want to continue to do a great job in that phase.
As far as from a national perspective, J-Shun, he's third nationally in returns, and is the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week, again, and has become one of a few select members of our history that have had two punt returns for touchdown. Only one other individual has done it back-to-back weeks. Big accomplishment for J-Shun and our entire special teams unit.
With Morgan, he's fourth now nationally in rushing for true freshmen in the country, but his offensive line and our offensive line were a big reason for that. He recognized that. But proud of him and his hard work so far. You want that to continue.
So just kind of put the closing chapter on that, that game, and be able to learn from it, grow from it and get ready for our next opponent.
Unfortunately we did have quite a few injuries from the game, and part of the process is getting guys healthy. We sat some guys out and we're not sure yet if they are going to be back next week.
But Nate Hoff is a guy that's going to be questionable for this week.
Marcelino Ball was injured, as well. Not sure of his status. He had a lower-body injury.
Juan Harris, another individual that was injured in that game and very doubtful for immediate future.
Kiante Walton, another one that went down and is going to be having surgery tomorrow. Will not be season-ending, but he'll be out for a few weeks.
A-Shon Riggans was also sidelined from the game and will be looking at his status as we move forward.
Offensively, Simon did not play and we'll see his status. I'm not sure about him at this point; neither Mike Majette, about his status for this week or Donavan Hale.
So we have a long list of guys. Rashard Fant was one that didn't play either, and he's also on that list and not sure about his status.
But it's a tremendous challenge for our program. You know, you get to points in seasons when you want to be healthy. Sometimes you are; sometimes you're not. And other young men to have rise up and play to a level that you expect them to; what this team demands, what our conference demands, and it's part of it. You look across the country and other teams are dealing with the same thing and you have to pony up, as we say.
So our guys are very focused, had a great practice yesterday. I love the spirit of our team and their mindset at this point. We have a tremendous challenge ahead of us going into Beaver Stadium there in the State of Pennsylvania against Penn State.
So very excited about this opportunity to play, you know, as is considered by many, one of the best teams in the country. Some would say the best team in our conference right now and they seem to be playing at that level. Many have said that their tailback is the best in the country right now, and I don't see any reason to think otherwise.
The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation is represented by the coaches association for this weekend's game, and we take a tremendous amount of pride in representing that foundation and raising money for a great, great cause, so we'll be wearing patches for that as coaches this week. So our continued support for that organization is unwavering as an AFCA, which is the American Football Coaches Association.
On to Penn State. Just a ton of respect for their coaching staff and their program, what they have done. Coach Franklin has done a tremendous job in a tough situation initially and has recruited extremely well and has his team playing at a high level.
When you look at all three phases, very impressive program. Probably the best combination of everything that you see in defending as far as run game, pass game, offense, defense, special teams, across the board, playing at a very high level. Impressive win at Iowa on Saturday night. I think we were all watching that game and just impressed to see how they finished.
So a lot of respect for them. A tremendous challenge for our program, and tremendous opportunity, as well. So that's all I have to say. Questions?
Q. Do you feel like you saw enough for the running game to carry over?
COACH ALLEN: It wasn't a Big Ten opponent, so you can't say that it's equal for sure. But it's what you want to see. You go into the game, saying, hey, we need to run the football and want to establish that, and we did it.
You know, so that's why I say -- I was encouraged and excited about the game just because -- I mean, I understand who we're playing. But at the same time, that hasn't always been the case. You go into some of those games, I've been a lot of places where I leave very frustrated because you didn't have the focus; you didn't have the execution that you want in several different areas. And I was on edge with our guys about making sure the little things were not being overlooked. We wanted to run the football well; we did, and that definitely is a positive moving forward.
Q. How would you say you're a better team now than when you played Ohio State?
COACH ALLEN: I would say that when you play Ohio State, it's week No. 1. You have a lot of things that you think are a certain way, but you're not really sure. You have certain freshmen that haven't done certain things.
We thought Morgan was a good player and he's proven that he can be a very good running back at this level. You know, you have questions about this position, that position. You think certain things are a way that they are and now you feel different because you say, hey, you know what, I feel good about that.
So I feel like that we're a football team now that has a much better understanding of who we are and what our strengths lie and what are things that we've got to continue to focus on. I think that gives you confidence as you move into conference play, once again, as we've had a couple non-conference game.
So I just feel like that even you take the game, like at Virginia. I knew going in that they were a good football team. Well, when they went and played Boise State at Boise State, what was it, Friday night, and looked the way that they looked at Boise, which is a very tough place to play, we kind of confirmed, we played a good football team and beat a good football team on the road.
So once again, you know certain things now that you didn't know before about your team, and I think you have a different level of confidence. We've gone on the road and we've played well, and we now expecting to on the road again and play well again. We have that first road trip under our belt and we are ready to go attack it again.
That's where I think you get a different feel both as a staff and as a team when you're getting ready for week four.
Q. A lot of coaches talk about the response from the freshmen after a really good game. What do you need to see next from Morgan after his performance on Saturday?
COACH ALLEN: Run like that against a Big Ten opponent. I think that young men that have success have to learn how to handle success. You know, we talk a lot about staying humble and hungry. The edge that you have to get you where you are has to continue, and you have to find new things to motivate you and challenge you as you get put in the position of recognized for an award, getting pulled out after the game to do an interview with the Big Ten Network and all those things. How do you handle that? Do you start to think it's all about you? Well, that conflicts with our core value of it's not about me.
And so we've got to keep those guys grounded and focused and locked in and allow him to be -- continue to take the next step in production against better and better opponents.
Q. After watching film, when you saw Brandon Knight get back into the mix, what did you see on film from the offensive line?
COACH ALLEN: I thought, executed well, and for a group that got a couple guys in there that were different than had been in there, thought this they gelled well. Was disappointed in the fourth and one. You know, us not getting that.
The third and one prior to that was a blown assignment and the fourth down and one was the running back has got to make the guy miss and get the first down, you know. But I thought as a group, they did a really good job working together and being assignment sound and creating openings, you know, and obviously Morgan and the rest of the running backs ran hard but they have to have creases and they gave them those openings.
Q. As a follow-up about Morgan, Rich said postgame that early in camp when the guys were in full pads, he said Morgan was kind of running like he wasn't full pads and guys were like, don't push it too fast. What did he maybe look like through your eyes in those early practices and did you see some of that?
COACH ALLEN: I did. I would say after just a couple practices, right away, you know, I made the comment to our staff -- we were in there, as a defensive coach, I'm in there watching, you know, the first part of camp, you're going against your own offense. You're not doing scouts at that point.
So I'm seeing him run the football against our defense, even if it's not even going full yet. You could just tell; from his footwork, his lateral quickness, his burst was different than some others, definitely for a guy that just got here. Made the comment pretty quickly, this guy, this guy's got something to him. You want to see him do it in full pads and then you want to see him do it in games and then you want to see him do it consistently.
There's progressions to this. Once again, goes back to staying the right mindset and keep working. But he's shown some good things, you know, and that's what you want to see. Now you've got to be able to say, okay, now let's do it now against Penn State because that's the most important game of the season. Why? Because it's the next game.
Q. Allen Stallings was your MPV. What did he do that he hadn't been doing?
COACH ALLEN: You know, I think sometimes it's just cutting it loose. You know, it's confidence. It's how you practice. Sometimes when you're the backup, you know, and you're not old enough and mature enough to be locked in all the time, that's kind of how you perform. You're kind of up and down.
So he wasn't consistent and didn't practice at a level -- man, I challenged him and my challenge was spirited because I knew he was the guy, and he had to be the guy, and he needed to elevate and he responded.
I'm going to give Greg Gooch a lot of credit, too, because he's not only been a great leader for us, and I've mentioned it a couple other times, but he really has been a great mentor to Allen and helping him practice different. I think because Greg knew he wasn't going to be in there the first half, he really took it personal to make sure Allen was ready.
So he played more consistent, he gave better effort all the time, and he finished the game. When I know -- we played a lot of snaps, it was hot, as we all experienced and he was still playing with that same burst. He got that sack at the end because of tremendous effort, and just want-to, which is really a big part of sacking the quarterback, mixed in with some good technique
So I just thought he raised his preparation level, his performance level and his effort, and that's what we saw different in production.
Q. Second consecutive week special teams had a big impact, long field goals, punt returns, Haydon's punting. What do you think are the keys to the steps forward that you've taken in all phases of special teams from last year to this year?
COACH ALLEN: Well, first of all -- and it's not that wasn't important in the past, but it had to become a bigger priority. We spend more practice time on it than we have in the past. We spend more meeting time on it than we have in the pat. We've assigned Jeff McInerney; is in charge of special teams. He's in an off-the-field role but he organizes all of them, organizes all the drill, all the scheme, and we have four coaches that coach each unit of the big four. Coach Inge does the kickoff cover unit, which we call the Hammer Team; and Coach Shelby does the punt return unit, which is our Score Team; and Coach Hart has our kickoff return unit which we call our House Call Unit; and then our punt team which we call Crimson Watch is Coach Joseph.
So those are the big four and so those coaches all have that ownership. I want ownership. I want those guys to feel it and personalize it, and then we have other coaches assigned to help them with each one of those special teams. And so Coach Hagen does our PAT field goal blacks and Coach Hillier does our PAT field goals. But Coach McInerney oversees all that. He instructs and coaches the coaches and gets the scheme organized. So it's a whole organizational structure that's different.
And so to me, you get what you emphasize, and I know how critical special teams are. I believe in it and I know that you have got to invest in them. And we've always worked on them. But I just knew we needed to elevate the awareness, the sense of urgency and and how we are going to execute what we do. Changed some schemes up on some of them. Actually most of them, we've changed some schemes up, but just that has to continue. It's got to be, you know, it's a third of the game in importance and in value and opportunities for impact.
And we say this: Every phase of the game has, we call them, our method. How are we going to get this done on the field. And for special teams, it's three axioms that we have embraced and our kids repeat them every single day before we start the meeting; that is: We are going to provide the winning edge, be at your best when it counts the most and create game-changing plays.
Those are the three cornerstones of special teams, and our guys have that memorized and it's in front of them all the time. Provide the winning edge. And to me, that's what has to happen. When I'm a specialist, I may get five kicks a game. Well, I've got to be at my best when it counts the most, those five opportunities. I may get three punts to return or four kick -- whatever, how far many; not a lot of opportunities sometimes, but the importance is critical, and then creating game-changing plays. We've seen those, the big punts that flip the field, the long field goals that change momentum, the punt returns for touchdowns that just are huge in a game.
So those are the things that we have done in special teams that I believe has created a different product, and it's got to continue.
Q. Where do you think your defense is at right now in relation to the fact that you want to become a Top-25 defense this year? At this point in the season, do you feel good about the defensive progress or not?
COACH ALLEN: I will say this: Statistically, the first game really set us back. You know, makes it tough, because we didn't finish that game and gave up some big numbers, so that hurts. But at the same time, I feel like how we've been executing, I don't think it's been consistent with both groups. I think our first group has played to that level a lot of the time.
I think even when you look at the Virginia game, you realized, you know, there's some things that they were doing that kind of frustrated us a little bit because they were kind of dinking us. But we did not give one explosive play that game, which is a reason we got after them a little bit. They got some yards but they didn't get points.
In today's game, it's really, it's about scoring -- the last two games in a row, we've held them to 17 points, and that's our goal, 17 or less. That's hard to do in today's game. Obviously the first game number was big, so it offsets the average. So you've got to kind of see it big picture-wise.
I feel like that we're doing a lot of really good things. I don't think our depth is what it needs to be yet. And are those twos playing the level of the ones? No. That's what we've got to get to.
So that to me is the continue to get better with our first group and bring along the young guys. That's why guys are injured and some guys going to play this week and some guys are not that we have played in the past. But at the same time, those twos have to step up. It's part of the season, play 12 games. You've got to be able to do that. I do think we're making progress. We're a lot better defense. May not be on paper than we were a year ago at this time, there's no question; I don't think it's even close. But we played a different schedule, too. We don't open the season last year against Ohio State. It was Florida International, and we were losing that game in the fourth quarter. And so, that to me is, where you've got to understand where you're going. We're now in conference play and we just have to keep getting better.
Q. When you go against Barkley and McSorley, as formidable a a one-, two-punch as there is, without revealing any secrets, how do you approach them?
COACH ALLEN: You know, they are. Those are two -- there's not a quarterback, tailback combination in the country right now that's playing at a higher level. They are doing a great, great job, won't be and they are dangerous and confident. You know, he's making runs that are impressive, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. And the quarterback is just, man, McSorley is just special, he is and he's just got that moxy that you want in a quarterback and that core confidence and that belief.
So you know, to me, we're not going to give anything away, but at the same time, the logical thing is you have to find out what they do really well and you have to find a way to take it away. You have to make them beat you with things that are not their strength.
And if they can beat you with the things that are not their strength, then they are probably just better than you. We have got to put it together and we are in the process of putting together a great plan for our team in all three phases. Coaches are working as we speak, and that's our responsibility and it's our players responsibility to play, execute that scheme with fanatical effort.
It's a tremendous challenge because, you know, they are so spread, they are going to get a lot of snaps. They are 50-snaps-a-half pretty much every game, and they are able to go at a good tempo and get the calls that they want per not huddling and just seeing everything, and they can stretch you vertically and they can stretch you horizontally.
Anytime you've got a back like him -- you've got to gang tackle that guy, now. You've got to get as many hats to the ball as you can, and that's a challenge because they are spreading you out, which is the beauty of the style of offense.
So tremendous challenge, and you know, they are hard to stop. You've got to slow them down and make them earn everything and somehow, some way, make them kick field goals. That, to me, is what you try to do.
Q. Twice in a row now heading into a tough matchup like this --
COACH ALLEN: Very important. Very important. Even that being said, I feel like in both games, man, we should have held them both to ten, and I think about the flow of the game and how things happen, but we didn't. But yeah, even that goal of 17 is hard to get to for sure. I just think, once again, that's our edge; it's our mindset; it's our confidence; it's the hunger that we have as a defense; the hunger that we have as a football team.
We have so much pride in what we do as a unit on that side of the football that we want to be able to keep people out of the end zone, and doing that these last couple weeks has been big.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports