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November 6, 2017

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH ALLEN: Welcome. A little bit of recap from Saturday. As I said then, and I really feel the same way as when I talked to the team afterwards and when I talked to them yesterday. After watching the film, really felt about the same in regards to our kids played hard and just did not capitalize on two key opportunities to get the ball back when the ball was on the ground.

Caused two fumbles and didn't get either one of them. It was seven-point game at both times and that would've been huge.

And then the two picks that we threw in the fourth quarter were just big, big mistakes that we didn't recover from.

So thought our defense played really, really hard. Got wore down, and then at the fourth quarter when we had to go back a couple times there, would love to see us bow up and force field goal attempts.

Unfortunately weren't able to do that, and that created the separation in the score. Got to protect the football, got to create takeaways on our side of the football, and learn from that and press on.

So that's where we're at.

As far as the game summary, offensively Wes Martin was our offensive player of the game. Continues to be rock solid on the offensive line, as both a leader and his performance.

Defensively Robert McCray probably played his best game I believe since I've been here. Couple sacks; caused one of the fumbles and several hurries. I thought he was very physical in the run game, which we have to have that from him. Really challenged him. Applaud his effort and how well he played. We need that the final stretch from him. Really proud of Robert and the way he performed.

And then special teams was Griffin Oakes, another field goal that he continues to do a great job in that area. His kickoffs were solid and did have a tackle. Don't want to him to have to make those tackles, but he got one that was key for us. So doing little things right.

On the scout team, defensively Derrian Meminger, defensive tackle, as well as Josh Brown, defensive tackle, both players of the week.

And then on offense, Jack Moran, Phil Benker. And Sam Garvin. Jack is a receiver, Phil is a receiver, and Sam is an offensive lineman. So very proud of their effort and continued focus in practice, which is what we have to have on this final stretch.

Very important game for us as we head to Illinois on Saturday. Very good challenge yesterday with our players. We had our seniors all come down and stand before the team and understand what is at stake, a sense of urgency at this stage of the season in our final three Big 10 games.

Our complete focus is now turned to Illinois and going to Champaign and playing our best football this season. That's the objective and what we plan to do.


Q. Will Peyton be able to play?
COACH ALLEN: Don't know yet. That will continue to progress. We would love to be able to get him physically ready to go. We'll know more as the week unfolds. Had him out there yesterday working through everything and throwing him some balls. Continue to rehab.

We would love to get him back, but we don't know yet.

Q. If you needed him Saturday, could he have played?
COACH ALLEN: I don't think so, uh-uh. You have that conversation about Nick Tronti and his redshirt and what that all looks like. We've had those conversations prior to that.

So basically if we had to go through and play the game out, a didn't really feel like Peyton was ready to go yet; Nick would've had to go.

Q. You say you had the seniors come down yesterday. Was that like a players' meeting?
COACH ALLEN: No. We have a normal Sunday afternoon meeting; the first thing we do have after we watch special teams. I just had every senior come down and stand in front of the whole team.

Want them to look them in the eye and want the seniors to look them in the eye and understand what's at stake the last three weeks of the season. Special group of guys here with us, and it's all about people. I made that a point at that time as well.

The motivation for us is from within. It's the guys that's next to you. It's not about the challenge before you, it's those who are beside you. That's what I believe is a powerful thing that our guys have bought into. The guys beside them is a special group the seniors.

There is a sense of urgency that I believe we have to have and we will have. We have some great leaders in that senior class. I wanted the whole team to look them in the eye and know as they prepare for this huge game for us, which is the biggest game because it's our next game, but we all understand where we are and what we need to do.

So I'm wanted those guys in front of them just to symbolically show what this is all about.

Q. You have a roster without any senior offensive lineman. How much was a factor is that on your rushing game?
COACH ALLEN: I think it's a variable. When I think about offensive lineman, you think about fifth-year seniors, older guys. That's the one position you really want to have a good core of experience and physical maturity.

Yeah, by not having any seniors, I think that's part of it. I think that we just weren't able to establish a run game and they killed us. You have to be able to run the football. I'm not going to cease to say that, and continue to be a priority for us.

I think as those guys develop, and as we've had injuries and as well as youth, I think the combination of the two has made it hard. We just going to continue to make it a priority. Those guys are working hard to, number one, get healthy, number two, to play well together.

But, yeah, I think that's a variable.

Q. How much of a factor is it at the end of ball games now where your depth is not as strong as it needs to be? How much of a factor is that? Is this team wearing out to some degree?
COACH ALLEN: Well, the numbers show that. We go through and we study everything by quarter, whether it's first down production, third down production, just the number of three-and-outs we give up as an offense, number we get as a defense.

The fourth quarter has been tough on us, and I believe and I know that the injuries have taken their toll. That's where it really gets exposed.

For example, Tegray and Chris Covington played every snap. So they're playing 80 snaps on defense and that's hard were really hard.

So they're giving us phenomenal effort. Yeah, you can just go through and I just think that that hurts us for sure. The answer for that is recruiting and create more depth and getting guys back from injuries. So it's not a simple response to that. Really not a quick fix by any means.

But there is no question that's hurting us. Especially against a big, big physical team like that that just keeps rolling them in. The size they have takes its toll as the game wears on.

Q. I know we ask this all the time, but some of the guys like Marcelino, is there any path for them getting back any time soon?
COACH ALLEN: We're trying. I'll tell you, I meet with those guys individually and just try to continue the rehab and meet with our trainers and doctors just to do everything we can. It's all about -- I care more about their well-being, but it's that natural tension to try to get them back and ready to play, but don't want them to come back too soon.

Yeah, we're trying as hard as we can to get them rehabbed and get them back. So I don't expect Marcelino will be back this week. It would surprise me if he was. We're trying to for sure, but you just don't know until you get into the week for sure how that's going to play out. Would love to get him back. He's still working hard every single day to try to make that happen.

Hope to get some other guys back for sure. We'll know more about that as the week unfolds. The key is for us to continue to -- get a guy or two back, it helps a lot in special teams and overall depth.

Q. Nick Tronti as an option, is that totally depth related, or has he played really well?
COACH ALLEN: I think it's depth related. You know, we would like to keep his redshirt for sure. That would be the ideal thing to do for a guy that came in the summer, didn't come in midyear, to be able to learn what he needs to learn.

But right now, you know, if Peyton can't go, then as the game played itself out, he was on standby be the next guy in the game. So that's where we at from a depth-chart perspective, and so we were very up front with him about that, and his family. We talked that through and they knew exactly what could happen.

But, yeah, you would like to preserve his redshirt if at possible.

Q. The sense of urgency you talk about, do you worry it might turn into recklessness or carelessness at all?
COACH ALLEN: No, I don't think so. I think that's leadership. I think that's what we have to -- you know, I think time creates that, you know, some situations. The clock continues to tick on the season, and so that happens regardless of what you do, and so as is the case in life.

So I just think more that than anything, it's just a sense of urgency that you have to understand where we are. But I think that can be a good thing. I do. That's how I look at it. I'm one of those that's always looking for every angle of motivation with our team.

I think our guys understand that concept. You don't want them to press. Just go out there and play your hardest and play your best.

You just want to make sure that everything they can do in their preparation is being attended to. Every film session, every little thing they can gain in practice reps, mental reps, staying after practice working on this, working on that, getting proper rest, all those things that go into playing your best.

To me, that's the sense of urgency that has to be there, because you know that when the end is near, that creates an brevity of life that we all experience. Seniors are different because there is no next year for seniors. That's why it's valuable to have strong leadership from that group and strong play from that group, because they have a different sense of urgency about them than a freshman who just got here.

Q. With Illinois' offense, they struggle a little bit to score, but what do they do well? What concerns you?
COACH ALLEN: Well, they have -- they've changed quarterbacks, and No. 10 is a very good athlete. The quarterback running game with him is a lot different, and it's something that they've taken advantage of and been able to utilize. They have skilled receivers for sure, and effective runningbacks that have done a good job.

They have had some injuries as well at certain positions. They have a lot of youth on the offensive line. I think that always, as we just had those discussions with our guys, creates challenges for sure. They play the same Big 10 schedule we will we play, so you got tough opponents.

But to me it's about us playing our very best. That's what we have to do in all three phases. We focus on us being a team that does the little things right during the game, creating takeaways, protecting the football, (indiscernible) on special teams play. That, to me, is what has to be our formula for going on the road and winning.

Q. (Regarding penalties.)
COACH ALLEN: Oh, yeah.

Q. (Regarding holding call.)
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, there is no question that penalties, as much a part of the game as they are, nobody wants to make that kind of mistake or intentionally get called for holding. There is technique and there is footwork involved with that, there is doing the little things right. Sometimes it's being able to step properly.

So that's where those kind of things can be manifested in the outcome of a play. Any time it's a major penalty, so ten yards plus, those are really hard to overcome for most offenses. Even an offsides in the red zone can be a killer, especially when you're a tempo offense and you rely on that and it just kind of kills all that.

So playing disciplined football is a big part of our success. We don't have a lot of margin for error. I say that often and I mean that. We need to be able to maximize all the little things. That's definitely a variable involved in that.

Q. Peyton Hendershot, I think I saw him not in pads Saturday. Seemed like he had done a lot on special teams.
COACH ALLEN: He did, and, you know, sustained an injury and we continue to rehab him. Still trying to get him back. He is a big-bodied guy that you need that can run.

So you also get to the point in the season when you want to make sure you're protecting him based on the amount of snaps he's played. If he doesn't get back, to be able to not use up a whole year for only playing for a small portion. That's the whole thing we're trying to balance.

At the same time, trying to put yourself in position to finish the way you want to finish. There is a lot variables involved with trying to ma e those decisions with your players, especially the freshman, the guys that haven't been redshirted yet, and how you decide to play it.

But, yeah, he's a guy you really need on special teams.

Q. Going back and watching the game film, what adjustments did you see that you could make on both sides of the ball going forward?
COACH ALLEN: Well, from a defense perspective, the biggest thing, you know, with their size and the way that they move, there were some things that from where we set our front a little bit, went back and said, Hey, we need to be able to do this in the future just because of angles and leverage.

We moved at times -- the thing is, you play a team like that, you're trying to balance your movement up front with playing your gaps. If you're too one way or other, their size can just kind of wash you down if you move too much; if you don't move enough, they'll just knock you off the ball because they know where you're going to be.

So just felt like we need to kind of keep them maybe a little more off balance in some of those points. I think the biggest thing was we had some critical second and longs and a couple third downs where -- I mean, we were within like a step or a half a step of getting to the quarter.

Sometimes it's just a little thing of whether -- not even the guy that was involved with that, where if another guy, you know, takes an inside path instead of outside path, that extra step he had to waste would've been made up.

Once it goes back to the execution of those little things at the key times, can be a sack causes a fumble if the quarterback is not looking that changes everything. You always have a little bit of that adjustment.

I think offensively, you know, we just felt like we got in too many situations where we had to throw the football. You got to continue to be able to keep them off balance with the run and the pass game.

Even though they're hard to run the football on, you still have to be effective in the run game. That's not always necessarily yards as much as it is reps and opportunities to be able to keep them off balance with your decision-making, and to be able to find ways to get your playmakers the ball.

They were playing very aggressive coverage on our outside receives and making it hard to get them the ball at times. I think you continue to give No. 1 shots, because they are going to have to interfere with him as they often do to be able to keep him from catching the ball.

So that's the stuff you go through. We're always reevaluating everything, and Coach DeBord does a great with that.

You're always going to go back and say, Man, I wish we would've done this a little bit different, maybe this maybe we would've modified.

But the thing that you look at is, Hey, it's a one-touchdown game in the fourth quarter, and we just didn't take it away on one side and we gave it up on the other.

To me, that was the difference in the game, bottom line.

Q. Rashard seems like he's had a little bit more of a quiet year, but sometimes coaches talk about really good corners are quiet because they just don't get thrown to a lot. What improvements have you seen him make?
COACH ALLEN: There is no question, when you have a big year like he had last year and the reputation he has, people don't usually test that guy as much. They don't throw his way as much. So I think the big thing.

We try to help him become a more complete player and be able to be effective in the run game and to put it on film. Even though he's not a big guy, he's a good tackler, and just to be able to continue to improve playing a man coverage.

There was one play where the ball was thrown in such a way to where his coverage was very tight. The ball was put high and away to where when you're playing leverage/man, there really wasn't -- and sideline was what was to the outside, you know.

Other than that, I think he really pretty much did a great job covering the guys he's on. He's a really good cover corner, and they don't often throw his way.

Yeah, I think he's done a very good job for us.

Q. You mentioned Tegray played 80 snaps, and somebody else.
COACH ALLEN: Covington.

Q. How many snaps would you like them to take?
COACH ALLEN: You know, I think 60 is about -- if you get a chance to get him off the field for 15-20 snaps, that would be ideal. In that kind of a big, physical pounding game, I think that would be a good balance.

Then they're going to play some special teams plays, too. There is probably no magic number, but if I can find a way to get a guy off the field 15 to 20 snaps and feel good about the guy coming in to take his place, you would feel like you had a good solid back up.

Q. Were there injuries for the backup linemen?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, there was. That makes it hard. Hope to get some of those guys back this week, which will help a lot.

Q. In determines of depth, I know you mentioned recruiting obviously being a big piece in building that. Are there any players at on the roster that you're looking to step up and lesson the load on guys like Tegray and Chris?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I would just say that at position, Mike McGinnis is a guy that we brought in here and he's continued to develop. That process must go forward and knowledge what of you're doing and being able to react and fit, and really at that position, run the defense.

I think Reakwon Jones is another one I want to see continue to step up and play well at critical times in those kinds of games. That, to me, is a big part. We're trying to get Damion healthy and Kiante healthy.

Those guys that might be threes initially, now those guys are thrust into twos, and we got to make sure they're ready to go.

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