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October 23, 2017

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH ALLEN: Welcome. Just begin by kind of reiterating what I did after the game. Just feel about the same. Very proud of our football team for the tremendous fight that they showed in putting ourselves in position there late in the fourth quarter to close out; we did not.

Had opportunities in couple phases to do that, and really disappointed that we did not; to be that close in that venue, tough place to play. Really was so fired up of our guys getting us it that position in all three phases.

But just, you know, as we talked yesterday to our team, it was about what do we have to do to take this next step. We identified three things.

First of all, on special teams we had some really costly -- there were three of them -- penalties that affected field position. I really made a big emphasis that field position prior to the game was going to play a huge role, and it did.

Offensively, finishing in the red zone was something that came back to haunt us, not getting a touchdown there for sure the second time in that position and have to do that in order to win on the road.

Defensively, those last few third down. We were great the majority of the game in a lot of areas on that side of the ball. Had a third and 19th that they didn't get the first down, but made it a fourth and three. Then they converted and got about three and a half yards and got that first down, which was huge. We were up 9-3 at the time.

And then a couple at the end where we had a chance at third and eight and third and nine to get the ball back with more time left so we didn't have to do what we did as time was running out to give our offense the ball.

Just had chances had in all three phases to be the difference and the reason why, and were not able to do that. That does not take way from the effort, the toughness, the grit, that our team showed, and continue to build off that and allow our guys to move forward.

Really encouraged by couple guys stepping up. Got some guys that have had some injuries and other guys have been given opportunities.

Ricky Brookins is the young man that we named as our offensive player of the game. Did everything we asked him to do in both protections and in the screen game, and just getting some tough runs. Just a guy that came here is as a walk-on that really has always been dependable, and love him for that and his character.

Chase Dutra was the defensive player of the game. Just played lights out, and making this 19 snaps on special teams and all those snaps on defense, and just continues to give everything for this team. So proud of him. Not really surprised, because that's how he has always played since I've been around him. Just 100 miles an hour and gives his whole heart to this, and he's making a lot of plays.

And then Griffin Oakes, three field goals, special teams player of the game. Continues to be consistent, and that has to be a part of what he's known. Really proud of him.

In regards to our scouts for the week and our preparation, very, very important part of us being ready to play each and ever Saturday. Offensively Nick Tronti, Alex Rodgriguez, and Tyler Natee. Defensively, Owen Strieter and Derrian Meminger were listed. So getting a lot of different guys involved; it's another big week of preparation. That's one we have to put behind us and press on.

Now we're getting ready to move on to Maryland, a team that's much improved from a year ago; Coach Durkin has been there now in his second season. When they went to the Texas to start the year and defeated them 51 to 41 in kind of a crazy game with a lot of special teams, drama, and different points scored there on both sides in all different phases, but very explosive offensively.

They have two of the best backs we will have faced as a combination. Receiver-wise, too, the best receivers will play in regards to ball skills and speed. That's a tremendous chance.

Defensively just run around really well. Coach Durkin is a defensive-minded coach, and always has his guys really on that side of the ball. They've been opportunistic in creating takeaways, physical up front, and they run to the ball really well. I know that's what he demands.

Good football team that we have to be on the road against and at our best. With this preparation, it's going to be very important for us to be able to attack this week. Our word is "relentless" to head to Maryland on Friday.


Q. How do you combat the frustration from a coaching standpoint as well as a players' standpoint when you are this close and you can't quite do it?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, you know, I think that's a fair question. We had a good discussion as a team yesterday. Kind of get a chance for them to talk a little bit and asked them about how they felt personally. Yeah, it's very natural to be -- to get discouraged. Disappointed for sure, and frustrated.

But what I did was I shared -- there is a few head coaches in this conference that reached out to me regarding the way our team is playing. I didn't ask them. They just chose to do that. They were so complimentary of how hard we play, how well we've played, how physical we are, how tough our kids are. Just the way we've just battled and fought against really good football teams. They're impressed.

So I told our guys, I said, You can choose to feel sorry for yourself or you can realize you gust played arguably the toughest schedule in the country to start the season and you're right there. So you can get disappointed and hang your head and mope, or you can draw confidence from the way you performed.

Not how I told you you could, but how you have physically shown to perform. You can draw strength and confidence from that and attack with more fervor and grit than ever before, because you do know you're right on the edge and on the verge of breaking through.

That's the way I approached it. I just think that it's a matter of staying the course and just not growing weary in the process. That's the key. That's going to our challenge as coaches. But we have played a tough schedule. You look at that in the beginning, and I could have told you that six months ago. You knew we were in for a tough, challenging start to our season.

Here we are with the first half already completed plus one, and you got five games left. How you going to respond? How you going to finish? So that word "finish," applies to the game, it applies to a lot of things. That's going to be something you're going to hear me say a lot here over the next several weeks.

Definitely a challenge for sure to be able to keep the mind, which is a very, very powerful thing, to keep your mind right. Because that affects your behavior, the way you approach each day, and it's that's going to affect the way they come to practice tomorrow.

I fully expect them to be highly energized and focused and locked in to go play our best game of the season on Saturday at Maryland. Our staff will lead by example, and that's what I expect. That's where we're at.

Q. On the offensive side I know there have been some struggles, particularly against some of the better Big 10 teams. Do you feel like the concepts and sort of the things, maybe the foundation for that unit to kind of launch itself these last five games is there even if maybe the yards, the production...
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I do. You know, you got to always -- I'm not going to take away from Michigan State's defense and Michigan's defense and the teams we've played, Ohio State's defense, Penn State's defense. Those are four really, really good Big 10 defenses. I know Michigan State is ranked top 5; when we played Michigan they were No. 1.

So you have to understand it's a part of the big picture of what you're going against. You got a young quarterback that's still growing for sure. He's been put in some tough situations, no doubt about it. I think it's a lot of things, a lot of variables.

We believe in what we're doing, and definitely want to -- you have calls you have back, you want to change. Gosh, I got a call I wish I could have changed on one of our situations. Just like I tell our team, There are two days that you don't need to focus on: that's yesterday and tomorrow. You focus on today. You learn from yesterday. You don't be anxious about tomorrow. You dwell on today.

So we're learning from our past mistakes and things we want to do and improve on and get better at, and we focus on what we're going to do today to be able to be at our best tomorrow.

Obviously we've played some really good, talented teams. I know a lot of teams have tough schedules, so that's part of it. We knew that going in. Now we've got to be able to allow ourselves to learn from those and execute in those key situations.

That's what it comes down, even on that third and long. You got to execute the call.

Q. As much a you preach resiliency for your team, when you look at an opponent like Maryland who is now down to their third quarterback, is there anything your team can learn from what they've dealt with?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah. I think we have had several positions where backups are playing and guys are just mixing and matching. They have had the same thing. It's part of the game. It's part of life.

As I tell our team, very rarely do you -- once the season starts are you going to have all those same guys at their same positions at this point in the season. So I think they're an example of that. So are other teams.

I know even talking to Coach Dantonio they had a rash of injuries a year ago, and all anybody wanted to focus on with them was the fact that they were just losing game after game after game.

Well, they were really beat up in a lot of key areas, and it took its toll on them and their season. You can't dwell on that and you don't, but is it a variable? Sure, it can be a variable. They're on their third quarterback, and so that definitely has an impact on the team.

The young man that is playing there now is getting better and better every week and they're building it around what he can do. He's a tough, hard-nosed kid that's making plays. Led them to a tough road win at Minnesota. So he's doing what he's supposed to do, which is step up and do his job. That's what our guys have to do on our team in those positions, those situations.

I promise you, nobody else outside of here is feeling sorry for anybody. You just got to roll your sleeves up and go to work. That's what we've done here and that's what we're going to do this week.

Q. Can you update in terms of availability possibly this week, or possibly not?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, Ian Thomas is a guy that we tried to go with. He was a game-time decision, and got him in the warmups and just couldn't go. So hoping to get him back. That would be a real positive thing.

I think that rest of the guys it's still wait and see. It's too early in the week to know. We haven't practiced yesterday; normal padded practice tomorrow, so we'll know more.

Simon Stepaniak is another young man you would like to be able to get back out there. We'll see how he progresses.

A'Shon Riggins, same thing. See how he develops this week. Those are three guys that didn't play last week.

Marcelino Ball, same thing. Just trying to see we where they are physically and be able to get as many back as we can.

Q. (Regarding Coy Cronk.)
COACH ALLEN: He definitely had the injury during the game and working hard to get him squared away. It's a wait and see for sure.

Q. Donavan Hale, I think you might have said pre-game he might be out for the year. If is he is, is he eligible for a medical redshirt?
COACH ALLEN: He had surgery, and so we don't know yet the extent. If he cannot play due to that surgery, then, yes, he would be eligible for us to apply for a medical for his year.

Q. I know you talked about Whitehead before, but the advantage he gives, the presence he gives by being able to punt he way he has.
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I just think that -- I mean, I knew that we had to get that special team fixed. It's the one special team when I first made the jump to college and you start having your spring practices, it's really the only special team that colleges work on in the spring.

You work on punt team, and then everything else is just drill work for fundamentals really of all the other special teams, your cover units and you return units. Always do the punt, so it's the one special team where the most amount of yardage is at stake, field position, it's everything.

So I just felt like we went after Haydon and you get him here, and he's proven to be as valuable as I hoped he would. And it's not just having these great high spiraling punts. That's not really what it's all about. It's about ball placement. That's the thing that I think a young man like Haydon with his skillset gives you.

When you can move the, as we call it the kick point, around. It's no different than a quarterback where if he's always dropping straight back and from throwing from a similar area you can kind of tee off on that area. If you don't know where he's throwing from, you sprint him out, you do a five, a three, you do this, that, roll him to his left, roll him to his right. If the quarterback can do that, makes it harder defensively to pinpoint how you want to pressure him.

It's no different in a punt. He gives us that flexibility. A lot of times a guy just punts from the same spot all the time and you can kind of scheme him up a little bit. So that helps. Then you try and put the ball in different places and they got to guess where it's going to be kicked.

He has the ability to move around because of the ball control a lot of times the Australian punters have because that's the game they learned playing since they were little. They have tremendous control with the ball. Whether it's pinning them inside the ten or trying to flip the field or try and get the ball on the ground and let it roll a little bit so they can't catch it, that's, to me, what makes him.

You get these returns in our league, and they're good. You sometimes get a beautiful kick. Well it's too good of a kick. It's too far, too high, it outkicks you coverage in some ways, and that gets big returns. I would much rather have a shorter, well-played kick than a high, spiralling kick that allows them to set up a good return because of the talent of the guy catching the ball.

So kind of learned that coaching in the SEC. I was special teams special coordinator, and we were kicking to some really, really special athletes that we did not want them returning it.

It was either catch it as it run out of bounds, or get the ball on the ground. I saw in a guy like Haydon to be able to do those things. He's proven to be a big weapon, which is huge.

Q. What can you say about Griffin's mental state?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, he's locked in; he's doing his job. He feels good about where he is, and the mechanics are in rhythm. He's just got to continue.

Yeah, he's kicked well. Really proud of him. He had had a history of going to this place, Michigan State meaning, and not kicking well. So really -- well, we never talked about it, okay, intentionally, but he would bring it up I guess I just didn't want to make that a topic.

I just said, It's about your mindset. As a man thinketh, so is he. I think that that's why I focused on his mindset all off-season. Just very proud of him. Just got to continue, and I believe it will.

Q. You talk about Chase being a guy always going 100 miles an hour. He's kind of a vocal guy. What kind of presence does he bring?
COACH ALLEN: Good sense of humor, you know; quiet confidence about him; he believes in himself; he brings that confidence to the group.

Any time you just play that hard all the time and it never changes, that creates a lot of respect, you know. You control that, right? So he chooses every game to play that hard. As a matter of fact, there are times we try to take him off special teams to try and get him a break; he won't come off. He knows how critical each one of those cover units are that he's on.

So I just think it's like when you have a kid that on your defense -- I heard a coach say yesterday, and this so true. They had a walk-on that just played so hard at defensive end he just sets the tone. That coach felt like that guy set a tone for his team because of the effort and toughness he played with.

That's what Chase does. He's not a walk-on, but he has that unbelievable toughness, grit, and fight. It's consistent. It's infectious. It's because, Hey, if I'm seeing that I know I can do that, because effort is a choice.

Q. Does Brookins also have that grit?
COACH ALLEN: He does. He does. Kid comes here that's in his situation and he's got a chip on his shoulder or something to prove. I just really, really think he brings that for sure. It's hard to come here and have to pay for everything and have everything not given to you in that area.

He's had to earn all that. That's why I have so much respect for those guys, the ones that are able to just persevere and help the team and make it in whatever ways. His role has been expanded to help us on Game Day. Sometimes the roles is to help in preparation during the week.

Whatever their role is, those guys that accept it and buy into that are special guys.

Q. You mentioned moving a quarterback, rolling out a quarterback would be tough to defend. Without giving away strategy, does Peyton lend himself to doing more of that?
COACH ALLEN: He does. He's a guy that can do that for sure. You have to be able to move both directions as a quarterback, even though as a right-handed guy he's going to feel more natural going to his right, but has to have the ability to move his left whether it's scrambling around or designed roll outs.

I think you have to look at that, and especially per who you're playing and how good they are up front. To me, that helps give you an advantage of not being as predictable.

But I know Coach will do great job of that, and just trying to help him being successful for sure.

Q. With Isaac James moving to safety, can you walk us through that.
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, just got some guys injured and felt like that was the best chance for us to get him on the field. He's a really good athlete and a great kid. We felt like, Hey, this is where he could really help our team. Really have kind of played him both at rover and husky based on injuries. So need him this week. Need his speed and his ability to make plays in space.

So he's going to be important in our preparation, because it's a different style of offense that we play compared to the last couple weeks. More of a true spread.

So, yeah, it's been a good opportunity for him for sure. He's right there in the mix.

Q. Is that a permanent move?
COACH ALLEN: I think that what we would like to do is just -- permanent for the season, yes, and then when we get into spring ball and we'll see how it goes there. Probably get a chance to see where he would fit long-term in the spring.

Q. He made a heck of a tackle on special teams. Does he have that capacity?
COACH ALLEN: He sure did. Absolutely he does. Once again, athletes in space. He's a really good athlete. Yeah, that's where we need as many of those guys as we can.

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