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September 15, 2018

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 38, Ball State - 10

TOM ALLEN: Really, really proud of our football team. It was a very important game for us, for a lot of reasons. Against a team that I was really concerned about because of what they've done in the past against us, and what they did last week against a very good Notre Dame team at Notre Dame, and I think it helped get our players attention.

So really ignored what happened to them a year ago in their season. They're going to win a lot of football games in their conference. So lot of respect for Coach Neu and how hard their kids played. They've got a talented quarterback, and we knew that.

So once our defense settled down after the first couple drives, I was really proud of them holding them to a field goal. The first one, the field goal attempt which they missed, then to get our offense rolling and put some pressure on there.

Really proud of J-Shun Harris. How about that, three punt returns for touchdowns in his career, which ties a record for our school. Overcoming three ACLs is unreal, and just couldn't be happier for a finer young man, both as a player and as a person, he's pretty special. So tremendous weapon for us, and unfortunately got the other one called back with a block in the back.

But pretty clean game in a lot of ways. Just we've got some things to fix that we tried to focus on. Our goal was to rush for 250 yards, we got 255. Gave some things up a little bit offensively yards wise, but the key is points. That's the only stat I care about is points.

We gave up ten points. I thought we only should have given up three. The last one shouldn't have happened. We've got some young guys in there that made some mistakes, but we'll get that fixed. Really proud of our team to come together and to be 3-0. It was something we knew we needed to do, we wanted to do, but had to go out and earn it, and that's what our guys did. So, questions.

Q. You kind of touched on it at the end there. How much does this feel like a season checkpoint, sweeping a non-conference game to and having the new season in front of you here?
TOM ALLEN: Well, it's important because here's the reality: We play two bowl teams in those three non-conference teams, and the one team that didn't make the bowl game last year may be one of the best ones we were playing, in terms of just the way they played last week, it showed me that they had that potential. A team that kind of came in here, I think, believing that they had a chance to win, and that's how they approached it, and they had every right to believe that based on history.

So very important to be able to win the three non-conference games. We all know what our conference schedule looks like and how brutal that can be. But bottom line, you have to play them one at a time. So right now, all we did was focus last week on Ball State. That was it. Never talked about anybody else. And this week, we're talking about Michigan State. That's our next game on our schedule.

Obviously, it's the biggest game of our season because it's the next game. If I asked our players that, that's exactly what they would say. That's how we think here, and that's how we're going to approach it.

But huge to get the first three, and really proud of the way we did it. The way the offense did some great things week one. Defense really came back, week two, sealed the win. Week three all three phases came together and played well. So that's what you've got to do, so that has to continue.

Q. How confident are you in naming a starter?
TOM ALLEN: He's proven to everybody why I picked him, and I believe in him. I do. The team believes in him. He plays the way he practices, and he played the way he practiced during fall camp.

So I just feel like he's extremely dependable and consistent, and he gets first downs, leading with his legs and his arm. He's making some good decisions and taking what the defense gives him. So he's really been -- I'm happy for him. I really am. It's great to give Michael some great reps and get him down there and get him grounded and allow him to be able to be ready to roll when called upon, whenever that may be.

So I just think that Payton's play has been extremely encouraging and what I wanted.

Q. It seemed like your defense turned a corner after you started getting pressure on them. Can you speak about that and the performance James Head had on the defensive line?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I tell you what the thing that was happening they were doing a great job on early downs and we couldn't get them in enough third and longs early on. That's what kept us out of being able to pressure. We wanted those third and mediums and third and shorts. And you really can't cut it loose, because they can get the ball out fast, get a first down and maybe have an answer for that pressure. Once we started getting them in third downs and longer, then we were then able to put our ears back and get after it, and try to mix up man and zone and different things we like to do.

So really encouraged by the way our guys just kind of stayed with it, stayed with it, made some adjustments, figured things out on the early downs and got them in 3rd and longs and went after them. So a guy like James Head, young guy, a true freshman, one of many. Ronnie Walker jumps out to me as a guy that's got some real talent, you know, that's just in that class that we think has a chance to be a special class. They're showing why we felt that way.

James got hurt early on. He would have played in game one and had a lower leg injury and did not play. So he's slowly getting back a hundred percent. So we need them all. We've got guys that we believe give us depth and have to rise up and now have to do it in conference play.

Q. Can you just elaborate on J-Shun? Punt a return is always going to be a big play in a game, but given the affinity this team has for him, does it make it an even more special play?
TOM ALLEN: It does. I tell you, he just, he's as great a person as he is a player. That's a dangerous weapon now to have back there. They're probably going to quit kicking to him. That only helps us in some ways.

I couldn't be more proud of the young man. I said it from the beginning that his attitude was unbelievable. When he found out he had his third tear. I just assumed it was over. He was not going to just -- there comes a point in time that you're like, hey, you know what? I've done this. It's been great. I need to move on. But, no, he's never flinched and he worked himself back.

He wasn't even supposed to be ready. In the beginning we thought he was going to be ready for Michigan State. That's what I had in my head going into the summer. You know, and he's just worked his tail off, and he's proved everybody wrong, you know. He's back to a hundred percent, obviously, and making plays since the first game.

Just really, he's had two penalties that have brought back two big runs too. So his average will be way, way better. But he's one of the best in the country at what he does, and he deserves everything that he gets, and I'm so proud of him.

Q. You kind of touched on this, but could you elaborate on some of the freshmen who got in and got more time? Penix leads a touchdown drive, Walker gets a touchdown first carry, some of the freshmen on defense. How are you approaching working those guys in and what do you think of their performance today?
TOM ALLEN: First of all, that new rule helps so much. I can play a guy and I don't have to worry about it. We talk about it all the time each week, who we're going to get in there, and we want to make sure we're getting enough guys quality reps to know what they can and can't do when it counts.

Like you already mentioned James Head. I just think they continue to play these young guys. You know Monster is a guy, Devon Matthews, No. 27 is a guy that continues to impress me what he does. He made a couple mistakes today, but he's young. I've really been encouraged.

I just feel like a guy like Ronnie, he came here and had a little bit of hype coming in. You know, it was in some ways a lot of the stuff was overwhelming, you know, for him. So it's great to see him settle in and really kind of show the twitch and the burst and the balance that you saw in high school. He's running with that confidence, you know.

I just think that all these guys, there are just so many of them that I feel like, Matt Bjorson is another guy that continues to make plays, true freshman. It's a long list of guys. Michael Penix and Ronnie are true freshmen that came here, James Head, they all came here in January, so they've been here longer. Yet they're true -- Stevie's got another hundred-yard game back-to-back. You know, to do that -- so just continues to impress me with what they're doing and allowing them to be able to help us win football games.

So I just think it's a long list of guys that we've got, and almost too many for me to even think of off the top of my head. They're guys we're going to need, and they had to grow up fast. They're not true freshmen anymore. They've already played three games. So they're very veterans.

Q. Kind of a follow-up, talking about Ronnie in particular, but the overall rushing effort today, how important is it in your mind that Stevie only has 18 carries. I know 31 was a little by design because of the weather. But how important is it to have other guys step up so you're not going to him too often there?
TOM ALLEN: Oh, there's no question, we have to have everybody. That's why I was so encouraged with what Ronnie did, and Mike Majette makes plays, and some other guys in there, Craig Nelson is another guy, a red-shirt freshman. So just trying to continue to get guys involved because we're going to need everybody.

We played a bunch of guys. Got Reese Taylor some touches. Got them on kickoff return. Just trying to give them a chance to make plays. So we have to get as many guys as possible, as many weapons as possible to be able to utilize. And I think that will continue to grow. We've kind of got some guys targeted. You've got this four-game window when you're going to make plays and special teams and opportunities.

I just feel like Jamar Johnson is another true freshman that sticks out to me. He's No. 16. He plays a lot on special teams. He's going to probably play some more on defense here. He's a really gifted athlete. Just really excited about his future here. He's very athletic. Weighs almost 200 pounds and can run, can play all five positions in the secondary, which is very unusual.

So just on and on of guys to be able to get them involved. Get the running back depth where it needs to be, and we'll be able to keep moving forward.

Q. Reakwon and T.D. both made big plays down the back field. Do you think that fuels the linebackers as a group. They've kind of made some strides?
TOM ALLEN: They are. And one thing that's been challenging with that group is we rep so many guys in practice, that the negative is they don't maybe get enough reps to get honed in. So I just feel like we have to continue to do that. Micah McFadden is another one that flashes as a true freshman. And T.D., even though he played a year last year, really only on special teams at Georgia Tech, he's kind of getting comfortable now.

He did drop a potential, I wouldn't say it's a pick six, but a chance to get a return. We can't do that. But Reakwon continues to elevate his game. Like you said, he may be a junior on paper, but he's not played the number of snaps that a typical junior has played. So he's younger in regards to his rep base. His development grows and I think will continue.

But like I said, we're going to need them all in there. I know today was kind of a hot game, so we have to continue to play the numbers and let our volume overwhelm them, which is one of our themes for the week.

Our one word this week was "dominate." We wanted to be able to dominate in all three phases. Part of that was just keep coming, keep coming, keep coming, bringing in new linebackers, brining in new D-Linemen, bringing in new DBs. Same on the offense. Keep rolling guys in, keep on making plays, and distribute the football, that way they can't key in on one person.

Q. Coach, you pointed out to a lot of guys, Peyton included. But in the first half, the offense looked particularly sharp. Are you surprised where you are now and probably ahead of last year?
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, I don't know if I would say surprised. I really expected it. I did. I put it on them. I told them I wanted them to carry this football team early on because they have the most experience, especially in the offensive line. Even though we've got young guys around them in skill positions. But compared to the defense, it was totally something that I challenged them with was to be able to be explosive and to score points and to get first downs and control the football, control the clock that way.

We're going to still run our tempo offense, but to me it's about getting first downs which we've been doing a really good job of, and keeping the defense off the field in that regard. So I would say that was my expectation, my hope, that the offense would be able to do what they're doing and they continue to grow.

Our offensive staff does a tremendous job of game planning and taking what the defense is giving us, and really, really encouraged by Coach Debord and all those guys. They did a great job.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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