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September 30, 2019

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

COACH ALLEN: After having a chance to watch the film and evaluate the game from Saturday, continue to be disappointed in the outcome but encouraged by the progress overall. You go through and evaluate how your team performs in that setting. We knew going in it would be a tough environment to play in, with still a lot of young guys in that situation, especially in lieu of losing Koy and then having to play Matt Bedford. Ended up starting Matt, and he played every snap, which we really weren't, going into it, 100 percent sure he would be able to handle that type of workload in that environment for the first time ever, but he did a great job.

He made mistakes for sure but did a great job. I'm really proud of him and how he responded. Same with Mike Penix, first really true road game for him in conference play, absolutely the first one, and just really encouraged by the way he handled the moment. It wasn't too big for him, and he was very poised and very effective in what he was able to do.

For that, he was, as you know, named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time in three of his games.

But as a collective effort, that was the offensive coaches' game plan. It was the execution of it, the receivers, the way they performed as well as the way they blocked for each other, the effort up front. I mentioned Stevie Scott. We had a great team meeting this morning.

I just got after our guys. It was very hard on them in some areas in accountability. As I told our team today, the film creates accountability because everything that happens on game day shows up on film, and the film never lies.

It creates accountability for coaches. It creates accountability for me, foremost and utmost, and for the players and how they perform. So sometimes those are hard meetings to have, and you get after them hard. But you also realize you see what we're building, you see the progress, you see what we're becoming, and the work that's in front of us and the opportunity in front of us.

But that collective group offensively just did a great job of helping Michael Penix have the game that he had. You know, I mentioned Stevie Scott. His effort on pass pro was phenomenal. That's a collective buy-in that you see. That's a guy understanding LEO (phonetic) and understanding it's not about him. He's not caring who gets the credit, I mean, guys that just care about their stats.

That's a guy who just cares that he gets the credit, and he's not that way. He ran hard and did some things. Ronnie Walker is the epitome of that, and just doing his job 100 percent. I could go on and on, even Westbrook, the way he blocked, made some catches. D. Hale, some big catches, but the way he blocked. Peyton Hendershot didn't have a bunch of catches, but, man, he blocked his tail off, and he was physical.

And obviously, Whop played to a certain level, but he was crushed at the end of the game. He had a great game and had stats and all that, but he was so emotional afterwards because he wants to win, his team wants to win.

That's where, you go to the other side of the football and did some things, but we're not good enough. In critical times, situational football, did not come up with the plays we need to come up with.

And have to communicate better, have to do a better job defensively. Without question, the end of half end, end of the game is unacceptable with how we want to finish and how we will finish in those situations.

And the special teams mistakes, the penalties that cost us. I said it a week ago that they would cost us in conference play, could cost us a game in conference play, and those were definitely very, very game-changing plays that you put yourself in.

So as we elevate our level of play and move into conference opponents, the margin for error becomes smaller and smaller in those areas. So to me, that's a really huge part of us growing as a team and using these next three practices here of this bye week of focusing on those details and improving ourselves and becoming a better football team.

But I also feel like there's enough there and there's a look in this team's eye that I know where we're going, and I believe in these guys. So just really excited to get back to work with them tomorrow. Had a great day today, meetings, did not practice. Had a great lift. The guys continue to work extremely hard in the weight room.

I have three goals for the bye week. Number one, to create a mental and physical break for our guys from the grind of the season. You go through fall camp, a full month of that, then you go right into the first five games, and just the mental break that you need. So not going to have near as much meeting time, not going to be a lot of scheme.

We are going to work, and when we work, we'll be full bore. Practices will be a little shorter, but just the physical break as well. We've got to get some guys rested.

Goal number two is to get all the injured guys healthy, so to really maximize our rehab this week and be able to go into Rutgers healthy as much as possible. That's goal two.

And goal number three is to improve fundamentally and technically as a football team in all three phases.

So that's our goals for these next several days, and we'll be going -- we'll be practicing Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. And then coach will be out recruiting on Thursday afternoon and all day Friday. And then I'll be going out myself.

Big, big recruiting weekend for us and great opportunity for us to take these first five games and be able to move forward and look to a very important four-game stretch before our next bye week.

So I'm excited about what's ahead of us and what our guys -- how hard they're working, how hard we played, and how much they're learning to come together. Questions?

Q. I know some of this is just kind of natural to the quarterback position, but how encouraged were you, maybe not just by Michael's performance, but by the way it felt like the offense kind of followed him, was sparked by him, that for a redshirt freshman making his first Big Ten start after a three-week layoff, he still had that kind of impact on his teammates?
COACH ALLEN: There's no question. We talked about -- John Wooden has -- he coined the phrase that the competitive greatness that you have to have to play at a high level of any sport, and with that is you're at your best when your best is demanded.

And the second phase of that is that you make those around you better. And part of that, making them better, is a confidence that you exude to them and the poise that you have, the demeanor that you have, the play-making ability that you have that creates that confidence and expectation for that. I just think some guys have that naturally. You can't -- you know, it's hard to manufacture those kinds of things.

I just think -- it was. You go through, and you think about the situation that Michael found himself in, as you mentioned. It's his first conference road game, first conference start. He's still young, hasn't played a lot of football. He's not practiced a lot in the last several weeks, full practice, didn't even have a full week of practice. Get into all these details before that, but did not practice every single day fully, just trying to get his body ready. So all those things combined, it's really impressive for what he was able to do in that setting.

Like I said, there's a lot of variables that went into that and still things that we have to continue to get better at and focus on. But for sure an encouragement of what is to come and what we can be as an offense and as a football team.

Q. Coach, against Michigan State the secondary seemed to be a little bit vulnerable at times. Is that something where you'd like to see an improvement in the pass rush, or is it more just kind of the youth in the secondary?
COACH ALLEN: Well, I think there's -- you know, it's never one thing. I thought we got some good pressure. We didn't get any sacks. We had several pressures. You always want more pressure. Pressure creates what you want defensively for an offense. Definitely caused some errant throws because of the pressure.

The young secondary has to continue to grow. I know that Tiawan played extremely well, but we challenged some other guys, even between the end of the game and this moment right now, met with some guys already about them elevating their play at that position.

We put those guys -- we put them on an island at times, and that's part of what we do. We know that. They know that, and that's what you embrace. Felt like that lost some of those one-on-ones, and sometimes it was just one-on-one technique and winning those battles.

No. 25, their guy, is number one receiver in the Big Ten right now. A very clutch player. Has been that way for them and continues to be. He came up with the big catch at the end that we needed. I thought our guy was in good position. Just got to find a way to get that ball out of there.

That's where you start -- that's what I said. It's one play. We're at the point now where we're in those -- we have communication breakdowns in the secondary that we got, and sometimes it's you, sometimes it's refs, sometimes it's just -- you know -- but time has taught me that you just stay the course. We had some things where guys got cut loose, and a lot of that's communication. They do some clusters groupings and different things and that's kind of what everybody does. And that's part of the game now.

There's just different ways of handling that and reacting to that. We've just got to get better. There's no doubt. It's frustrating to not be able to get some of those at critical times. But at the same time, it's a team game. We dropped the pick-six. They just -- it's tough, and you drill and drill and drill.

We got the fumble. That was a key fumble that we get, and then we had the holding on the same play. That was a game-changing turn of events there, huge.

I just think that, believe in those guys. I just know -- that's the one position. You can screw up on the D-line and nobody ever knows usually. You make a mistake in the secondary, and everybody can figure that one out. So that's part of playing that position and coaching that position.

And I think I might have said this, but my dad taught me this a long time ago when I first became a young head coach. He said, you'd better make sure you have the best defensive back coach you can find and the best offensive line coach you can find because those are the two areas that are the hardest for kids to play, and they'll get you beat if you don't get them right. And I believe it. That's true. That was back years ago and talking about at the high school level, but it really doesn't change. It's not any different.

We've got great coaches in those spots, and we've got really good players. So, excited for them to continue to grow and develop.

Q. Do you have an update on Juan Harris' status? And then just health-wise, how did you come out of it?
COACH ALLEN: We came out of the game healthy, which is good. It's a physical game. Against those guys, it always is. They play that style. I'm guessing bumps and bruises for sure, but nobody that, from the game itself, that I believe is going to cause any extended -- even if we were playing this week, everybody would be playing that played in the game.

I expect Juan to be back. I do. I think he was doing a lot of extra work today again. He's a guy we need in there that provides a lot for us. So I expect him to be back, and I think -- Reese Taylor, you know, we really missed him. I thought we really needed him in this game, and it was unfortunate. But he should be back for Rutgers, if it goes as planned.

I feel pretty good about the guys that didn't play, that they should have a chance to come back this week. And like I said, that's the second goal on our list there is to get our guys healthy.

Even Matt Bjorson has been -- was able to do some things in the game but was limited. So we're trying to continue to get him healthy so we can go into this next stretch as healthy as possible.

Q. Tom, it seems that this year in the kick-return game you guys are taking a couple more shots compared to last year. How much of that is a product of what David Ellis can bring you guys? And also, when you're a team that maybe needs some of those X factor-type plays to change momentum, how do you go about generating that, beyond just breaking a tackle or making another block?
COACH ALLEN: You're right, and you're accurate in your assessment. We have definitely -- I like the guys back there. I think David Ellis is a special player, and I want to give him -- and he can be a game changer. Those returns are big.

We had discussions, even during the game, about our approach going in was to, hey, we're going to bring these out because we felt like he was worth the risk. He can fair catch it and get it at the 25. I'm tempted to do that a lot because it's 25 free yards with no threat of a penalty.

Then the penalty is really -- that's kind of what gets you. That really, really pins you down. That's how we opened the second half. We ended up overcoming that and getting a field goal out of it, but that was tough.

So I think he's worth the risk. But one of the goals for this week is to continue to improve both our score team, which is punt returns, and our house call, which is kickoff returns, our blocking. Those are tough blocks, and the way the rules are now they're all just one-on-one blocks. They've taken out the double-teams. It's one-on-one, me versus you in space blocking you. That's why there's so many holding calls and blocks in the back at the NFL level and our level because there's so much movement. It's hard. It's hard to do that.

But really our entire work this week on special teams is really going to be technique work and drills, the whole week. So that's one of our objectives. Those are game-changing plays we have to create. We did a great job with the one with Whop, and then it got called back. As we know, it was a 67-yard exchange, a huge turn of events.

And he caught the one too deep. This is his first year catching punts. Really didn't do it much in high school either, but he's got to learn. Let that one hit. It could bounce back, but I'll take our chances on that one. He'll learn from that. He's a smart football player. But you get in there in that setting, the ball, he just kind of lost where he was and made a mistake.

But I just think we've got some gifted returners on our team, and I want to give them a chance to go change, go create game-changing plays.

Q. There was a point in the game -- I don't remember exactly when it was, but it looked like you kind of went after Coach Wommack a little bit on the sidelines. What was going on there? And do you see kind of your role at all in the defense changing with trying to make some improvements off of it?
COACH ALLEN: I'm always involved in the defense. If you saw that interaction, you just know who I am. I'm a pretty fiery guy. I love Kane, and we're really close. I'm going to rip his tail when his tail needs to be ripped.

But the bottom line is it was right before half. It was that whole thing there -- we needed to get a stop. Hey, I'm okay with that. Like I said, I'm not ever going to sit here and apologize for being fiery and intense because no sense in apologizing; it's going to happen again.

But at the same time, that's my area. That's where I do feel for Kane because you really don't want to be the DC for the former DC, when he's the head coach now. It's a tough job, just tell it like it is because of every little thing. I'm hard on him in meetings, and I'm hard on him during the game.

But it's like brothers, man. Sometimes you just -- but then you just hug each other because you're family, right? That's how I feel about Kane. If something's not the way I want it to be done or if I'm not getting my way -- I'm never going to second guess. I don't like second guessing calls because I don't think that's fair.

But when we don't execute, that's when I want to make sure, and we're making sure we put our guys in the best position. So to me, it's just football. It's the passion of the moment. It's the fire of the moment. I don't even remember what I said.

But the bottom line is, yeah, I'm not going to ever -- I'm not going to change. I'm going to get probably a little more emotional than some people may think I should as a head coach. And I've got to make sure I'm always level headed and making good decisions. But I've just got to trust the good Lord to give me the wisdom to let me know when it's time. And I'm just going to react in some ways and just be that way, and then that's just how I am.

No, it could be somebody else, too. But there's no doubt, he's got a tough job, and he knows it. That's what he signed up for. It will be okay. But we're very close.

Q. I know you guys are on bye, but looking forward, Rutgers makes a change in head coach, releases their offensive coordinator. How does that complicate things as you prepare for Rutgers in a couple weeks? Usually you have a couple of weeks to prepare for a team, and now you have that level of changes.
COACH ALLEN: It definitely creates some unknowns. Coached against teams that have had this happen in the past. I don't know if I've seen it where the coordinator is replaced in these situations. Usually, it's just the head coach.

I guess the one positive thing is we don't play them this week, so we'll have a week to see what they decide to do in that regard and who's going to be calling the plays.

Yeah, it's just something we'll just have to react to. It will definitely create some unknowns, definitely create some change. Yeah, it's next conference opponent. They will get our full attention, and we'll be absolutely ready. We'll have to do some extra work to figure out what they may do now even though you have several games to look at, you have to look at it with a different lens now, with a new interim head coach and a new person calling the plays.

Q. Kind of a two-parter. One is sort of an injury. I think Da'Shaun is another guy who's been in and out these first few weeks. Where is he at? I don't think he played over the weekend.
COACH ALLEN: He did not.

Q. And as you think about the bye week as it pertains to health or preparing for other teams -- I don't know if it's a little cliche, but how helpful -- can you almost break this season up into three mini seasons because where the byes fall, you play five then four then three?
COACH ALLEN: We totally did. I've been asked a couple times, and I have no control over when the byes are placed and when they come, but when I saw the schedule, I liked what I saw. I felt like it broke down, from a numerical standpoint, in a good way. Sometimes it does; sometimes it doesn't. We haven't had two before since I've been here.

So, having the five that we've already played and having the four and then having another three, it gives you a chance to definitely be able to segment your season. You always kind of put it in thirds, I think, in a lot of ways -- at least I have in the past -- and how you say, okay, we want to be able to accomplish this, this, and this along the way.

But from a physical break and a mental break, that's where the byes really become huge. So once again, you don't control it. You don't get too bent out of shape if it's not the way you want it, but when it does go your way, in which you feel is positive, you take advantage of it.

So for me, it's really about maximizing this time to be able to get our team refreshed and to be able to have a great plan for the game that follows the bye week and make sure you're sharp and make sure you're playing your very, very best football, which is what you have to do in the in-conference play now.

So I definitely segmented it and talked about it with our team. We talked about it with our team going into the Michigan State week and what was ahead and how I broke it down and just trying to help our guys. I always try and do a good job for making sure they know the vision for what we're trying to accomplish next.

So we'll just -- we've got to take full advantage of it as a staff. And recruiting is a big part of it. We've got to -- it gives you an extra whole week of days. You're just going to get two days -- you get 42 days of evaluation during the season to use, so we're going to be able to maximize all those to the best of our ability.

Q. And Da'Shaun?
COACH ALLEN: Yeah, Shaun, he's still out. Don't think he'll be back this week. So we'll see what the future holds for him and his -- he's definitely battled some injuries this year, and it's been hard for him. He's given so much to our program. Just want him to get healthy so he can get back and help us.

Q. I don't know what your thought on this is -- and I've seen this for years at Indiana, and I've been around here a long time. We're not finishing games now any better than we have been for the last 20 years. It's just been that kind of situation. Any ideas on what you can do or how you can get this team to understand how important it is to finish? You get the lead, and we've got guys celebrating, but it's almost like they already think the game's won, and then we let this team go down and score a touchdown easily. You know what I'm talking about? You understand what I'm saying?
COACH ALLEN: Sure. I think -- as a matter of fact, even during the game, when we took the lead early in the fourth quarter, got on a headset, guys seemed excited -- which you want energy, there's no question about it. But I said to our guys specifically, I said, fellas, we have a young football team; teach them how to handle where we are. We have to finish.

So, obviously, we're at that moment addressing it head on. I saw the same thing you saw, being able to handle some level of success even though you didn't finish -- hadn't finished yet, and we did not finish.

So great teaching time for your guys. To me -- and I know I haven't been here all those years in the past, and I know you've seen a lot of football here, a lot more than I have -- but I see it as two things. Number one is youth with this group. All right?

And number two, I feel like it's you have to learn how. You do. You have to learn how. Learn how to finish. Learn how to win those kinds of games.

And to me, now that we're full bore in conference play, they're going to all be -- since I've been here, there have been a lot of to-the-bitter-end battles, and there's not a lot of margin for error. That was what we talked about today in our team meeting was -- so how do you finish the close games?

And to me, it's so wrapped up in trusting in the discipline of the preparation to be able to execute in those moments because, once again, it came down to -- which there's no rocket science to this -- it comes down to a few key plays at the end of the game. I've heard coaches talk about this forever. It doesn't matter the level. NFL is no different. Games are one-possession games every single week. And that's how it is in this conference for the most part.

So it's being able to, in the last four to five minutes of a game, can you execute at a high level? And that to me is the key. That's where I talked about, okay -- so today in our team meeting, I preached so hard about the value of walk-throughs and how critical they are, and that every one of those reps, you have to believe, if you're sitting here involved in the walk-through or you're standing back here -- and we do walk-throughs, we have them literally put all their toes on the same yard line so that they're all locked in, very disciplined, eyes on the -- now what's going on in their brain, I don't see, nor do I completely control. They control that. But you've got to teach them -- we may be able -- because we can't cover everything in a practice rep.

So you'd better make sure that when you're standing there, whether you're doing the walk-through or watching the walk-through and taking a mental rep, that that may be that play, that check you have to make against that formational adjustment on defense or that adjustment we've got to make. I sat there and listened to -- and our offensive staff meetings, our offensive position meetings after watching the film this morning, just the details of every little thing that make the difference on whether it's how you set up a block that gets that extra yard you need to create -- if you think about the exchange at the end of the game, or the end of the half. If we did the little details right on offense, the defense is never even on the field the last minute of the game before the half, and they never have the chance to score a touchdown, and we go in 14-14, which that changes everything.

It was a bad snap on the early play that set up -- that forced us to have to punt. So those little things that -- you snapped the football hundreds and hundreds of times in the course of -- but it's executing that critical situation. It's making the check that we have to make on that last touchdown before half that we didn't make and figuring out why we didn't make it and make sure that mistake doesn't happen again. So those little things, to me, those happen in the end of the game as well.

So I'm not trying to -- that's how you have to do it because then once you do it,

But we have to experience it. We have to put ourselves in the position to be able to execute at the high level in those moments, part of it is talent. That's where recruiting comes in.

Part of it is depth because when you don't have enough depth the fatigue sets in, you make a mental mistake because you're mentally tired.

To me we're addressing those things but we've got to get it done on the football field. All right. There's a lot of little things to go into it, but to say how -- to me, sometimes, a really good player makes a really good play, all right. Well, those really good plays need to be made by the Hoosiers, not by the opponent.

And that's what it comes down to. And there's a lot of things that lead up to that one play that you have to make and that's what we're getting to. And to me it didn't happen on Friday or Saturday night. And that's what has to change. And to me that's why you just stay the course. And that's why I was -- you're so disappointed, frustrated because you know you're right on the cusp.

We were there two years ago, okay, against that same team and my first year as head coach. And now the game kind of felt different, but there was, once again, we had the lead in the fourth quarter and they ended up finishing out and beating us.

So once again -- and I get it. I'm just as frustrated as anybody to not to be able to finish. But discouraged? No.

See the things we've got to address and keep addressing them and continue to keep coaching and keep teaching and keep finding ways to help us make those game-changing plays in the fourth quarter to finish the game.

Q. Obviously you're very clear, it's not okay for a loss in any way, shape or form. Does it encourage you at the very least that you get to focus on details at this point and making those one more plays, those extra plays as opposed to maybe thinking they're much bigger?
COACH ALLEN: No question, that's why when you watch the film you're encouraged and excited about what you're becoming, not that you like what's happening, but you see what you're becoming and you have a chance with a small thing here, a small thing here that adds up to a big change, which is the difference in the outcome of the game and that's exactly right. I mean, you go, here's the thing you can go through -- I've been in games where the game is still close but you go back and watch we were kind of, kind of got after us but we just found a way -- it wasn't like that.

This was one of those it was back and forth, back and forth the whole game, and with five seconds to go in the game it was 31-31. Okay. You played all that almost 60 full minutes and it's 31-31. And so if you go back look at the stat it's kind of that way. But that's where it's different. But at the same time, you have to finish. So that part doesn't change. It's just us doing a great job as coaches and as players of staying the course and finding ways to finish. And that's the plan.

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