Hoosiers placing focus on the future

It’s natural to feel discouraged.

It’s understandable to be disappointed and frustrated.

After so many narrow losses to ranked opponents in recent seasons, the Hoosiers know these emotions well. Tom Allen recognized as much after Indiana’s 17-9 loss at No. 18 Michigan State this weekend. So on Sunday, he led his football team in a group discussion.

The IU coach wanted to gauge the feelings of those inside the program, to let his players talk through the burden of so often coming close and falling short.

Allen also wanted to share his own story.

In recent days, a few of Allen’s fellow Big Ten coaches have reached out to the IU boss with supportive messages. These unsolicited pick-me-ups included compliments on Indiana’s toughness and physicality, its skill and mettle.

Allen appreciated the messages from his conference counterparts and he wanted his Hoosiers to recognize where they stand.

“I told our guys, I said, ‘You can choose to feel sorry for yourself or you can realize you just played arguably the toughest schedule in the country to start the season and you’re right there,'” Allen said. “So you can get disappointed and hang your head and mope, or you can draw confidence from the way you performed.”

The latter is Indiana’s objective moving forward.

With five regular season games remaining, and a realistic shot at their first winning season in a decade, the Hoosiers (3-4, 0-4) have plenty to play for.

At the same time, they have some work to do.

Although Saturday’s loss came against one of the best defenses in the conference, it further illustrated the problems that plague Indiana — an inconsistent offensive line, an absent running game, a young and somewhat limited quarterback and a rapidly thinning receiving corps.

In the latest advanced statistical metrics produced by SB Nation, IU’s offensive efficiency ranks at No. 113 nationally with a 36.8 percent success rate. The Hoosiers’ ground attack is among the worst in the country at No. 121 nationally with a rushing success rate of 34.6 percent. IU also bungled a pair of red-zone trips Saturday, following a mistake-riddled overtime period the previous week against Michigan.

As Indiana works to address its shortcomings, almost all of them related to its offense, Allen has an equally important goal: keeping his players mentally sharp.

“I just think that it’s a matter of staying the course and just not growing weary in the process. That’s the key,” Allen said. “That’s going to be our challenge as coaches. But we have played a tough schedule. You look at that in the beginning, and I could have told you that six months ago. You knew we were in for a tough, challenging start to our season.

“Here we are with the first half already completed plus one, and you got five games left. How you going to respond?”

The current win probabilities suggest IU should, indeed, author a strong finish.

Per SB Nation’s advanced statistics, the Hoosiers have a 64 percent chance of victory this weekend at Maryland, a 72 percent chance to beat Illinois in three weeks and a 69 percent chance to win against Rutgers in the home finale in mid-November. Next week’s home game against No. 5 Wisconsin will be tough, as it usually is against the Badgers. The Old Oaken Bucket season finale at Purdue is currently projected as a toss-up.

Indiana, of course, has been on the wrong side of those close games all too often.

So Allen, while meeting with his team Sunday, posed the challenge.

“How you going to finish?” Allen said. “That word ‘finish’ applies to the game, it applies to a lot of things. That’s going to be something you’re going to hear me say a lot here over the next several weeks.”

4 comments

  1. I don’t believe that any Big Ten coaches called Allen to tell him anything of the sort. Why would anyone bother to pick up the phone and do that? Sound like pep-talk hoo-hah to me. I’d buy it that one of the coaches from one of the teams that’s already beaten IUFB would say something generically complementary at midfield after the game in the spirit of sportsmanship, but really? Lovie Smith called up and schmoozed the only team the Illini might have a chance to beat before winter sets in? Jeff Brohm trying to psyche us out early for the Bucket game? Name some names, Tom Allen! OK, maybe it was Kevin Wilson after a few beers.

    1. Your cynicism is unbecoming! Give you names for what purpose? Are you going to call these coaches to see if it is true? And who needs you as a fan of IU Football? Not me!

  2. I’m sort of with davis on this one….Not really challenging the truth of the statements…or which coaches would schmooze, I’m just thinking that these sort of personal interactions should remain personal. Why share with the press the supposed peers who are having your back? The only thing that matters is Fred Glass and the fan base have your back.
    To make these complimentary calls/texts/emails(who cares) public …or part of a conversation with a local reporter can come off as rather weak/self-serving. I can almost picture Wilson laughing off such a call….And because most other coaches in the league would expect such a reaction from Wilson is why the call would never be made in the first place.
    Prove yourself on the field. I don’t need to see your Christmas card list

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