After big win, Hoosiers willing to accept responsibility for mistakes, too

Riding high off of a historic win over a top-10 team, Indiana coach Tom Allen and his coordinators definitely spent a few moments recalling the highlights Monday.

Michael Penix Jr. hitting young receivers like Javon Swinton and Jacolby Hewitt on the game-tying drive, the exploits of Big Ten defensive player of the week Jamar Johnson, Allen’s “crowd-surfing” in the locker room. The highs of last Saturday’s win over then-No. 8 Penn State were to be reveled in.

“There’s a lot of love in this locker room, and there’s a lot of love on this football team,” Allen said, nearly tearing up as he recalled the postgame celebration. “That’s what makes it special.”

But there was another theme Monday, not particularly to be expected after such a consequential win. Maybe not completely unexpected, though, after some of the sloppiness of IU’s debut.

There were apologies from each coordinator. Offensively, Nick Sheridan took most of the blame for the Hoosiers’ inconsistencies moving the ball. “We need to execute better, we need to coach better,” he said. “Ultimately, that falls on my shoulders.”

Kane Wommack, whose unit held the line for IU most of the night but fell victim to a 60-yard touchdown from Sean Clifford to Jahan Dotson late, was self-critical.

“We gave up a big play at the very end that was inexcusable, and it was my fault,” Wommack said. “I put us in a bad situation schematically, and I have to do a better job for our players to give them a chance to go win the football game. And I didn’t think I did that on that call, particularly.”

People may ask how the Hoosiers keep a level head coming off of such a big win, taking to the road to face Rutgers. For one, the Scarlet Knights’ surprise win at Michigan State helps. On top of that, it’s not like IU came out of Saturday feeling pristine.

Sheridan needs Penix and the offense to operate as they did in the last 1:42 of regulation and in overtime, not like everything that came before. Wommack needs his safety, Devon Matthews, who bit on a running back leaking out of the backfield — which was already covered by a linebacker — to be more sound.

Wommack compared his defensive unit to a wolfpack on the hunt.

“We have to learn how to make a kill,” Wommack said. “Myself included, in terms of how we finish.”

In the end, the Nittany Lions opened the door for the Hoosiers to redeem themselves. And they did. Much better to correct mistakes following a win, rather than a win that got away.

There is definitely a range of issues to address, however, especially on offense. Allen was bluntly honest that IU’s offensive line did not play up to his expectation, contributing to some of Penix’s struggles in his first game back since Nov. 2, 2019.

As they look to take a step at Rutgers, Sheridan, the Hoosiers’ first-year coordinator, is willing to be his own harshest critic.

“It starts with the play call, it ends with the execution. Did we execute the play properly?” Sheridan said. “Some plays we did. Some plays we didn’t, for sure.”

Penix, who didn’t complete less than 60 percent of his passes in a single contest last year, connected on 11 of his first 27 passes on Saturday.

“Just simple execution. We didn’t have it,” Penix said. “That’s with the whole offense. Nobody really takes the blame. I’ll take the blame for it before I put it on anybody else. I just have to connect with those receivers.”

Penix did that on eight of his last nine throws Saturday, including his last seven in a row. He also ran in a two-point conversion to seal a 36-35 win, capturing the attention of the entire college football world with his stretch for the pylon.

Now it’s time to forget both the good and the bad, and just refocus for Rutgers. At the same time, Allen wasn’t unpleased to see a dash of repentance from some Hoosiers, because it speaks to the accountability felt by teammates in the locker room.

Allen was asked specifically about an apology tweet from kickoff specialist Jared Smolar after the PSU win. After the Hoosiers’ drive to tie it at 28-all with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the redshirt senior hit what was supposed to be a deep squib kick right to an up-man on the Lions’ return team. That mistake gave PSU the ball on IU’s 49, nearly in position for a game-winning kick.

“I just want to apologize to my team and all of Hoosier Nation. I single-handedly almost lost the game,” Smolar tweeted. “Thank you to my defense for bailing me out, that will never happen again.”

Fortunately for the Hoosiers, the defense held one last time, and PSU missed a 57-yarder. Fortunately, as well, there was an outpouring of support for Smolar following his tweet.

“I think it says a lot because he cares, and he took it personal,” Allen said. “The first guys to respond were his teammates. Just to say, hey, we got your back,

“He felt accountable. It hurt him that he made that mistake. But you know what was demonstrated by his teammates, there is a lot of love on this team.”

The coach who preaches a “love each other” mantra, LEO, became emotional as he thought back on a few other words. One player — and Allen still doesn’t know who — shouted “We love you, coach,” as he gave his postgame speech Saturday.

He just started clapping, and the Hoosiers responded in kind, clapping and rising in unison as Allen raised both fists in the air. That’s when he just decided to leap onto his team and crowd-surf.

“I just took off. I’m just glad they caught me,” Allen said. “That wouldn’t have felt so good.”

Allen relayed a comment from corner Jaylin Williams: “Coach, man, you’re heavier than I thought you were. I needed help.”

“I just love ‘em. I do,” Allen said. “So, it hits you. I want it so bad for these kids. I want them to experience what I believe in my heart they can do. There’s just something special about doing something together, and there’s something special about being a part of a team people haven’t always believed in or thought you could do certain things.”

Regardless of their mistakes, the Hoosiers beat a top-10 team for the first time in 33 years. They head to Rutgers at 1-0.

“To me,” Allen said, “the best is yet to come for this program.”

41 comments

  1. Unless Sheridan & co. figure out a decent, reliable running game, this season could get ugly fast. Considering what he has to work with, there’s no excuse.

    1. Let’s not act like Penn St didn’t finish 2019 with the third best run defense among Power 5 teams or anything. The running game will get going.

  2. Just heard Allen on the radio call Saturday’s game a “breakthrough win” for the program. With all due respect, I think Allen needs to move beyond these rather empty terms which basically convey very little. It’s only as defining as what is built upon one game.
    Have a breakthrough season….What’s the old expression…? Even a broken clock is correct twice a day? Well, may be a broken football program gets it correct twice in 50 years.
    Loved the win Saturday….Loved Penix’s moxie down the stretch. But when you start throwing around that silly “breakthrough” malarkey, it sounds like the work is done. One win against a top-10 every 50 years and the work is done. Nothing is “breakthrough” until you build atop one quality win, sustain some momentum and show some consistency in competitiveness for more than one season.

  3. Penix’s ability is probably the biggest key to opening up the running game.
    If he plays anywhere close to the level he performed down the stretch against PSU, I can see our run game elevating simply by forcing opponents into a more honest approach against a varied passing attack with deep ball potential.
    I have a hunch Scott and James will get some massive yardage against Rutgers.

  4. IU has work to do but it is great to get the win moving into another game week working on shortcomings from the previous game. I had a play comment during a film session that I always was tougher on the team after a win and more positive after a loss. I asked why that would be explaining that following a loss the team already felt down while following a win they felt good enough for me to focus more on what went wrong. Coaches are psychologist if they are going to be good and I am sure coach Allen knows how to get his coaches and players ready to play and defeat Rutgers.

    I think of the last regulation drive and dream of the team IU could be if their offense operated like that on a regular basis and how the defense would be with some offensive help. Our special teams are solid and the football team can be special this year.

  5. While you all soak in this victory and its after glow; DOOM awaits on the horizon. Covid-19 raising its ugly head AGAIN—ESPN scraps men’s college basketball bubble plans, cancels 8 events and I bet the HITS will keep on coming!!

    1. You might be right, TJ. Heard Utah (specifically, University of Utah Hospitals) is in a real bad situation. Cases just exploding and they will soon not have enough beds in ICU and many nurses and doctors are already worn out.

      With new coronavirus cases shattering records on a daily basis, Utah’s hospitals are expected to begin rationing care in a week or two.

      That’s the prediction of Greg Bell, president of the Utah Hospital Association, who said administrators of the state’s hospitals confronted Gov. Gary Herbert on Thursday with a grim list: Criteria they propose doctors should use if they are forced to decide which patients can stay in overcrowded intensive care units.

      Under the criteria, which would require Herbert’s approval, patients who are getting worse despite receiving intensive care would be moved out first. In the event that two patients’ conditions are equal, the young get priority over the old, since older patients are more likely to die.

      ‘We told him, ‘It looks like we’re going to have to request those be activated if this trend continues,’” Bell recounted, “’and we see no reason why it won’t.'” (courtesy: The Salt Lake Tribune)

      1. Makes me also wonder if we’re going to get the revised football season in. Cases skyrocketing just about everywhere. Rural areas could even be worse because they simply don’t have hospital capacities….North Dakota also getting hit very hard.
        If we only cared as much about controlling Covid spread as going forward with sports.

    2. The 21 day ‘wait period’ for players is punitive, unfair and unnecessary. That’s almost half of this shortened season. Saban or Brohm won’t be out 21 days after showing the first ‘negative’ daily test, nor any other coach.

      1. Many of us pointed out how punitive it was when announced as it is unfair and not necessary. Wisconsin is in a world of hurt at QB due to positive test after their game Friday night. Reports are they are down to their 4th string QB, if true going three games without their starting QB is going to destroy their season.

        1. I hope Wisconsin gets 4 weeks of punitive damages for Covid spread. They sure never cared about piling on points against the Hoosiers over the years…I seem to recall a annihilation in Madison with a score around 81-14….? Maybe that’s not completely accurate but one thing is for certain: Those Badgers know how to ensure the spread. Looks like spread found spread.

          Do you ever wonder if much of what’s happening in the Big10 is karma…? The Badgers have always been the epitome of bad sportsmanship. They run up scores in games decided and overly gloat when finding victory on the basketball courts. They’ve never known how to win with class.
          MSU protecting that pedophile doctor in their gymnastics program for years….? Now their football program just embarrassed by Rutgers. Penn State protecting Lysol Jerry for years? Now their football program loses to the ‘College of Basketball’ in Bloomington.
          I don’t wish any harm to anyone on those teams….But since Covid is “bunk” and a “hoax”…and a “media conspiracy” to disrupt the king from keeping is throne, can we at least say some of current scoreboard embarrassments and ass-kickings to certain teams with ugly histories does seem a bit like karma at work?

          1. Remember how we said you needed to double your dosage? That might be undershooting it just a tad . . .

  6. All 8 events were in the same venue. Reports include ESPN wouldn’t accept Disney’s very strict (and successful) bubble restriction requirements.

  7. I’m sure politics and the upcoming election has nothing to do with the media’s focus on COVID related news. Fear is a great way to control people’s behavior and influence their thinking. Are we witnessing attempts to manipulate us?

    More COVID cases are reported because we’re doing a lot more testing than before and a lot more than other countries. What all that data is telling us is that COVID is not as deadly as first anticipated. The key metrics should be the number of hospitalizations, the survival rate, etc., not the number of “cases.” And while cases are up, we’ve also learned a lot about how to treat COVID infections and minimize their impact. Three members of my family have had COVID, and two of them reported that they were not even close to being as sick as compared to the last time they had the common flu. The third had no symptoms at all and didn’t even know he had it. All three of them were/are diligent in using masks, social distancing, using hand-sanitizer, etc., even after having “recovered.” They’ve restricted their social life, but they didn’t go into total lockdown mode for seven months; they had to work, buy groceries, and generally carry on with their lives.

    No one is going to force anyone to participate in college athletics. No one is going to force anyone to attend a FB or BB game. And these young male and female athletes are probably the healthiest adults on the planet. So for authorities to suggest that the country needs to return to total lockdown mode because the number of COVID cases has increased appears dubious to me, especially a week before the election.

  8. And you think overrun ICUs is also a mirage? Wow….With denial experts like the above, it’s no wonder our country has one of the worst per capita death rates of all the world.
    And to be so heartless to all the suffering and deaths? You are the only one being brainwashed and manipulated. And your examples are simply that…Are you so shallow to not realize some in your family may have been very fortunate? But to turn that into a media conspiracy when it’s obvious much of the world is also experiencing massive spikes in outbreaks. Is all of the planet in a conspiracy to knock Trump off the king’s throne? Let’s hope a worldwide virus was set loose with such an objective….We can only hope.
    Do you understand that many have coworkers, friends and family members who have not had as fortunate outcomes?
    Maybe you need some cue cards to get it….

  9. Bunk! With all the people I know and traveling I do I still only know 1 person who contracted the Kung Flu. We can’t be stupid and take risk heavy chances. But I’m way more wary of what part of a town/city I’m may be in after dark. Also I’m over 70. The stats say my chances of surviving the Chinese affliction is 99.5%. You can’t buy odds that good. Hell I doubt my chances of not walking in front of a truck are as good. I’ve learned to live with it with some easy lifestyle changes. Except not attending some IUFB games is a paramount disappointment.

  10. It’s not bunk that businesses have been lost and people are hurting by the millions. It’s not bunk that thousands of restaurants and movie theater houses have closed forever. Airline industry…cruise line industry, travel, retail and thousand upon thousands of potential service jobs lost with little light seen at the end of the tunnel
    What is not bunk is how horribly mismanaged the attempts at mitigating the damages from Covid 19 (health and economic).
    Of course, there is no other approach than to call it “bunk” now…The stable door was shut long after the horse had bolted. “Cant manage a wild horse.” Resignation , criminal neglect and waving the white flag soaked in Clorox bleach has been spun on Pennsylvania Ave as victory against Covid19 while the country experiences its greatest spikes since the pandemic’s onset.
    Wasn’t it all going to be gone by Easter? The warm summer breezes were going to kill it faster than your t-shirts dry on the backyard clothesline under the midday sun’s rays?
    That was three months ago. Now? Now ICU’s are getting overrun. Now millions have lost jobs that will never return…or take many years to return. Now a quarter million dead and possibly half a million by next spring.
    Of course it’s all bunk. And O.J. Simpson is innocent.

  11. All caused by fear to live. Like I stated I’ve made some changes. But being afraid to live my life is not in the picture. The odds are on my side. Oh and my business is back to 2k19 level. No fear.

  12. Good for you, HC. Glad to hear you’ve gotten your business back to the level it was at in 2019. I hope it continues to go well. There are a lot of people being misinformed and there are those who choose to expose themselves only to information that fits their bias or preferred narrative. Those people pass that information on to others as if it’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When people are afraid, they are more gullible and much easier to manipulate and control.

  13. If Biden, Harris, and dems were to actually win election and shortly thereafter the virus situation takes a fairly unique turn for the better meaning; good therapies, successful vaccine, and less people getting ill from virus as President Trump has already stated is going to happen within the next few months a question arises. Will President Trump, staff and those working as he was President get any credit or will it be a complete democratic success story?
    Though hind site and all his mis steps, blame on Trump and Trump’s blame on others…Could democrats (Biden/Harris) or others have done any better or even as good? Are democrats, media, and others to have equal amounts of blame because they simply try to destroy this presidency including impeachment?…that caused much time, energy, focus, money etc to be focused on what was witnessed rather than protecting United States of America from such things as in this case a pandemic? Plus all the social unrest? Is the blame equal or even more on the media and democratic political side? I am only talking about political democrats, republicans, and media. (Fringe groups excluded even though they are being used to game system by politics)

  14. t, perhaps the best way to answer your question is to examine the reaction to Trump shutting down travel from China and other parts of the world earlier this year. His political opponents, including Biden, attributed that decision to him being racist and xenophobic. But that decision probably saved more American lives than everything else that anyone has done since. Trump’s political enemies, with the support of most of the media, will never give Trump credit for anything. They must destroy him and what he stands for, because what’s at stake is a lot bigger than just the upcoming election. Trump’s enemies want to transform our Republic into democratic socialism, and a lot of voters are too stupid, ignorant or afraid to consider what that means and what a disaster it would cause. The fall out from such a transformation mill make the COVID pandemic look like a picnic.

  15. He’s done plenty to prove he’s a racist…birther movement against Obama, calling Kamala a monster and not a legit American, the Central Park Five public execution, his rental policies in his NY properties, his “good people on both sides” comment regarding Charlottesville when the other side was full of Neo-Nazis chanting “Jews will not replace us.” Having to be completely pushed into a corner before he’d denounce white supremacy groups…Oh, no, he’s not racist at all.
    Add all the sexist and misogynistic comments to his racist views/comments and you have one of the ugliest leaders in the history of the world.

    But all that aside, Covid was already here before his mini travel ban on China. Infected were flocking in from Europe…And those American returning from China were never properly quarantined. Did you see the pictures of all those returning in the crowded airports. Trump said he didn’t want to cause a “panic”….? Those airports were a sea of panic and no plans or mitigation of potential spread were in place.

    No matter who wins the presidential race, we are in Covid quicksand because of failed leadership, failed example, super-spreader events, denial that is criminal in nature and failed national policy. The science was abandoned and they simply gave up.

      1. What’s beyond looney is calling a potential 300,000 dead Americans taken via Covid-19 between February and Christmas the Kung Flu. It’s heartless. It’s belligerent. It’s ignorant. It incites hatred. It doesn’t even deserve the dignity of “looney.” Looney people have more empathy and more willpower to act in good purpose and good nature to protect thy neighbor.

  16. And some with independent/specialty selected businesses with years of forming a customer base may be somewhat insulated. Wealthy coaches and those who can work from home are another insulated group. Those are some of the exceptions and not the norm/rule of this pandemic. Some industries are never coming back. Some jobs will take years to come back.
    To ignore the millions out of work (and, possibly, soon without any means to healthcare) and the quarter million Americans already dead while treating this as a story of victory….?
    Well, the Titanic was a great success story until it wasn’t. I suppose the captain put a travel ban on icebergs. No need for lifeboat mitigation.

    1. You’re such a silly simpleton stating that slant. I’m charging ahead because I refuse to be reduced to less than I can do. I could have applied for and no doubt received the government $.
      But that wasn’t what I needed. What I needed was to learn to live with and through this thing. I will say if lived in a looney Leftie state I’d be lawyered up to learn to live with the Kung Flu.

      1. You’re our Scoop hero. You sure do a lot of “charging ahead” right here in these little white boxes.
        Charging ahead wouldn’t involve even wasting 15 minutes to do this ….This tedious nonsense of commenting on sports is about as simpleton as it gets.
        And when you blow that self-centered gloat and narcissism out your own horn, it’s a dead giveaway of how much you actually charge forward. You’re a human sprinkler system forever watering your own lawn.

        1. 8 Ball, I’m an American. Charging ahead to succeed is what we have done for centuries. Your continued incessant blather you’ll be lonely to enjoy.

          1. You’re right…Americans charging ahead to succeed. Not illusionists, robber barons, conglomerates held unchecked from anti-trust, tax evading moguls and kings who hide earnings overseas.
            Yes, Americans have always charge forward. You should get behind some instead of supporting the liars and the cheats who undermine Lady Liberty and pursuits for all.

      2. It’s sort of funny….I always thought doing everything humanly possible to not pay your fair share of taxes (funneling money to overseas accts, writing off fake losses on properties, etc) was about as socialist as it gets. It forces (or enables) the hand of government (often corrupt governments) into making the already struggling /evaporating middle classes and dwindling honest taxpayers into contributing more; limiting opportunity and creating a more monolithic society where many our trapped under the powers of corporate and government cheaters/bureaucrats.
        Can it get more rich than to have a corporate robber baron who has cheated the country via tax evasion (along with an unwillingness to show any personal tax records) , amassed an empire on the back of bankruptcies and hiding money overseas, to be constantly crying how he’s going to be cheated out of an election?
        Remember in the 2016 election when Bunions said he was prepared to release his taxes when his audit was finished? I’m not sure what’s gonna last longer …..? IRS Audit of the Tax Cheat in Chief or Covid-19? Any predictions?

        1. As soon as my audit is over, my taxes will appear….Poof!
          As soon as Easter arrives, Covid-19 will disappear….Poof!
          As soon as the election is over, my healthcare plan will appear…Poof!

          Houdini did fewer massive illusions. Next big trick: ‘Sawing the Land of the Free in Half’ …Poof!

  17. “Stopping to listen to a deranged street preacher”….? You just described a Trump rally.

  18. whatever you think; Wisconsin has CANCELLED the football game against Nebraska this saturday. Hmmmmm wasnt it Nebraska that CRIED the loudest to open the Football season?? Well their football game that is cancelled will NOT be rescheduled. Good luck to Big Ten football finishing and hopefully even more LUCK to starting Basketball since ESPN cancelled 8 games

  19. Cancelling games is simply part of learning how to live with this situation. The FB season will carry on until the scheduled dates are past. Same for basketball. The way it should be.

  20. We don’t have to play Wisconsin? BREAKTHROUGH! Covid-19 is our best offensive line!
    We should plant party organizers in Columbus and Ann Arbor. How many hookers will it take to coax an 19-year-old to an off-campus super-spreader event one week before each team is scheduled to play the Indiana Hoosiers?

    Man, we think they put border families in cages? What are they doing to keep football players at colleges all juiced up on testosterone and steroids away from parties and super-spreader events? I just got this visual of Otis from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ making his weekly pilgrimage the jailhouse to lock his drunken self into the cell.

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