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November 2, 2019

Tom Allen

Bloomington, Indiana

Indiana - 34, Northwestern - 3.

TOM ALLEN: Well, first of all, when I was named head coach a couple years ago, I challenged our team, challenged our coaching staff with three numbers, 50, 26 and 10, and wrote them on the board and talked to our guys about what they meant. At that point it had been 50 years since we won the Big Ten, 26 years since we won a bowl game and 10 years since we had a winning season at Indiana. I told our team, I told our coaches, we're going to accomplish all three of those, and if you don't believe we're going to do that, you need to leave, and I was very honest and open and sincere about it. Wasn't going to take it personal if they didn't believe but I didn't want them here, because I want a coaching staff and a football team that believes.

Those numbers grew to 52, 28, 12 as this season started. We just knocked off the last one tonight, which makes it a big, big deal, getting that seventh win to secure a winning season here at Indiana, first time in 12 years and got a chance to knock off the next one here later on when we go to our bowl game.

So this is a very hungry football team that is not satisfied with where they are, and I don't think they're shocked by what they're doing, they expected it. There's no question that not a lot of people felt that way or believed in us, and that's okay. It never mattered to us. It was about earmuffs and blinders in this program.

Just really proud of our guys, proud of how they fight, the grit they showed. Shoot, we started the game with two stinking offsides penalties on our offense and get 1st and 20 against a very good defense and didn't blink. Drove right down the field and got us three points and got rolling.

So just really proud of the resilience and the toughness and the fight of this team, the grit that we have that we show each and every week. We're getting better every time we take the field. Probably was our most complete game to date, and to get four Big Ten wins in a row is pretty special.

And so just congratulations to our coaching staff. I thought Kane Wommack did a phenomenal job calling the defense today, and Kalen DeBoer continues to do a great job, and our offensive staff and defensive staff, the guys have worked extremely hard, and that will not stop.

So a lot of good performances tonight, but it was a team win, and very excited about getting No. 7. Means a lot to this program.


Q. I'll give kind of a blunt question. You talked about your team not being satisfied, not being surprised, but they haven't had as a group together this kind of success, obviously the win total but also kind of the stretch you're on here. How have they kind of managed maybe some of the intangible stuff together to make nights like tonight just seem very routine, I guess?
TOM ALLEN: Well, I think there's a very purposeful approach with our coaching staff, with our guys. Yeah, it's uncharted territory for this team and our program, but at the same time, I'm telling you, we've recruited a bunch of guys that came here to do the very thing we're doing right now. That's why when I talk to these guys and challenge them about what's next and where we want to be and what we're trying to accomplish, that they just have the mindset that, hey, Coach, this is why we came here, so we expected this to happen. Didn't know when it was going to happen. And I believed it was going to happen my first year, okay, and it did not. I believed it was going to happen year two, and I knew we were really young last year and it was going to be challenging to do some of these things, but it didn't happen.

But we just didn't -- it was very disappointing, but we didn't get discouraged. We didn't hang our heads. We just rolled our sleeves up and went back to work. We kept recruiting, we kept developing and we kept fighting, and that's where our grit comes into this year. That's our one word for a reason, that perseverance and passion towards a long-term goal, and that's what this team has, and they showed it again tonight.

And like you said, it was just a very systematic, dominant performance football team in all three phases against a very mature team that's played a brutal schedule. Coach Fitz is one of my guys I look up to so much in this conference. I have so much respect for him, and his kids play so hard. They're physical, they're tough, they're big, they're strong, and they've just had a bunch of tough losses and played a really, really uphill battle schedule-wise, and it makes it hard sometimes.

It's a fine line in this league. So I fully understand that. So to me it's about understanding that we've got big goals for this place, and I came here with that belief, and it has not changed, and so I knew it wasn't going to be easy, and it's not been easy, and we've just got to stay the course, keep working to get better each and every week, enjoy the bye week. It's going to be critical that we get healthy and get better this week, do a lot of recruiting, but at the same time, these guys are on a mission, and I'm proud of them.

Q. Just have to ask you what went into the decision to start Mike tonight and how he was, and what, if anything, there was that happened where he had to come out?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, you know, the decision to start Mike was pretty simple. You know, I've been kind of frank with that situation. He was the starter, and as soon as he's healthy to play, then he would come back and be the starter when he was able to go, and he was able to go this week, so we went with him, and then he got dinged up there right before half, so we'll know more about that tomorrow.

But once again, Peyton Ramsey just continues to be just a great teammate, great player for us, and you know, we've had two quarterbacks that have played almost equal amount of time I think if you look at the exact quarters and the time out there. They're both a huge part of our program and very proud of both of them. Just great to have two.

Q. You've talked not just this year but in past years about finishing. I think you guys have given up like 30-something points in the fourth quarter all year, and six of those came on the flukey play at Michigan State. How pleased are you how your defense seems to get stronger as the game goes along?
TOM ALLEN: Well, very pleased. I mean, that's the key because that's the big thing we were not able to do in the past was to be able to finish, and I got asked that question a thousand times. I got sick and tired of answering it. But it's a fair question because we never -- those close games when you don't win them, you don't finish.

But it's obviously been a huge point of emphasis. It's been a huge part of us trying to make sure that we can make -- and my answer always was consistent. It's you've got to make critical plays in those times of the game, the last five minutes of the game. You've got to get the key stops. You've got to get the key execution on offense. You've got to get the big plays. You've got to make the tough catches. You've got to make the contested runs, and when they're loading the box or whatever they're doing to try and stop that key situation. And it's depth, it's our guys are just a year older, more mature, it's our weight room, it's our strength staff, the job that they do. They play a huge role in the fourth quarter mindset and our conditioning and our strength and the confidence we have. We're getting stronger every single time we go in that weight room. It's impressive. The way our guys work, I've never been a part of a team that works this hard during the season in the weight room, and that's -- the buy-in is so high right now because they believe that that staff in there knows exactly what they're doing. If they do exactly what they tell them to do, they're going to get bigger, faster, stronger even during the season, and that just creates a ton of confidence for us to run the football like we have to in the second half, finish games conditionally in terms of speed and burst of the football and being able to make those critical plays.

There's a lot of things that go into it, and I'm just proud of our coaches, too. They're doing a great job of working on to tirelessly figure out what we can do to be able to finish out well and get the result that we want.

Q. Following up on that, Tiawan Mullen continues to get better and better this season. He was involved in multiple first-half takeaways today. How has he progressed from a true freshman to where he is now?
TOM ALLEN: Well, when he first was here, he was basically just a situational guy to put man-to-man on one of their top guys late -- not late in the game but during the game because he didn't know the whole defense to be able to play completely during a series. And then as the season progressed, he's now gotten to where he knows all the things he has to do to play the zone coverages, the match man, the true zone, the man coverage that we're playing, all the checks and adjustments that go along with it. It just took some time, and then as the season kind of progressed, we grew his role.

But he's always been -- from the beginning he's been a playmaker, and he's a special player, but he's also got a special mindset. He grabbed me tonight, he's like, Coach, this is what I told you we were going to do when we came here. He's actually the kid that wrote down those three numbers in my exit interview I had with him when he came on his official visit. He's a very confident young man, and he just keeps getting better, like our team does, and his role, like you said, keeps growing, and he's got a great knack for the ball. He just has a -- he created that first takeaway of the game, which was -- those kind of things are huge. They got a big long run on the first play of the game, and he rakes that ball out of there with a great technique, and then a lot of key breakups, and he's just being Tiawan. He's a stud.

Q. Stevie Scott went over 100 yards again, third time this season. He's been a factor in the passing game. How has his evolution come along from the beginning of the season where you guys struggled to run the ball to now where you're almost running at will?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, we were very frustrated at first, and I know you guys asked me the questions and you should. But I do feel like that there was a concerted effort by the teams we were playing to just make sure Stevie Scott did not beat them. So they were loading the box and they were making sure -- and he was getting impatient and he was trying to bounce a lot of runs and try to make those big plays and get those yards.

So it was kind of a dual reason for why he wasn't getting the production that we were used to seeing from him. But he got -- he learned a lot. Coach Hart did a great job of teaching him in how to handle this and to be more patient with his runs, and he started running harder, running with more confidence, and now our O-line just keeps getting better and better each and every week, even though, like you said, we've played against some really good run defenses and still have been able to consistently run the football in the way that we know we need to.

I just think in the pass game, he's really worked on that, with just ball skills and tons of catches in the off-season and after practice, before practice and JUGS machines and just trying to get to where he's a weapon in the pass game just like he was again tonight when they load the box and you flare him out there and you pop it outside and he goes for a touchdown.

And his pass pro, he's a great pass protector. He's a big boy, but he's unselfish, and that's a part big -- as a matter of fact, we used in one of our pre -- during fall camp I do a lot of -- I read a lot of books and use a lot of books to teach our players about the kind of team we're trying to develop, and one of them was about an unselfish running back at the NFL level and what that looks like and how those guys have to be great pass blockers as well as receiving the football out of the backfield as well as running the ball, and he's bought into that. But just trying to give them real-life examples of guys and how our guys need to -- whether it's special teams as a starter, I believe in that, and those guys -- our guys have bought into that. Nick Westbrook, same thing. He does drills for special teams every single week because he knows he wants to play at the next level and he knows he's going to have to be a special teams guy at that point, and so he does all those drills even though he doesn't take a ton of reps at it, but that's the kind of buy-in of our guys. They believe what we tell them, and they're doing it, so Stevie has just been getting better and better.

Q. Obviously you were already asked about Tiawan Mullen obviously with that strip, but Alfred Lance Bryant right before the end of the half, I know it was a play that didn't count in terms of?
TOM ALLEN: It still counts for a takeaway.

Q. Yeah, in terms of riding into the half with some momentum, how much does that --
TOM ALLEN: Well, that's huge. We knew they were going to get the ball in the third quarter, and you guys watch us play, so we've had some end-of-the-half times we've given up points, and it's happened, and it's hard, and it kills you going into halftime. So we've been working so hard on that, and obviously you've got to balance it out, how much time is on the clock and what do they need and don't want to give up a field goal, you don't want to give them any momentum at all, they only had three points. And then we were trying to -- they were going to take a shot, they're going to try and flip the ball around a little bit. We kind of thought they might do something like that because of the distance they had to go, and that's what they did, and so we got a chance to get a cheap takeaway, but we'll take it for sure. But it's momentum.

You saw how the guys ran off the field, and that's what it takes. It's a game of momentum, a game of understanding how to finish. It's playing team football, all three phases working together. We got a three-and-out to start the second half, offense goes down, and we just finished them off from there. So just really proud of the way our guys are playing complementary team football.

Q. You guys have scored 30 or more points in six straight games, eight of nine you've played this year. Talk about having that kind of consistency for the team, for the staff, even for the defense.
TOM ALLEN: Well, you know, it creates a lot of confidence, you know, that -- it's hard in today's game, it's hard to hold a team to three points. It's hard to get shutouts. It's hard to hold people to even seven, ten points anymore. To know you've got a chance to score 30-plus points every game, no matter who we play, it's pretty awesome, and it gives our whole team -- that's become our expectation. We know we've got to continue to work hard to stay to that level, but it's a tribute to Kalen DeBoer and his offensive system he brought to us and our coaches that have bought into that and players, as well, into maximizing our roster and the talent that we have. So just credit to him for the job that he's doing, and so he's been a game changer for us and a huge part of our success. So really proud of Kalen.

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