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October 28, 2019

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

TOM ALLEN: Good to be back with you. Continue to reflect on the weekend and proud of our guys and the way that they showed a lot of resiliency throughout that game. Got off to a slow start on defense, but made some adjustments and got some really key stops and key takeaways that I thought were really game changing. The fumble recovery by Allen Stallings was probably the game changing play that really flipped the script. Felt like we could have a third takeaway, even a fourth one when the ball was loose, but two were big for sure.

Offense continues to do a good job of scoring points and controlling the football and moving the ball. Didn't have any three and outs, which is a big deal. That really keeps you on the field and keeps the chains moving, keeps field position being flipped. Third down efficiency was really high, especially on third and long. 4 out of 8 is excellent. So I think those are big, big deals.

And just being on the field to finish the game those last three minutes and having them burn their three time-outs and not having to give the ball back was a lot less stressful for us on the sideline, but that's how you want to do it, to be able to take a knee there at the end.

Other than a couple penalties that I thought were really bad and excusable and selfish, addressed those today and the rest of the week -- other than that, felt like the guys just really competed hard and stayed with us, stayed together, gave them momentum.

I felt like at halftime, we go in and score -- but that was before we threw the pick. I was hoping to go in and score and take the lead and then get the ball in the third quarter and take the game over. That didn't happen. Amazing how quickly things can change. They get the tipped ball, pick, go down and score, and that take the momentum at the half. That really changed the way I felt.

Halftime, we've done a really good job of adjusting, tribute to our staff. Our philosophy, as we go in there, we're going to adjust, we're going to believe, we're going to fight, and we're going to finish. That's how we approach halftime. Our guys have really bought into that and came out and played well in the second half and finished out the game in a tough environment, very historic place.

For a couple of reasons, big, big win, like I said before. To reflect on it, really proud of our kids and the way Peyton played. He got recognized for some national awards for that. Just his character and leadership and production, when needed, has been impressive. So really, really proud of him. Offensive line, same thing, the way they've stayed together and been able to just get the job done each and every week and run the ball when we need to, and that's been a great thing.

The timely takeaways in special teams have been very solid. We had three punts inside the 10, which I thought were huge. We work extremely hard on that. Raheem Layne was a guy that -- I give the LEO award. You may not know this, but we have an LEO stick that we have every game. It's thick, about this tall, just a 2 by 4 painted. It has "LEO" on one side and the one word for the year on the other, which is "grit." I give that award every morning before the game. Once we have our special teams pop-up meeting, I give it out, and it's always a big deal, who's going to get it, and I talk about this person before I say who it is.

I specifically mentioned in that talk -- Raheem Layne was our award winner for this game, and I talked about his special teams play, and how every time we have staff meetings, his name keeps getting brought up -- on this unit, he does this and does this and he's always coming in extra and watching film, he's always doing this, he's always trying to find a way to help -- it's an unselfish type of mindset he has because, obviously, special teams are important, but when you're a defensive guy, that's kind of where a lot of guys' focus is on, but he's bought into what we're really trying to create too, which is a true team mindset, and LEO is the foundation for all that.

So I specifically talked about him and special teams, and he goes into the game, and he's the one that downs the ball inside the 5 and had some really big special teams plays. So we talked about it this morning. It just reinforces everything we're teaching and preaching here about what makes us play winning football, and how do you win these kinds of games?

How do you go on a road and play in a place that you haven't won at in 60 years and find a way to win? When momentum was for you, it was against you, things happen, we didn't play perfect, make mistakes, do some things you don't want to be doing, and then you find a way to win the game. So those are just all the things you try to keep reinforcing with those guys.

Really excited about this week. Got the defending Big Ten West Champion Northwestern Wildcats coming to town. Really big opportunity for us. Really excited about our team being able to continue to stay locked in and focused and play at a high level, and everything we do is about who we're playing next, which won't change.

Really encourage our fans and our student body to come out and support us and then do everything we can to come out and create a great environment and pack this stadium and be able to be, as I said before, playing the first November night game here in Memorial Stadium in our history.

So exciting time for our program, and I'm really, really proud of our guys, but we've got a lot of work to do. Questions?

Q. Kind of a blunt one to start, but the way Peyton has played the last couple of weeks, does it make you reevaluate the way you handle the quarterback position? Especially as Mike has kind of picked up some of these niggling injuries, and you think about his short-term kind of gain versus long-term health?
TOM ALLEN: First of all, Mike's our starter, and Peyton's done a phenomenal job, but if Mike can't go, Peyton's going to go, and as we all know, Peyton's going to do a great job. So we feel really good about that.

That's kind of the approach we have with that position. I have absolute confidence in Peyton Ramsey. We don't know exactly yet what this week will hold, who will be the starter, but whoever it is, we'll be ready, and they'll play well. So that's all I do know.

Q. A short little answer, and then my real question. Do you think your quarterback thing will be a game time decision, or do you expect to announce something before?
TOM ALLEN: Not sure yet. We'll know more from the physical perspective as the week unfolds. It could be a Thursday decision, could be game time. It will be one of those two, I would expect, by Thursday or Friday or Saturday.

Q. And the longer question -- or hopefully the longer answer -- is Peyton's toughness physical but also mental? Just I have to assume, not putting words in your mouth, but I have to assume he's got a high level of physical and mental toughness to overcome what he's been able to overcome and be as ready as he's been and all that. Can you talk about that?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, two parts to it. They're both probably -- the key ingredients to being a great football player at this level and a great football team is to have mental and physical toughness. I think his mental toughness has been displayed through the way he handled the adversity of being not named the starter, staying the course, choosing to stay here at Indiana, and then not just choosing to stay, but choosing to be locked in, and that to me is really the testament.

Step one is a big deal because it doesn't happen as much anymore unfortunately, but then the second part of it, that he chose to be locked in every single day takes unbelievable mental toughness, just grit, fight, character. I mean, if you just think about all that you've got to do to be ready -- because we do -- our offense is not super simple. No one's really is. So there's a lot of things you have to do to get ready to play, and to do that with no guarantee that you're going to play, I've done this a long time, not many guys can do that.

I understand, at this age, NFL backups have got to do that all the time, but that's a whole different world, different age group. That is their full-time job, I get all that. But for a college age kid that's going to class and all these other things and all these people, I'm sure, saying things to him about what should or shouldn't be doing or whatever, and yet he chooses to absolutely do everything within his power to be ready to play and then goes out there and does it.

Like I said, especially in the Maryland game when it wasn't expected. Obviously, this week, there was a chance, and we didn't know all the way till the end, but it was a little different, but still, it doesn't matter. That guy is just rock steady.

Then the physical part, man, he took a shot to the sternum that was a physical, hard hit, and he was hurting, but he completed the pass and just kept on going, and he took another shot later. I'll tell you what, when we went through, I show clips of -- I try to teach our team -- in this whole process of teaching is how to win.

I've done this several times. Don't do this every single game, but we've done it several times, the last several for sure, certainly as things get close and we've got our conference play, and we saw signs like we did after the Michigan State game and after the Maryland game, did it after this game, and just show clips of how do you play winning football here? How do we truly create the breakthrough that we wanted so desperately?

So part of it was showing these clips, and one of the clips I showed today was him taking those shots and just coming back and the toughness that he -- the physical toughness that it takes to play this game that he shows out on that field.

Whop, I could say the same thing. That guy got hit a ton of times hard and just kept coming back. But Peyton, yes, he's mentally tough, he's physically tough. The tape shows that. His performance demonstrates that. And it's a big reason why he's the player that he is.

Q. Tom, there was a video of you kind of just celebrating with all the fans as you ran off the field after the game on Saturday. What's going through your head when you get that sixth win and finally get over that hump for you as a head coach?
TOM ALLEN: Most of that is pretty reactionary. It's not really like planned, am I going to go over and celebrate with fans and everything? But I got done doing the stuff I do on the field, the interview, talked with some family, but just the emotion of a lot of stuff just kind of comes over you, and I just see our fans there. That's even like the infamous trash can episode, you know, not preplanned. They catch my eye, and the students were still here, and I just go running over there.

It's kind of the same thing. I turn around and go to jog off the field. As you guys know, as you go to jog off to the locker room, our fans are all there to the right, and you go past them. They were all still there, and I missed the team singing to them because I was doing the TV interview stuff. But I just warranted to thank them, you know. Obviously, yelling, and I don't even know what I said.

But just to thank them for coming there and supporting us. It's got this little small contingent amidst all these umpteen thousand people, it's pretty cool. I just want to genuinely thank them for coming and cheering us on and believing in us and being there for us, a lot of our parents and all that. It's pretty cool. It's a neat time. So that's just kind of a -- you know, high fiving them and having fun because this is a tough job and it's hard work and it's stressful. Don't get a lot of sleep sometimes, but those moments are pretty special. So I'm going to enjoy them.

Q. Tom, I know you like to work out and practice in the mornings, but you're having a night game this week. Will you do any work at night with these guys?
TOM ALLEN: That's a great question. The answer's no. Basically, we do that in fall camp, we try to get ready. It's kind of been unique. We usually have a night game or two before this time of year, but we have not. So we're going to do some things during the day different than we do because that's a long time period because we are a morning practice team, and the kids -- our players' schedules are all set that way. So it's hard to do anything in the evening. So that's why we won't be able to do that.

But we've been under the lights. We did that by design in fall camp, catching punts and everything. I feel good about that. It's more of a schedule part of it. We have a good flow that we have already preset for a night game, but we're going to do some things. We talked about it even in the off-season about preparing for a night game. We expected we'd have a couple by how, but we have not. So we will do things a little bit different the day of than normal, but when the lights come on, it's just like playing in the daytime.

Q. Could you update us on Simon, did not play on Saturday, and Thomas Allen kind of gutting it out.
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, both those guys -- you know, Simon -- I think he's going to be fine. He had some things late in the week that I didn't know about and just kind of came up on him. He wasn't feeling good at all on game day. It kind of came down to, when in doubt, it's like, hey, if you don't feel like you can go -- he's tougher than nails and love that guy and everything. So that was really a last-minute situation.

But I'll tell you what, once again, Mackenzie steps in there and didn't miss a bit. That was a big deal. So I guess -- yeah, but he -- Simon should be fine. Don't think it's anything long term at all. But that's why you got to keep recruiting, keep developing.

Then Thomas, he's done for the season. So it really breaks my heart. He came back from an injury this past off-season and worked his tail off to get back. It's his other shoulder, so it is what it is. He has a surgery next week. It's a very serious injury. He went down twice during the game, it popped out twice, and the second time it was for good. They were concerned then that it was pretty serious, but then the MRI confirmed it on Sunday morning. So pretty serious for him.

Awesome young man, obviously. I know his mom well, and he's my son. So it's pretty personal. I hate it for him, but it's like everybody else. It's just part of life, and sometimes it's not fair when things happen like this, but he'll be back a year from now.

James Miller is going to be next man up at that spot. After we hugged and got emotional a little bit, I grabbed Thomas and I said, your job is to get James ready to play. James has obviously been right there with him and played quite a bit, but his role is going to go way up. So just like I gave Coy the same charge to get Matt ready, I gave Thomas the same charge to get James ready. That's what great teammates do.

Q. You talked about Whop after the game as being kind of like the leader of the band, and he was saying his leadership style used to be just yelling at people.
TOM ALLEN: That's pretty accurate.

Q. How much have you seen him evolve in terms of how he talks to his teammates and leads?
TOM ALLEN: It is a growth process we go through. You're obviously going to lead through your personality. We talked about several of the guys in the past are quiet guys, they don't speak well. He's not in that group. So it would be speak first and think second. So that oftentimes causes some issues.

He was on leadership council, so it's training him how to use that energy. Still not a final product yet. I do know this. I do know that one reason why I believe we got him here and he came to Indiana was because his mother believed that this was the best place for him to be developed as a man and just really to help him and his character and his leadership and his growth as a young man, ended up becoming a man, and knowing that he would just be taught those things, not just run around and catch passes.

So that's my responsibility, and I take that on when I take on players, your parents' sons and bring them into my program. I had him right there the whole -- he didn't necessarily want to be talking to me right then after he got that penalty, but I was not going to let him walk away until I got the response that I thought I needed and that he needed, and we trusted him to put him back in there because I felt like he was ready to do that. But at the same time, yeah, he's got all that energy and yelling at everyone -- it's not always productive.

He just needs to continue to grow and develop, and he will, and he has, and he's really made a lot of progress. It hasn't stopped, so I will continue, and Coach Hurd is right there with us, right there with me, him and all the other coaches, and Dr. Ray plays a big role in that for the psyche of our guys and learning how to channel all that in the right direction and make it productive.

Q. I know you touched on the uncertainty of the quarterback position, how difficult it is for the quarterbacks to prepare. What about kind of the offensive coordinator aspect, and what does it say about Kalen that the offense has kind of remained productive through this?
TOM ALLEN: You go through, and like I said, the obvious things that he has to deal with are the fact that one's right-handed and one's left-handed. That's something that affects things. So from a play-calling perspective and even certain things that we do and don't do with each. But they do have a similar skill set.

Kalen has to adapt. He adapts to -- it's not necessarily just pure plays, whether a guy is a passer or a runner because obviously both guys can do both, but it's what does each guy do best? Him figuring it out, what are the strengths, what route does this guy throw better than this guy, and match that up with the game plan, and that's where it gets a little more complicated, especially when you don't know. A lot of these situations where one was an in-game adjustment and change, and sometimes it's, like it was last week, through the week. So you're practicing, and Michael practiced and different things.

Then the dynamic too of getting Jack ready to be -- because if Michael doesn't go, then Jack's got to be ready to be the No. 2. We had him warming up a couple of times on Saturday because of a couple hits that Peyton took that we already talked about.

So there's a lot of variable that's play into that that Kalen has to manage, and he's done a great job with that and continues to just come up with a great plan each week that gives our guys a chance. They've got to execute it, but it gives us a chance to score points and win football games.

Q. Tom, you won't have to spend this next month obsessing and getting caught up in the conversation about this sixth win now that you've taken care of that. How can that bring a little more of a focus or a little different mentality to your team for November?
TOM ALLEN: It's actually a very good feeling because I've not been here when that hasn't been the conversation. It's been did not even year one when I was not the head coach, it still came down to the final game. And year one for a head coach, obviously, same thing year two, so it feels kind of great to have that off the table. Now we can just go back to the business of getting better every single week and trying to win our next football game.

I just think it's a great thing to have out of the way. Just being very blunt and honest with you about that. We didn't dwell on -- I'm being very sincere. We have not had a ton of conversations about bowl games and six wins. We just did not. So it was really process driven. I know the guys recognize, they knew when we won the game that we were bowl eligible, but that was never the goal was just to get to six. Okay, we got it. So our guys do understand that, but it is a great relief in some ways to get that out of the way.

Now it's just 100 percent, full bore focus on Northwestern, and it will be the same way when we get back from the bye.

Q. This kind of plays off Kevin's question actually, but how has Kalen made Peyton a better overall quarterback? How has his offense helped Peyton grow and just the coaching at that position?
TOM ALLEN: I think, first of all, the thing that Kalen does really, really well is to be able to, from a schematic and structural perspective is really maximizes whatever we're seeing and empowers these guys. I sit in a lot of those meetings, and you go through, and the quarterbacks are talking things through, and some of the things they have to make adjustments on the field with and audibles and checks and all and some things that he's able to control himself.

So to me, that's really where, when he's controlling and he does a great job of teaching them what to look for, so they can do it themselves. That's where both those two guys, Peyton and Michael, they do a great job of just quick decision-making to be able to figure out where it is the ball needs to go. Then, obviously, Kalen sets all that up. Some of those, like I said, are more driven by him at times, and sometimes they're driven by the players.

So I just think that he has a great way of teaching the progression, and it's multiple, yet simple to our guys. I think that's the key to our guys. You've got to be able to present things in different ways, and you can keep your concepts the same, but to the defense, because of the way we line up or how we shift or motion or whatever, we get to it in different ways.

I think it really creates a lot of confidence for -- I think I said that, even when I first -- when people ask, how is that going to be different? That's kind of the way that stuck out to me how we try to do things on defense through the system we have. To our guys -- you get multiplicity, but to our guys it's conceptually driven. You can transfer concepts from this to this, so I think that's helped those guys. It's helped Peyton be more successful.

It's confidence. Fire the ball downfield and get the ball out quick. The rest of the part is just him being him. He's gritty and tough and escapes and gets first downs when we need him with his legs and has been able to be accurate and get the ball in those tight windows at times. But I think just to be able to sometimes create more explosive plays that aren't necessarily just bombs down the field. That's kind of the thing, that's what you think of as explosive. Well, that's not always the case. It's getting that ball put in the right spot so the receiver can get pulled to be open or to run away from the defender. I think that's where I've seen Peyton get better at.

To me, he's always been a really good, solid player that's been able to do a lot of really good things and be very, very accurate. To me, that's where we've been able to create that, and I think Kalen has brought that to our system and to our program, and the players have bought into it, and they're executing at a high level right now.

Q. Coach, you're an Indiana guy with a sense of history about this program. I just want to get your thoughts on the unveiling of the statue of George Taliaferro, and what he's meant to this program.
TOM ALLEN: Special man. My one regret when he passed was I never really got to know him as well as I wished I had. He was a little bit older. But the time we did get together, he was just such a genuine person. So it's hard for me to imagine what he went through when he came here and yet the way he handled it all with such grace and class and almost just a forgiveness that not everybody has.

The way he talked about it to our players, even just the way he communicated, he was just such a graceful, classy guy. He was a guy that forged the way for our current guys, our current players that are African American.

So just to have that kind of personality amidst all the negativity that that situation created is pretty, pretty special. That's just allowed him to elevate because, as time passes and he continues to talk, he's just able to really empower others to be able to this is how you handle some tough things in life. He's been just a huge part of our history.

That's why I didn't -- from being here, I didn't fully understand, until I was hired here, how special he truly was, from the outside, from my perspective. I think it's just so neat to get to know him and study more about him, and I appreciate it.

It's just we're going to have a statue of him out here, and it's going to be unveiled. Boy, it's a special thing. Just to be able to look back and see how it's changed, and we're not perfect with all that yet and got to be better. Obviously, he was one of the key individuals that helped us be where we are today. So to get a chance to have a statue for him, that's pretty cool. That's neat. Neat for his family.

Q. Northwestern's had a pretty brutal schedule here. What's kind of led to that record, and what's dangerous about them?
TOM ALLEN: Do not be deceived by the record. I just point out to our staff, look at who they played. You look at the defenses they played and how good they are and the teams they played. Even a year ago, they won a bunch of close games and then lost some close games, and then things happen. You get in situations where you lose a little bit of this or a little bit of that. So to me, very dangerous football team. They're the defending West champions in our conference, and I've got a ton of respect for their head coach.

One of the guys, ever since I came to this league, that has always just taken time to encourage, to challenge, to help -- I mean, just -- he's a guy I can text and ask questions to. He's one of the guys I always confided in and things like that for a variety of things, and he's just genuine, he's tough, and he's just done a phenomenal job building that program. I have absolute, complete respect for Pat Fitzgerald and what he's done at Northwestern and how they play, and they're so physical and tough, and they have a great staff. They've been together for 14 years. It's a lot.

So a ton of respect for them. To me, you just throw out the record. It doesn't matter. They're coming, and they're going to play their very best football, and we'd better play ours. That's all I've got to say. We're going to be at our very, very best, and it's going to be a physical, physical football game, it's going to be a 60-minute, tough, hard-nosed Big Ten football game.

So that's my perspective on them. They've got one of the best defenses in the country. Their front seven is a bunch of grown men, I'll tell you that much. Very aggressive in the secondary as far as tackling and physical and big offensive linemen and backs run hard. The receivers are quick and catch the football.

They've had some quarterback challenges, and that's been an issue, and that's a key position. They had a guy that was pretty steady there for a long time, did a phenomenal job for him and led them last year. That's been a question mark for them.

But at the same time, absolute respect from our end at a high, high level, and we know we're preparing to play a very good football team.

Q. You're kind of rolling obviously this week into the next bye. There have been a lot of freshmen we've seen play all season, guys like Tiawan and Sampson and some guys, but are there some guys we haven't seen a lot of that you'll pull into the fold kind of through that stretch run, those last three games and obviously into the Bowl?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, Gary Cooper kind of comes to mind for me. He's a guy that had an early injury in fall camp, so would love to get him here and use his four games during the last part of the season. So he's one that kind of jumps out. I would say that for several of the guys too.

The ones that haven't played, at this stage of the game, it's kind of pretty clear who we just said, hey, these guys aren't playing. They've already played their four. But those who haven't used their four yet, you wouldn't want to burn anybody's redshirt with more than four if something happens we don't expect.

So if a guy has not played his four up to this point, we're going to strategically make sure we balance it out the rest of the year between these last few games and the bowl game to maximize their experience as freshmen. So that's kind of how we're going to approach that.

Q. Just going back to Haydon Whitehead, I know there was one -- obviously, the three punts went inside the 10, but the one set up a 35-yard drive after your big defensive stop. How much do special teams get overlooked, and how much do you feel like those punts kind of tip the balance for you guys in a way?
TOM ALLEN: They're huge. We went through, like I told you, we had 11 clips in the team meeting we used to show how you play winning football, and one of those was the very punt you mentioned. He punts it. They fair caught it at the 8 yard line. We got a three and out on defense. They punt it, comes off the side of his foot. We get the ball at the 35, go in and score. So huge.

It's field position. It's momentum. It's play calling. When you're backed up like that, it just makes it hard for the offense and defense. Their goal is make them punt from down there and just keep the field position.

Offense is trying to get a first down. That's like your first goal, and then obviously you build from there. I just think that those, our kickers are huge, and Haydon continues to do a great job for us, and that's part of winning football is having specialists that can do those kinds of things and the kickoffs and even a thing like -- to point out, you talk about special teams, the heads up play that Bryant Fitzgerald has on the ball near the sideline, just to know the rules, to know that how I can maximize that rule because the ball is real close to being out of bounds, and if part of you is out of bounds and you touch the ball, once you secure yourself out of bounds, it counts as an out of bounds kick, which gives us the ball at the 35 yard line, which once again, that's another free first down that our offense just got.

So just knowing that, instead of getting the ball and then stepping out of bounds when the ball is down right there at the 10, which that's happened in the past. So just being able to -- that's winning football right there, and it's little things like that, special teams, there's a lot of variants in situations in special teams, a lot of field space involved, a lot of field position involved, and being able to execute. Especially on the road.

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