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INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 20, 2017
COACH ALLEN: Good afternoon. Just want to start by saying I am really proud of our team and our coaching staff. Very important win on Saturday over Rutgers. Just really pleased with the preparation that went into it and the focus that our guys had and the senior leadership that those young men displayed going into their final home game here at memorial stadium. Just wanted to send them off in the right way, and I thought or underclassmen bought into that and did a great job.
Really encouraged by the way our offense performed. Really felt like running the football has been a priority. Hasn't been easy, and we've worked on that diligently. Really reaped the benefits of that I thought on game day, especially at the end when the weather started getting bad as we kind of knew it might per the reports.
Then being able to effectively run the football there at the end and move the chains and score a couple touchdowns off of that was big. Because of that, we chose our entire offensive line, the six guys that did all the playing, which would be: Coy Cronk, Hunter Littlejohn, Mackenzie Nworah, Brandon Knight, Delroy Baker, and Wes Martin were all our players of the game offensively.
Really proud of their performance. Still have things to continue to work on there, but didn't give up any sacks as well and ran the ball extremely well, which was a great job.
Because of that, Morgan Ellison was named the co-Big 10 freshman of the week. That's our third one of the season in that area. So really proud of him, the way he responded.
Cole Gest as well ran ball extremely hard and effectively. Great ball security with bad weather conditions in the run game. Those are all extremely positive things, which also allowed us to average eight yards a play on first downs, which is a big priority for us.
Then did a great job on third downs converting as well. Good performance by our offense. Coach DeBord working hard to allow us to be the best football team we can be as a whole group.
Defensively, really proud of our guys' focus and. Played extremely hard. Continued to be disruptive. Really, really -- a play that stuck out to me defensively was we did have sudden-change situation where we gave them the ball deep in our territory.
The very next play was a sack-caused fumble by Greg Gooch. Just textbook technique. The only thing that would've made it a perfect play is if Tony Fields would've had a chance to scoop and score and not just scoop. He did a great job securing the ball and we went down and scored a touchdown off of that.
Huge takeaway after a sudden change. So that's just team football there that I thought was excellent.
Because of that sequence, those two young men, Greg Gooch and Tony Fields, were our defensive players of the game. Felt like they continue. Tony has been so huge for us in stepping in with the injury to Marcelino and allowing him at that position to just really blossom and play extremely well.
Greg has been such a complete leader, player, tough guy, and cares so much about this program. So to see him play so well and do such a great job was huge.
Special teams-wise, Haydon Whitehead, three more punts inside the 20; continues to punt the ball well and help us in that area. The wind of crazy, going all different directions.
And Rashard Fant was the co-special teams player of the game. Huge recovery on the muff punt and being in just perfect position where he's supposed to be.
Also had a tackle on special teams and just continues to buy into little things of putting our best players on the field as much as possible.
In regards to our preparation, defensive scout team players of the week, Sam Slusher, Andrew Stamm. Couple young guys that continue to work hard and giver us a great look.
Offensive scouts of the week, Mike Fiacable at quarterback and Arod Lloyd at runningback as well. So leadership on those sides of the ball, each area, allowed us to get prepared, and those young men did a great, great job.
Then just want to say as a team felt like our energy was high from start to finish. Always hard to have a break like that where you leave the field and stop play for a delay. I thought our guys came back on the field and did not miss a beat. Kept their intensity, kept their focus, and then came out and finished. So really encouraged by that.
We knew it was an important game for us and the players responded. Very excited about having a trophy game this week. We all know the Bucket is a huge priority to our program. Take a lot of pride in this game.
Really, really blessed to be a part of one of the top rivalries in the entire country. I've been several places where we have had some trophy games -- not every place has this kind of a rivalry game with this much passion and intensity.
Being raised in this state and seeing this game for many, many years as a younger person, and just so much I know goes into it and I know so much is on both sides.
So we fully understand the magnitude of the game. We understand that both teams have five wins and know what is at stake for both sides. Love that. Ton of respect for Coach Brohm and what he's done at Purdue in a very short time. He has really transformed them. They're playing with a ton of confidence. Their defense is extremely talented and playing well. Their offense, you know, he's a tremendous play caller. Just does a really good job schematically and maximized the talent he has there.
Special teams, really are on pointe.
So really respect and have a -- you know, they've gone on the road and played well. To win at Iowa was impressive. We understand we have to be at our very, very best this week. Going to compete to prepare that way and going to fight to do everything we can to win this game.
Q. Coach Brohm is known for some trick plays. How do you anticipate that?
COACH ALLEN: You do. You can't rep every single one of them. We would be practicing for a couple weeks if we did that. I have played against him in the past. Saw it up close and personal, how he likes to run those. So very creative with all of them.
You just got to work in concept, which is not that unusual when you deal with anything that somebody does. You can't necessarily practice every single play they have done in the past. You teach concepts and you use walk-thrus to review and you show video and just being conscientious of what they do and where they can run them.
They do so many that you're not going to get a bead on them. I know a lot of coaches, it's just the gift to know when to call them is probably the biggest thing you have to deal with.
To me, you want to play physical, play fast, and react. That, to me, that is what you got to do. You got to react to those kind of plays.
Q. Have you had a chance to go over the Iowa/Purdue game? If you did, what have you seen from that that they're doing different?
COACH ALLEN: Well, to me, the thing that stuck out was they made some really nice throws that allowed them to take advantage of some one-on-one matchups that Iowa was giving them; they won those. Great throws, great catches. They converted those situations. That was the difference in the game. Their defense, I think, has been consistent.
As you go through and prepare each week, you watch opponents' offenses, so we see their defense a lot. We play all the same teams pretty much, and so have noticed from the very beginning of the season that their defense was vastly improved.
They got a lot of the upperclassmen on that side of the ball. Very mature group of players. They just got a new system and coaching staff. I kind of liken it back to a year ago. We were the most improved defense in the country.
I think they're probably going to have that award at the end of the year this year statistically. But whether it's No. 1 or whatever it i, they're way improved.
You just got to tip your hat to them and say, Hey, they're doing a heck of a job. Coach Holt does a great job. Once again, his staff was together at Western Kentucky. I don't know if it's every single coach, but it's sure the majority. They do a tremendous job. They bought into what they're doing.
So that, to me, when you go through and watch and see that game, their defense has consistently played well and kept them in games. And then their offense against Iowa made some key plays at critical times that they had to.
You know, they muffed a punt as well and Purdue made them pay for that. That kind of separated the game and kind of took it out of reach. So just to compete offense, defense, special team, they put it all together on the road.
Q. The breakthrough is the big thing we've tried to get done here. For them to have gotten that done on the road, how has this affected their team and their team's mentality?
COACH ALLEN: I would assume, you know, being in that situation other places, I think that creates a tremendous amount of confidence for your team. Everything you're talking about doing you took a huge step towards doing that. Had a huge win in a tough environment to play in.
They have to have left that situation feeling great about themselves. Increases excitement and elevates the stakes for this week's game, which is the way it should be. That's why, to me, I think that's exciting for this game, and to be able to be in a game like this that has so much passion and meaning outside of anything else other than just the game itself. Then you add in the component of how they're playing, how we're playing, and we're playing for, so it just makes it pretty special.
I think it makes it exciting, and you want to be in these games like this. I feel blessed. We're fortunate to have this kind of game that means so much to so many people.
Q. The last couple years also you've gone into a situation where needing the win for the bowl, but any of those times been where your team is peaking, seems to be peaking at the right time, running on all cylinders? Purdue is clicking an all cylinders.
COACH ALLEN: I agree. I haven't been a part of, as a coach, any besides last year. I can only relate to that. Does have a different feel. Last year they had the interim head coach situation. I thought their kids came in here and played their tails off. Talking about Purdue.
They were physical and they played way better than they showed on film. It came down to the last play to win the game at home. It's going to be an absolute dogfight, and that's the way it should be. I'm sure every year - and I haven't gone back and studied every single Bucket game - but I know for sure this year everything we're saying is what the environment is going to be and the circumstances for the game, so that makes it really extra special.
Q. Defensive line I think gets 12 sacks in the last two weeks; something like less than 130 yards rushing. I know those guys have had solid performances scattered throughout the season, but last season you all really kind of seemed to turn it on the second half. Now it seems like it's happening again. What are the keys?
COACH ALLEN: Well, first of all, I think Coach Hagen does a tremendous job with our defensive line. He's such a bulldog in technique and drills; just relentless. I think I described him that way a year ago and that hasn't changed.
What that does, over time, you get all these practice reps and all the things that they do, they just keep getting better and better and better. We've had some young guys that had to get in a new role and we lost a couple guys early on, other guys got to step up, and so just really proud of how hard they've played all year long.
But then their production has really elevated here in the last several games. I think it's just a matter of just staying the course and getting better. I think of a guy like Jacob Robinson, who has always been solid for us, but played a little bit inside/0utside for us last year, but now he's just been full time as a three technique; just getting more and more comfortable at that point.
Guy like Allen Stallings who it's really his first year playing for us and had to step up when Nile got injured to start the season.
Gooch is coming into his own.
I think Robert McCray a really kind of becoming what I thought he could be all along just by consistent preparation.
Once again goes back to Coach Hagen staying with it, staying with it, staying with it, and not allowing them to ever let up in practice. The drill work that they do -- you got to think, in that position, when you go do special teams, they're over there off to the side just drilling and drilling.
Same with the offensive line. Just over there working. A lot of those guys -- there are a few more D linemen on special teams than there are O lineman, but still the majority of the group is not.
They are over there just drilling, drilling, drilling, and so all these reps add up. I just think that as a season wears along, teams either do this or they do this. (Indicating up or down.) The teams that -- you want them to be doing this (indicating going up) at this time of the year.
Our guys did it last year defensively, and they're doing it again this year defensively. We have a system we believe in. We coach to that system. The kids have bought in, and I expect them to be playing their best ball at this time of the year. That's what we want.
So really excited for them and excited for our team that that's what they're doing.
Q. You enjoy the challenge obviously. Obviously your background is strong defense, going against another head coach's strong offense. It's almost like a perfect scenario.
COACH ALLEN: Well, I will say this: I've never ever tried to make a big deal about, Hey, I'm going against this. It's not me versus him. It is not that. What I do enjoy, I enjoy the schematic challenge of going against a guy like this because it's hard. He does such a great job.
It's we. It's all of our coaches, all of our players, you know, against their offense. It's our offense versus their defense and our special teams versus their special teams. That, to me, is what matters most.
But just from what you get out of it as a coach, you know, all day Sunday and all day Monday working and working and working to try to find a way to scheme against these guys, yeah, that's kind of the rush you get as a coach. You enjoy that for sure.
But it's challenging with their system. They do a great job. They create a lot of the conflicts and put you in binds and do a great job understanding what you're doing and trying to expose weaknesses.
We're trying to do the same thing with them. It's just the chess match that coaches go through. We're working hard as a staff to find the best way to get our guys in great position. Our guys got to go out and make plays. Yeah, that's kind of the fun part of all this.
Q. Last couple games seemed pretty complete. Feel like your team is maybe hitting their highest point at the right time?
COACH ALLEN: I hope so. That's what you want for sure. That's what we're working towards. The product on the field is showing that to be true.
But it's all how you finish. We knew going into this last quarter of the season what we needed to do, and we have attacked each one at a time. Now we're ready for this challenge, and we're going to put everything into this.
You want to play your best football at this time of the year. Still got different guys back, not back. That's part of it. Everybody has injuries this time of year. Hey, whoever is healthy, let's get these guys ready.
But just encouraged by the team being at a point where you want to be playing well right now.
Q. (Regarding Chase and Rashard.) What have those two guys meant or your defense?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I think Chase is a guy, when I first got here he was injured. He had a foot issue. Really didn't practice that spring. Really was disappointingly not ready for fall camp like we hoped he would be; hadn't recovered yet. So really kind of limped into last year.
By the time he does get healthy he was splitting time in the back end. Had a great off-season; worked super hard. We felt like we had great depth; he was huge on special teams at the end of last year, was at the beginning of this year. Loved that role. He embraced it. He really was great at that.
We kind of split time and was able to allow us to rotate in the secondary. Well then Marcelino is injured, and so now he becomes the full-time guy and just took off, you know. I know he probably wanted to be the full time guy. We'd set those two guys down and sometimes we would rotate them different ways. Talking about him and Tony. They had a great attitude about them. I am sure they both wanted to be the starter, but were great teammates.
But then when that happened, now he's playing more snaps and we're trying to find ways to get him off the field. His special teams play has continued. I can't say enough great things about him.
He's matured off the field, his leadership. Just to hear him talk, he would be the first one to admit that. He's a different person now than he was when he first got here. He's truly grown up and become a young man that he feels good about where he is in his life. So really proud of him for that. Just need to see him rewarded for his play.
Rashard is a guy that when you -- if you want to play aggressive defense you better have corners. To me, his skillset is a great match for what we want to do. We've tried to position him in the best possible spots to be effective. When you establish yourself as a true corner that can cover guys, then eventually kind of quit throwing your way. Sometimes that's happened to him.
He's going to on tested this week and he is going to have to rise up and play his very, very best. They've got a bunch of receivers that can make plays, and that's what you expect from a team that's coached by Coach Brohm in that position. That's what they have.
So I just know that he and the rest of our secondary is going to have to have our best game of the season.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH ALLEN: I tell you what, when it happened, I'm like -- the whole sideline is like -- he made catches not necessarily that exact one, he made acrobatic catches all last year on scout team. It was unbelievable. Every day he made some crazy catch we would be talking about.
When he made it I really wasn't all that shocked. It was cool. Guys on the sideline were all fired up for him. He's a team favorite because he just never says anything. He just does his job the best he can and has become a scholarship guy here that's a contributing. You couldn't be more proud of a guy like that. It was fun to watch.
Q. (Indiscernible) got his first start Saturday.
COACH ALLEN: He did.
Q. As a freshman, seemed like a guy that's maybe more physical that a typical freshman; is that something you guys agree with?
COACH ALLEN: I agree. Showed up on special teams, too, earlier in the year. So, yeah, he's definitely a very courageous player. Loves contact. He's quick, fast, tough. It's a tough jump to go from high school to playing as a true freshman at any position. You get out in space on an island and you got to have a bad memory. They're going to make some plays on you and you got to come right back and make a play yourself.
So really needed him. With Andre being down, needed him to step up last week, and he did that. Yeah, his physicality, I love that. To find a guy that can run and hit, cover and tackle at that position is a huge benefit. So really, really proud of his play, and I think he's got a bright future.
Q. (Regarding A'Shon Riggins.)
COACH ALLEN: Who was that?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, just more and more. I hope this week is even more full bore. He's a guy that as we all know played really well for us last year. Hopefully finally now getting back to his regular form.
Yeah, A'Shon is an awesome young man. Really want to see him back out there, both in special teams and on defense. I think you'll see more of him.
Q. Anyone you can imagine getting back? Are you kind of at the point with guys like Hale and Ball where it's just time to shut them down?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, I would say with Hale and Ball, you know, don't expect them back. Once you get to this point, you really don't plan on burning any eligibility up that you can salvage with that.
Yeah, I don't expect them to play. Andre Brown is a guy that was out last week. Hope to get him back. Still trying to evaluate Simon and his situation to see if we can get him back.
Other than that, I think the guys you saw last week are who you going to see.
Q. Everything has to work for this game, but is there one thing that sticks out more than the team has to overcome, whether it's being on the road, being at Purdue, having a bowl game on the line.
COACH ALLEN: I think it's just handling the adversity of the game. Things are going to happen. You're on the road. They're going to have their fans. They're playing for the same thing we're playing for. All different levels.
I think you have to be able to handle the adversity that's going to strike. I don't know what that's going to look like. No one can predict that. But the team that handles that the best, to me, is the one that will find the way to win the game. It's going to happen in these situations.
I've seen in rival games crazy things, crazy plays, changes of momentum, and shifts and all that. You just got to ride it. Can't get too excited when things go your way early and can't get too down if things don't. Better just play it. Sometimes these games go to overtime and are decided on crazy plays like that.
So that's just a matter of mental toughness and perseverance and grit, all those things we take so much pride in here at Indiana.
Q. Recruited about 19 guys. I know you can't talk about players, but with your last five or six spots, are there certain positions you guys want to hit with these last remaining scholarships that you have?
COACH ALLEN: Well, you go through and you look at your current roster, and, you know, we need to sign a quarterback; that's a huge priority. Have to be able to shore ourselves up in the secondary just because of graduation.
Linebacker, I think continues to be a priority, as well as you got individual spots where you say, Hey, if you get the right person you plug them in here and there. Those would be the glaring things that stick out now. Obviously securing the guys we already have committed and making sure they sign with us.
Working very, very hard. Have a plan to go out right away. Recruiting is a huge part of building our program and building on the foundation that is being laid and to allow us to continue to grow.
Q. How is the new signing day effecting -- also, coming in here in your first year as a head coach, has it made it more stressful?
COACH ALLEN: It's more stressful. You look at the calendar. Clock is ticking, and you only have so much time. December 20th is going to be here fast. Then you got -- you're finishing your season, got your bowl preparation, all these things going on, and you're having to go out and get to all these guys that you want to sign.
Then you got to decide who is going to sign on this date, who is going to sign on the other date. Yeah, because it's the first time doing it I think there are a lot of unknowns, a lot of question marks that we're having to deal with. It's definitely made it very challenging calendar-wise.
We're just going to have to learn and grow through it. Talking to the other coaches too. Everybody is the same boat. First time doing this as a staff. We just got to decide what we like and what don't like.
It's important to get to the guys that we need to see and get that important one-on-one time with them and their families.
Q. (No microphone.)
COACH ALLEN: It's a moving target. All depends on several variables. It'll be close to that.
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