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October 21, 2019

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

TOM ALLEN: Here we go. Good afternoon. Just had a good morning with our team and really proud of the way they performed on Saturday. I thought it was just a great way to finish, to find a way to win an important road game in conference play. Any time you go on the road it's just difficult.

So we didn't play our best, but I thought we did a lot of good things, a lot of things to build off of for sure. But just the ability to finish, to have our defense on the field. As I said earlier, to be able to be the reason why the game closed the way it did, kind of being put back out there twice, but then challenged our offense about finishing. We get that first fumble that Burgess creates and get the ball in great position and you want to go in there and score a touchdown. Still defense had to come out and still had to finish.

But bottom line is it was a complete team effort. Our guys, had some guys dinged up and O line was shuffled around a little bit but still was able to rush for almost 200 yards and Stevie went over a hundred. Six yards a carry for him and I thought he ran really, really hard and protected the football. Did a lot of great things.

Played two different quarterback backs, obviously, and both of them played well. And Peyton being able to throw for almost 200 yards and being 20-27 and just being really sharp and being prepared to do what he did was very encouraging.

Just even in the special teams they had a really, really good return game I was very concerned about. And being able to contain him I thought was critical. And then had zero punt return yards. So just a lot of positives. Had zero penalties on special teams, which has been a big focus. So those are things that we have told our team that that's how you have to function to win on the road and to be able to be play a clean game in those areas. And just thought our coaching staff made some good adjustments at halftime defensively. Our defense gave up two big plays throughout the game that were costly. But in the second half really, really shut them down and made some good adjustments at halftime. So appreciate the work that our defensive staff, Coach Wommack's leadership there. And then Coach DeBoer offensively come up with a good plan, get off to a fast start. Two touchdowns the first two drives and just being able to keep the touchdown the pressure on -- touchdown before half was huge be. Great momentum. Awesome play by Nick Westbrook. He had six catches and played really, really well.

So proud of our guys. But really challenged them and we went through the film and to focus on the areas that we have to really hone in on to continue to grow as a football team. But any time you can go on the road and get that kind of win, the way that it happened, it helps your team grow and develop the belief and confidence in what we're doing. And just the weight room, the strength that they feel, the workout again today, just continue to, the momentum that we're building in there. Being able to do a good job of finding a way to win a game on the road, which is critical. So really proud of our guys. But have to continue to stay focused on the details, that's what we have to really, I think fine tune everything that we're doing and just keep getting better.

Then because of all that, players of the game, Stevie Scott and Peyton Ramsey were both highly achieving guys, but Peyton Ramsey is the one that we chose to go with for the offensive player of the game just because of the ability for him to execute at a high level coming off the bench like he did.

Defensively, couple guys that stuck out to me and our staff, Juwan Burgess, Reese Taylor defense players of the game. Two critical takeaways. It was bigger than that. It was the way they played the entire game, their mindset throughout practice all week long, the way they prepared, just everything has continued to be on an incline for both of those guys in the secondary.

Logan Justus is our special teams player of the game. Two key field goals that were the difference in the game points-wise, continues to be very steady for us and do a great job. Throughout the week defense scout of the week, Christian Love and offensive scout of the week, Da'Shaun Brown and Tim Weaver, and then special teams scout of the week, Joseph Daniels.

So felt like that we had a very good week of preparation, still did not feel like that we executed at the level we need to consistently throughout the game. But at the same time, as we mentioned, the guys were able to bow up, find a way to win, and then have a great celebrate locker room which is always a great thing to experience. So proud of our guys. Questions.

Q. The offensive line in particular I think we asked you about it Saturday, but as you were able to go back and look at how Matt Bedford has grown and how Simon Stepaniak handles moving over to the left side for I think maybe the first time in his career at least as starter, Harry obviously going to center and Mackenzie coming in almost from the cold. Just how impressed were you with the way this those guys played?
TOM ALLEN: Very. And that's a tribute to them and to Coach Hiller and the job that he does. And I thought those three guys you mentioned, we obviously had three different positions there affected by having Harry move to center and then moving Simon to left guard and then Mackenzie playing right. So just thought Matthew continues to progress. Boy, he really, all those big runs that Stevie was having there in the second half and was him just caving in the defensive line and just creating a lot of movement. And I thought our tight ends blocked well on several of those also. But Harry did a great job snapping the football. That's a dynamic that you forget about until you get a bad snap. So he did a great job with the snaps. Just he's a good center, he really is. He's got a good base to him, he's strong, he's smart. So hadn't had a lot of reps there but I will say this, we kind of probably got into, we were two full weeks into the camp and I just said, okay, guys, it's time for us to shuffle the O line and let's get Harry at center and let's get guys shuffled around a little bit, play some different spots, and we even played Coy at guard. Just tried to get guys different. We did it for several practices in a row and I think that really paid off for us this past game. Just because knowing, looking forward, that you just never know what may happen to the offensive line. And having guys that can play multiple spots helps them for their future because that's what the NFL is looking for, are guys that have versatility to play multiple positions because of the number of linemen they have on their roster and how many they carry to a game each week. So that's a big selling point for our guys is in their development and what they want for their future.

So but Coach Hiller did a great job of that. Really, really proud of our O line, they got to continue to keep getting better. But I feel like, expect to get Hunter back this week. He warmed up and we went through it and had the discussion about it, possibly, he probably could have gone but hadn't got a lot of reps, and so we felt if we could just hold him for one more week and be able to still get what we want, then I think it served itself well there because now he's, should be fully recovered here by time we get to Saturday, he'll be practicing with us this week and got off to a good start today. So should get him back and get those guys back to their normal spots.

Q. In regards to Reese Taylor and the play that he made at the end of the game there. You said in the past that he's been taking defensive back position in stride but when he was such a successful quarterback at Ben Davis and then he came over. And then just to make a play like that, in a game like that, what does that say about his development and did you say anything specifically to him regarding that situation?
TOM ALLEN: Well, man, after I gave him a huge hug, man, I just so proud of him. He's such a great person, works so hard. And I know he's been frustrated because of the injuries and hasn't been out there like he wanted to be because of that. But now he's gotten back and showed up on special teams last week, and now on defense. And but that's the ball savviness that he has and just being a former offensive player, specifically a quarterback and being able to finish the play. It's probably a tougher catch than it looks, but it was overthrown, but it was overthrown because of the rover doing his job and taking away that seam route by the vertical No. 2. And he's an overlap player in that coverage and that's what he did, exactly what he was supposed to do. So you get rewarded for being in the right place at the right time. But he's an excellent football player and one of our best athletes without question. So I just see him continuing to grow in his performance and execution and just being comfortable out there at corner. But he's one of our elite players in my mind in terms of quickness and change of direction and he's got a toughness to him, he'll tackle even though he's not the biggest guy. But just a really, really good football player. So awesome for him, so proud of him and happy for him to have that opportunity and he came through for his team. It was awesome.

Q. I know last week you mentioned early into the season you checked on Stevie when things weren't going all good and he told you he was fine. But talk a little bit just big picture with this offense as a whole when you get as much out of him as you've been getting now these last three, four weeks.
TOM ALLEN: Well, first of all, with Stevie's situation, and I did check on him, but he was almost kind of like, Coach, man I'm good, don't worry about me. But he's still, he's only a sophomore and he had such a big freshman year that I just wanted to make sure he was keeping everything in check and having the right mindset and don't want to assume things. Sometimes guys may look that way on the outside but when we give them an opportunity to sit down with you face-to-face and talk it through. But he's been awesome, he understands and it's been neat to see him rewarded for that patience. And he's catching the ball out of the back field, he's running the football, he's Kalen does a tremendous job. I looked at all the different guys that are catching balls and Whop only had two catches in this game but he's had a whole bunch in the last couple. But other guys stepped up and had big games as well. And they several times had him bracketed, but you can't, you do that to one guy, it's going to create opportunities for a guy like Nick and he took advantage of it. Peyton had a bunch of catches again, I think he had six.

So just being a bunch of individuals that care more about the team is what we have on offense and we talked about that this morning as well. Just guys, the way our offense can distribute the football and O line is really kind of coming into their own and just neat to see them respond, as I already mentioned, with having some new guys in there and playing some different positions and playing two different quarterbacks and both of them playing extremely high level and very efficient and effective. And so to me that's a tribute to Coach DeBoer and his system and which has become our system. But I did let him come in and implement what he knew and believed in, and we have, it's become ours and all the coaches on that side of the ball it's now what we do. So but I think it's a great fit for our guys and they have really are starting to get into a rhythm and a groove of understanding the reason. Just sitting through all the meetings again this morning with offense and watching the film together with the players and the staff and the coaches there, they just, it's neat to see that confidence growing and to understanding where the ball needs to go each time and everything up front. And so it's just really at the right time coming together and they need to play at a high level this point in the season and they are. So to be able to continue to do that is going to be critical for our future success. So just really proud of that side of the ball, but we got to finish, we needed to finish that game off we needed to put that team away there in the second half and not make it come down to the final series. But it did and we responded.

Q. Something else we asked you about Saturday. You kind of have been asked in different ways about it today, and I imagine there's stuff you probably won't tell us, but with regard to the defensive adjustments, just kind of what were maybe some of the things, you talked about basically getting back to things that you felt guys were really comfortable with. What were some of those things that just allowed you to be so much better, in particular in limiting Maryland's explosiveness in the second half.
TOM ALLEN: Well I think that defense football, to me, is so dependent upon three key variables. And it all starts with we always take takeaways, tackling effort. Those are huge and those are foundational things that we, that I preach, we say, hey, we install those three things every single day, and we do, we make a huge deal about them. But it really all starts with run fits because if you don't stop the run, then everything else just kind of falls apart from there because then they got, they can do two things to you. They can run it or they can throw it, because that obviously sets the other one up. So it's those run fits. It's being able to be confident in those fits, to be able to -- because that's affects your tackling. If your spacing is not right then you get out of position and you miss tackles. And it all just kind of crumbles from there.

So to me it was being able to just kind of go back to making sure we're being simple enough to get the run fits right, to make sure that we're not, the layers aren't out of whack and the spacing is not out of whack. And our guys are really more of a compressed contested-type mindset that I really believe in to be able to take away those windows and the easy throws and the access throws and make them earn every little thing that they get. I believe in that, I think it's hard to drive the ball up and down the field by having to snap it over and over and over again. So you got to eliminate those big plays by swarming the ball. It's the effort that you get to the ball that the gang tackling. And so all those things just kind of go -- and our kids, man they played so hard. And we usually play really hard, that's one of our, I think one of our biggest things that we're known as when you watch us play and I want that to always be the case. A lot of reasons for that. But defensively it's just, it all starts with those fits and working on those and even how we practice and modifying some of that to try and get a better look, we made changes with that. Because sometimes when you have your scout teams they don't always, especially up front it's hard to simulate a full set of Big Ten offensive linemen. It's almost impossible to do that with that group. So therefore, sometimes it can get skewed when you practice, to what the linebackers are seeing because by the time they get to them, it's already -- especially in the run game. So we had to make some changes on how we approach that, just to get a cleaner, better look for our defense so we can get the fits right and everybody's, from a technical perspective, where they're supposed to be. So it's kind of been almost a back to basics approach to that and simplifying some things, throwing some stuff out and adding a couple little things here and there that I felt like we needed to do. And just working with Coach Wommack and just getting it right, and just making sure because we do still have a lot of guys that don't have a ton of reps. And so just making sure that we execute at those critical times. So that to me is where I think was the biggest thing. And even in the second half we did some, they were doing a lot of things that we were a little bit unique and different than we'll be playing for and so we had to be able to adjust to that.

But I just think that's where, because that gives our guys a lot of confidence when they know where they're supposed to be, they're playing faster. A guy like Burgess, he just continues to play faster and faster and more confidently. And then we had several effort plays where we showed our team this morning about guys just running things down from the back side and getting a bunch of guys around the ball. Because when you're playing against some of these elite guys it's hard for the first guy to get him on the ground. And so he make that is one guy miss with a proper angle then the second guys are going to be there to finish him off.

So that to me is really kind of in a nutshell what we tried to emphasize and the guys just continued to communicate and execute, communicate and execute, as they're playing their tails off. So that's really our formula on defense.

Q. Couple days after the game now, you guys are 5-2. Are you thinking about being one win shy of a bowl game or trying not to think about that?
TOM ALLEN: Well, here's how I look at this. So we're 5-2, after playing seven games. It's a little bit different dynamic than we have been in the last two years. We kind of, it was more the end of the season where this situation occurred. And so to me, you talk to any of our players, there's no mention of winning six. I mean it's, they understand and we talked about this this morning, that this is the biggest game of the season because it's our next game. Yeah, it's, obviously you win the next game, you win your sixth game and we understand what all that means. But that is, to me the objective is for us to be at our very best and play our best football in Lincoln Nebraska on Saturday. And if we continue to focus like that then it takes care of itself. So for me, at the beginning of the season we set a goal as a team that we want to win our bowl game, not just get to a bowl game, we want to win our bowl game. That was one of the goals that we set out and the players came up with that goal.

So obviously there's a lot of things that, there's no picking numbers here. We want to be our very, very best and we believe if we keep getting better every single week and we focus on one thing at a time, which right now it's completely on Nebraska, and we give them our very, very best effort, focus during the week, we play our best game of the season on Saturday, then we'll like the outcome. And then when that's done you go work on the next one. And that's been our approach all season long and that's not going to change.

But at the same time, I get it, there will be, we'll be asked about it, we talked about it this morning in that regard. But it's about having a focus, that's the mental toughness it takes to be great in our program, and to me I want it to be a point where that's just part of the expectation and that's what I want. And so I understand it, I understand where we are, what's in front of us, and so do our players. They're excited about the opportunity to go and play together again as a football team on the road. And that's the whole objective is to be able to be at our best on Saturday.

Q. Obviously going to Nebraska this week. Assuming Martinez plays, he's been banged up. Dynamic quarterback. A guy you recruited, Robinson, who's really dynamic. The running back is good. From a defensive point of view what concerns you? What do you see from them on film that you guys really have to try to take away?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, well, just like every offense, it all starts with the quarterback. So Martinez is a special player, didn't play last game before their bye week, but he, it all runs through him, he's extremely athletic, can throw it, can run it, understands their offense. And it's like any other quarterback that you face, you have to affect him, you can't let him be comfortable, you can't let him be able to feel good about what he's seeing, and you got to be able to disrupt him. But he's surrounded with a lot of good athletes, as you mentioned, Robinson, a guy that we recruited hard and know well and very, very special player and just so dangerous in space.

The running backs, there's just, whoever is in there, they got several receivers, the Spielman kid is a talented player and Washington and just 26 and all the different guys that they have. They got some big old tight ends. So a very dangerous offense, can put up a lot of points. But it's like anything else, you got to execute, they have to and so do we. Defensively they're really big up front and very physical and they play really hard and they got some really good football players and they're going to change some things up and they're going to keep you off balance and they're trying to do everything we're trying to do on defense. I know their staff well and got a ton of respect for Coach Frost and all his coaches and got to know them when they were at Central Florida, and the job that they did there, and I respect him for that. They know each other well, have a great chemistry as a staff, they have been together for awhile and that's important. And that's why you're seeing the consistent growth from them from last year to this year. But then you throw in the venue that you're playing in. I mean, I thought it was like since 1962 they've had sellouts, which is, that's a phenomenal stat. That's quite a testament to their program and everything that they have accomplished. And just growing up as a kid, just Coach Osborne was a guy that I looked up to, and the way that he ran his program and the kind of man that he was. And this is my first trip to Lincoln, you know. But at the same time, to me, this is the cool part about it is we're playing the 2019 Huskers, okay, and the team that shows up and the 11 guys they put on the field. That's the key. Not all the guys that played there in the past. But our guys have played in a lot of great places and so we're looking forward to the opportunity to go to Lincoln and play. And I know it's going to be an amazing atmosphere and we're looking forward to that. And they will all be wearing red for us, which is pretty cool. And we'll embrace the atmosphere and the environment and our guys are going to go there and play their tails off.

Q. Update on Michael Penix's status and how do you prepare the -- how do you handle the preparation for the quarterback position during the week?
TOM ALLEN: Yes. Update on Michael Penix. Right now do not know what his status will be. It will be a game-time decision. But, so the plan will be to prepare like we have every single week, to be able to have Peyton ready to roll, and he'll have a great week of practice and just like he did last week. And Jack will be ready as well. So those guys in that room will be doing their best to prepare, and Michael as well, and we'll do everything we can to get him back if at all possible. But that's, that remains to be seen.

Q. You talked about the environment going out to Nebraska playing of course one of the iconic programs in college football history. We all know who they are. But how do you keep the guys mentally leveled down, especially with all that's laying out, the bowl eligibility is there for the taking as well. How do you keep that mental outlook where it needs to be?
TOM ALLEN: Well we started last week even and talking through and the word that I picked for that week and just the things that we talked about the hotel on Friday night, about the ability to block out the noise and just talk to them about when we do what I believed. And I had this conversation with our guys during fall camp. When we started doing the things I believe we're going to do this season and what's going to be the result of that is, like how can we block out all the noise. And the noise is criticism when things aren't going well and it's pats on the back when things are going well. And you have to have the ability to focus through all that. That's where you teach your guys. And so we talked to them about, Tom Brady has some quotes about that, some things he talks about how he's been able to function at a consistently high level, where he's at, and as to how he's been able to do that. And we talked about those things, just to be able to, as you say, embrace what's in front of you. But our guys they're used to playing in a lot of great places. And we get excited to go to play in those spots. And our guys have played well on the road in the past and expect us to play well on Saturday. So I think that I like feeding off of that, feeding off the crowd and feeding off the environment and feeding off the opportunity that's ahead of us. And this is why, you know, I came here to help Indiana change the defense when I got here. Change the culture of the defense was my job task I was given from Coach Wilson. And now as a head coach I want to change the way this program is viewed in the lifetime of our current players. I just want to be able to create that change. And I've used the word breakthrough and that's a foundational vision that I have, has different layers and different meanings, but that hasn't changed. And so opportunities like this, to play in places like this, is why our players come here. And we have recruited these guys going and playing in these kind of games and opportunities to make history for our program, to help us do things and reestablish things that haven't happened for awhile, and our guys embrace that. That's part of finding guys that want that and that have that desire, like Tiawan Mullen came to help us do these things that we want to do and a whole bunch of other guys in that locker room that came here for that reason. But I mention him because he specifically mentioned some of those things to me when he came on his official visit. So but to me that's what this is all about. And then you got to have tremendous focus. You have to be able to stay locked in and how can we get better this week, how can we play our best football in this environment. That's the key. And that's where we got to become a more mature football team every time we take the field. And that's my job as coach to help them understand that and that's why you can just run from the chatter. You have to be able to embrace it, but you also have to have the earmuffs and blinders to stay focused. And that's the fine balance that it takes. And had this same conversation with Michael Penix when he started having some success, how do you handle that. And it's different when you're just off to the side and you're not getting all these, whatever they're saying about you in a good way or the negative about you. So that to me is just part of us growing as a team and helping these guys just to be at our best. That's what it comes down to. So we're excited to be able to take this next step.

Q. I know you mentioned Michael's a game-time decision for Saturday, but what, if anything, can you say about him being able to practice starting as soon as tomorrow? Do you know anything about that yet or is that going to be a day-by-day thing as well?
TOM ALLEN: I'll probably know some more this afternoon about that, so then we'll just have to take it day by day and see where that leads us. But don't have that answer for you right now.

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