Previewing Eastern Illinois

Indiana’s players may not be familiar with Eastern Illinois.

But they have probably heard of former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Tony Romo.

They may know the names of longtime NFL coaches Sean Payton and Mike Shanahan.

While it would be expected for the Hoosiers to handle the FCS-level Panthers in their home opener today, they can’t take anything for granted. IU coach Tom Allen listed some notable EIU alums for his team as they prepared for Game 2 of their 2019 season.

“I’ve been at an FCS school going to a place like this, and they have nothing to lose and the world to gain,” Allen said. “So they are going to let it rip and they are going to play hard.”

After an up-and-down opener versus Ball State, the Hoosiers have some consistency to find before Ohio State pays a visit to Memorial Stadium next weekend. In fact, “consistency” was the word Allen chose as a theme for the past week of preparation.

Teams should make their greatest strides from the opener to the second game. This week was their first chance to absorb some game film. Young players with less game experience should be settling in for their second go-round.

But improving from week to week requires a certain mindset. Allen quoted a sports psychologist that visited the program in the offseason, talking about “embracing the boredom of consistency.”

“Elite athletes can do that,” Allen said. “It does get monotonous, it does get mundane. How can you do that day after day, week after week? They’ve been going at this for a while, especially these older guys. How do you get sharper through all that?”

The grind for a college football player is unique. Allen talked about “coaching until kickoff,” installing a new game plan every week and the back-and-forth it creates. Players are asking questions.

Coaches are giving them quizzes to check their knowledge.
It’s a process that can’t be simulated, especially for a first-year starter at quarterback like redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr.

“Man, when you go through that process, there is nothing like it,” Allen said. “There is nothing like the game and the sense of urgency that creates.”

Even if the legend of Tony Romo doesn’t strike fear in the Hoosiers, the deficits of last week’s performance should provide some inspiration.

Senior offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak said on Allen’s radio show this week that the Hoosier blockers have a “chip” on their shoulder after a lackluster day establishing the run versus Ball State. IU gained 148 yards on the ground, but 67 of those came via chunk yardage from Penix.

Consistently, they couldn’t establish a push.

“(The line) took it personally, and I called them out on it, too, that we have to run the football better,” Allen said. “That’s a proud group. There are three seniors on there, some of our biggest, strongest guys on the team, some of our best leaders. They know, whether they load the box or not, you have to run the football.

“I expect them to respond in a positive way.”

On the other sideline, EIU will come in with an understanding of the Hoosier program. The Panthers’ first-year head coach, Adam Cushing, spent 15 years at Northwestern.

“Coach Allen has done a phenomenal job of truly upgrading the talent level,” Cushing said during this week’s Ohio Valley Conference teleconference. “He’s not only done a great job in recruiting, but I also believe that their strength and conditioning has done a phenomenal job. Their talent level is as high as I’ve seen it in the past.”

But can the Hoosiers achieve their greatest potential? If so, they have to perform, even if their foe is from the FCS level.

“They want to be a special football team, they want to do great things here, and we want to be able to break through and make history at Indiana,” Allen said. “In order to do that, you have to consistently address the things that show up on film and keep getting better.”

4 STORYLINES

1. How well does EIU know IU?

Eastern Illinois may be an FCS program, but they have some connections to IU and the Big Ten. The Panthers are coached by Adam Cushing, who spent 15 seasons as an assistant at Northwestern before his arrival at EIU in December. Cushing led the Wildcats’ offensive line, so he should know a little something about the Hoosiers’ 4-2-5 defense. On top of that, IU defensive coordinator Kane Wommack spent two years as the DC at EIU from 2014-15. Aside from some friendly trash talk between Wommack and his former EIU cohorts, can the Panthers expose some weaknesses in the IU defense? Or will the Hoosiers just overwhelm their FCS visitors with superior size and speed? Linebacker Cam Jones is a game-time decision for IU with a lower-body injury.

2. Run the ball.

Michael Penix Jr. got off to a pretty good start throwing the ball in the opener, but the running game wasn’t exactly consistent. Sophomore Stevie Scott (52 yards) was limited to 2.5 yards per carry. Even if EIU stuffs the box like Ball State, IU believes it has a better offensive line than it showed in the opener. There should still be ways to overpower the opposing defensive line and find creases. While it’s hard to read too much into the EIU-Chattanooga stats from last week, the Panthers did limit their opponent to 2.8 yards per rush.

3. Get the guy on the ground.

Along with the lack of a running game, the Hoosiers’ inability to wrap up and finish tackles was probably most concerning. That is to be expected in early season games, to an extent. But the results against Ball State, 23 missed tackles for 181 yards after contact, is way, way too much. Tom Allen takes pride in his team’s ability to tackle, saying on his radio show this week that it’s a simple task — find the guy with the ball and bring him down. Can the Hoosiers fix that problem versus EIU? If not, there is more cause for concern with the Big Ten opener versus Ohio State coming up next week.

4. Redshirt watch.

The Hoosiers trotted five freshmen onto the field last week, and if those five keep playing, there is a good chance they burn their redshirts this season. Of the five, receiver/returner David Ellis, running back Sampson James, and long snapper Sean Wracher seem like locks to play more than four games. Sophomore corner Reese Taylor (hand) will be back from an injury this week, but freshman Tiawan Mullen appears to be in the secondary mix still. Linebacker D.K. Bonhomme played but it was on special teams, so Allen and the coaching staff have to figure out if it’s worth it to burn his redshirt there. Offensive tackle Matthew Bedford and defensive tackle Sio Nofoagatoto’a, who didn’t play last week, are players to watch for, too.

By the numbers

0: Meetings between IU and EIU in football — until today.

7: Consecutive non-conference wins for the Hoosiers, including 15 of their last 16.

19: Number of consecutive games for IU with a turnover forced, including 11 straight with an interception.

40: Years since the 1979 season, when the Lee Corso-led Hoosiers won at the Holiday Bowl. They will hold their reunion today.

60: This number of seasons the Hoosiers have played at Memorial Stadium. They are 41-18 in openers at the venue.

46 comments

  1. Nice to see BTN Tailgate at Purdue (West Lafayette, IN) hopefully they can visit Indiana (Bloomington, IN) next week when Ohio State plays Indiana.

    1. Is Indiana still in the B1G? I am watching the Big Ten Tailgate. The Indiana Hoosiers have not been mentioned yet! IU is on TV on the BTN but not outside of the state of Indiana. No respect!

  2. I think the Indiana coach (Tom Allen) summed it up pretty good “Eastern Illinois has nothing to lose, but the world to gain” idk if beating Indiana University football team will gain you the world….Indiana is a 35 point favorite against a FCS school….not going to get much attention/coverage on any media form.

  3. Maryland -14 —- Syracuse – 0……..beginning to think that Maryland is a different team this year with the new coach Mike Locksley….will be very hard for Indiana to go into Maryland and get a victory, if Syracuse cannot get a victory at Maryland.

  4. Eastern Illinois…..? Hell, we should be able to rush all the way to Western Illinois. Maybe stop at Tony Romo’s favorite Tony Roma’s Pizza along the way.
    Sean Payton? Have we decided to put out a bounty on the Eastern Illinois qb’s head? That moron deserves 20 terrible calls in NFC title games… We changed NFL rules because of his whining? But paying extra bonuses/bounties for severely injuring a qb is nothing egregious? The dude should have never been allowed to coach football again. He should feel blessed he gets to whine about a horrific call and still work a sideline.

    Let’s take off some qb heads, HOOSIERS!

  5. Just heard the announcers for the Purdue/Vandy game mention that Purdue has not played a reserve offensive lineman yet this season. The starters played every snap last week and so far this week.

    They are one injury away from trouble.

    Both teams look pretty terrible.

  6. Coaches don’t use early games to build experience. They want repetitions for the guys who do most of the playing. Practice is where they get backups reps, not games. The only exceptions are rotations in certain position groups, most notably the D line.

    1. If you are playing your second game and you haven’t played a single reserve offensive lineman you have a problem.

      1. That’s how fans look at it but coaches have a different view. Coaches want game reps for front line players. Allen is the same way. All coaches are.

        1. BD,
          One would think so, but you might want to check out my last post and TA’s post BSU and pre EIU press conferences this past week. I’m not so sure TA is following the accepted norms.

          1. Yeah, but he was left with back to back bowl teams that won four straight over Purdue, and he’s gone 4-14 in the Big 10, not made a bowl game, and lost the Bucket twice. Not exactly a good start.

  7. Chet,
    Your comments reminded me of something else. Most of us would never view TA as a riverboat gambler, but after catching one of his press conferences this week, I am beginning to wonder. We are very well aware that the tackling stunk against BSU. However, after listening to one TA’s press conferences, it would appear this was due to a lack of hitting during the spring and fall practices. One would wonder why such would be the case until you see through the TA logic.

    The thing he was most concerned about was preserving the health of his players as long as possible. It is a long season, and you have been very well aware from a medical perspective, the growing concerns regarding the number of hits the human body can withstand in a season or a career. If I understood TA correctly, there was an expectation that after a couple games the tackling would clean up as the players got used to the hitting again. If this be so, TA has taken a calculated roll of the dice with the first two games, in hopes of having the team up to speed for the meat of the schedule after today, while at the same time keeping the team as healthy as possible.

    It would be interesting to verify for sure that this is true, and how well it works out over the entirety of the season.

    1. think, interesting thought. That was the first thing that came to mind when the announcers said the starting five up front played all 85 snaps last week. That is a helluva lot of pounding for an O lineman in week one.

      Obvious, they have depth issues. Nobody wants their starting O line to run ALL 85 plays in the season opener. ‘Play 12’? They won’t make six playing every snap.

    2. OSU will not play flag football….Whatever contact we’ve missed via avoidance in practice and cupcakes will come back with vengeance next weekend. There is no gambling strategy in the BigTen East….It’s simply a shark in the waters circling and ready to feast. It’s more like being on a raft in warm ocean waters than a riverboat. The shark’s eyes roll back and turn into buckeyes upon sinking in the teeth.
      Playing this Eastern Illinois pond bluegill is great preparation. We’ll be good and healthy …maybe even a little fattened up with tasty overconfident pig lard for the perfect football predator from Columbus.

  8. Chet – The fan will know which coach was correct at the end of the year either Jeff Brohmn at Purdue with his offensive line or Tom Allen at Indiana University….IMO Jeff Brohm is playing to win now and not afraid of injuries happening (part of the game), while Tom Allen building depth for the future (will this depth pay off with a victory in the future or just unhappy players).

  9. Maryland beat down of Syracuse was very impressive…Maryland did what they wanted to do on offense — Maryland three headed monster at running back is very good, a veteran quarterback and a couple of veteran wide receivers make Maryland a very good team at the moment —averaging 70 points a game.

    1. Harbaugh has a limited shelf life. His dickishness eventually wears even his supporters down. He usually wins in the first few seasons before everyone tires of him.

  10. Seems like we could have scheduled Bloomington South for the same level of competition and less money? Are we that hard up for a guaranteed win?

  11. At 42- 0 in the third quarter, this is the kind of blow-out win I love to see when IU plays an obviously weaker team. Haven’t seen enough of these types of wins over the years, but this is just what IUFB needs. By the fourth quarter, a bunch of our second and third team players should get some experience.

    I know the opposition is weaker, but the tacking appears to be much better today. And our kicker is putting the ball in the end zone.

    I have to give Glass credit for his comments made during the half-time TV interview. He did a nice job promoting the improvements made to the FB facilities and IU’s investments in keeping/hiring the assistant coaches.

  12. Good to see TA still coaching hard in the 3rd Q with a huge lead. He just chewed the O-line’s backsides because he didn’t like something.

    IU obviously has a good back-up QB is Penix goes down.

  13. Po, our offense will be much less explosive if Penix goes down. I want Tuttle to get in this next drive and let’s see how he does. I see he is in now so lets see how he handles the passing game.

  14. Keeping in mind it is Eastern Illinois I gotta say I love the play calling and execution. Penix at QBs looks unstoppable and Ramsey is looking like Joe Montana in this scheme. With last year’s offense it would probably be 17-3.

    But…it is Eastern Illinois and we won’t know if they are terrible or average in FCS for weeks.

  15. Po I could not agree more. Lots of PT for IU front line rotation players against someone other than at practice and good amount of PT for 2,3 and 4 deep. Gotta be good for player development. Also a properly proportioned hybrid practice tune up for facing a team that totally destroyed the Bearcats today. The Hoosiers got a lot of things cleaned up this past week in practice. I’m pleased with pass protection but question the run blocking. What’s up? Or is it me?

  16. When was the last time IU FB destroyed an obviously inferior team the way it should? We can all remember IU hanging on to beat Indiana State and Southern Illinois in years past. Yes, it was an FCS school, but this is the way a real Big Ten team is supposed to perform against an FCS school. It’s a very good sign. And when was the last time an IU team shut out an opponent? I don’t care who you play, it’s tough to shut out another team, especially when the back-ups are getting lots of playing time. OUTSTANDING!

    But boy, the Big Ten looks loaded this year. Maryland went through Syracuse like poo-poo through a goose. They’re going to be tough. OSU dominated a well-coached Cinci team. Iowa didn’t ever break stride today. As for Michigan, I’ve never rooted for Army before in my life, but I did today, and they made MI look real bad. If ever there was such a thing as a moral victory, Army had one today. Harbough may not be long in that job!

    IU’s running game is effective in the red zone, but other than that, it appears to need improvement. Even today against EIL, it was still a bit pedestrian.

    1. IU 73, Ind. St. 35 in 2013 (seem to recall that KW had IU take a knee at the end ’cause I was hoping for 80!). Also, IU 45, UMass 6 (Foxboro) in 2012 (but lost to Ball St. the next week). The best one, though, was probably in 1990 at Memorial Stadium: IU 58, Missouri 7.

  17. It was a good victory for the Hoosiers with many parts of the team looking good. I think coach DeBoer is holding out parts of the offense going into the OSU game IE two backs, QB under center, etc. Whop looked very good on the catch where he ran over several players. It was also good to see Hale have a good game but I hate to see Westbrook getting shutout in the game. Our running game needs to improve but the passing game looks good. David Ellis looked good at receiver until he dropped his first TD pass.

    Defensively the Hoosiers looked very good only giving up 116 yards. They still haven’t established a real identity yet on defense but I hope they play very well against the Buckeyes.

    The B1G is looking good this year, Maryland is finally looking like they are playing up to all the 4 star players they have. Wisconsin, OSU, Maryland, and PSU have rolled through opponents so far. The job for the Hoosiers gets much tougher this week and we will have to see if they rise up to the challenge.

    1. Why would you think IU will go two backs? Nothing in DeBoer’s background says that would happen except in the rarest situations.

  18. v gotta believe the O will be much more multiple going forward. Also see genuine speed on D. From all positions and from the 2 deep. I’m losing confidence in Stevie. No power, no blast, no runaway bull with red eyes. He doesn’t break tackles and he doesn’t run over people. What is his problem the year?

    1. Maybe, but no one else has had near the opportunities. Scott is 230+#’s and isn’t breaking tackles or punishing defenders. Scott is showing almost nothing acceptable pertaining to rushing yardage. It’s kinda my beef with Hart. He always picks his starter by default. Then after every fan in Indiana knows better he makes a change. His 1st year in town he annointed Majette when clearly after 4 or 5 carries each by Gest and ME it was plain they were the playmakers at RB. Last year he was forced into rightfully starting Gest when Ellison was removed from the program and then Scott after Cole was injured. This year with 2 games against weaker opponents and the annointed RB not showing any aggression at the LOS or the 2nd level we have 2 able powerful burners getting only a handful of carries. Maybe, and I hope, it is only the early season offensive scheme of DeBoer. Saturday I hope I’m proved wrong.

  19. Maybe “The S Train” needs a monsoon….?

    Is there some sort of football equivalence chart that can convert the 116 yards given up to Eastern Illinois into OSU yardage? Maybe you just add a zero…?

  20. Po,
    Not sure what is going on with the running game. Could be amount of line packing to stop the running game, but I’m with HC on this one. Hoping it is just not showing all your cards before Saturday. Pulling MP in the 2nd quarter certainly cut down on the amount of film for OSU to review. Sure hope it is not weakness in the OL. Going to need everything they have Saturday.

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