Tom Allen wanted that shutout. He really, really wanted that shutout.
When the Indiana defensive coordinator didn’t get it, watching as his team yielded 20 unanswered points to close a 30-20 win over Ball State on Sept. 10, he made his frustration known.
“I’m still ticked off that we gave up what we did,” Allen said. “It’s hard to shut somebody out in college football. I don’t care who you’re playing or what level. It’s hard to do that, and through almost three quarters, that’s what we did. To not finish that, and look up at the scoreboard and they have 20 points at the end of the game is just really frustrating to me.”
So coming off the bye week, Allen’s challenge to his Hoosier defense is clear: finish what you start.
When Indiana returns to the field to host Wake Forest on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., Allen is looking for a more complete performance against the Demon Deacons.
For at least one half against the Cardinals, the Hoosiers were where they needed to be. They limited chunk plays, seized three takeaways for the second consecutive game and looked the part of a Big Ten defense matching up against a Mid-American Conference opponent.
The second half was not quite as strong.
Of Ball State’s seven explosive passing plays — counted as receptions of 15 yards or more — five came during the final 20 minutes of the game. On the ground, IU allowed four explosive runs — measured as rushing chunks of at least 10 yards — on the day. Three of those came during the same final 20-minute span.
“We had them on a critical 2nd-and-9 that I thought would have created another 3rd-and-long,” Allen said. “We had just gotten two 3-and-outs in the third quarter and we’re taking all the energy from them. Then we let them pop a long run. It was one of our second-team guys, but still. We’ve got to be able to create that depth. So we let them off the hook, gave up a pass and then they get a field goal. It gave them some momentum back.”
As the degree of difficulty increases across the next few weeks, Indiana can’t afford to offer that kind of jolt.
Wake Forest should offer Allen’s defense a better test, though the Demon Deacons’ offense seems to have been declawed by injuries to starting quarterback Kendall Hinton and top running back Cade Carney.
The Deacons have found the bulk of their offensive success on the ground, and backup quarterback John Wolford, like Hinton, has been effective as a rusher. Indiana will see Wolford start Saturday’s game for Wake Forest, which is also expected to push backup tailback Matt Colburn into the starting position.
Allen’s demand for a more complete finish comes at a good time. IU would be well-served to remember the way it finished last year’s game at Wake Forest. The Hoosiers controlled the first three quarters, building a 31-10 lead before Hinton led the Deacons to a pair of touchdowns during the final six minutes of action.
Allen obviously wasn’t around for that game, but it’s no matter.
Sustained aggression is a tenet of his defensive approach, and he wants to see it for 60 minutes on Saturday.
“We didn’t have that killer instinct that you have to have to be a great defense,” Allen said. “I would even say, generally, that to me is a sign of maturity. We’ve got to grow in that area — that ability to repeatedly, consistently do the little things over and over again. That’s mental toughness, to me.”