Allen: ‘We have to finish’

Don Fischer’s eyes have observed more than four decades of Indiana football as the team’s radio voice.

So his question of Tom Allen at Monday’s news conference held some weight, especially after a disappointing 40-31 loss at Michigan State.

“I’ve seen this for years at Indiana, and I’ve been around here a long time,” Fischer said. “We’re not finishing games now any better than we have been for the last 20 years.”

It’s an age-old question, one the Hoosiers are hoping to figure out during the bye week and beyond. For years, IU has challenged the Big Ten’s best. But for years, Hoosier fans have watched their team fall short again and again.

How can they finish?

Allen understood what Fischer was talking about, recalling moments of somewhat premature celebration after the Hoosiers took a 24-21 lead in the fourth quarter.

“Got on a headset, guys seemed excited — which you want energy, there’s no question about it,” Allen said. “But I said to our guys specifically, I said, ‘Fellas, we have a young football team. Teach them how to handle where we are.’

“We have to finish.”

IU wasn’t able to do that this past Saturday in East Lansing. Michigan State scored 10 unanswered points. The Hoosiers drove to tie it up at 31, but the Spartans answered with a go-ahead field goal as time dwindled.

As the third-year head coach examined film from the loss, there were many positives. Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. played beyond his years in his first Big Ten road game. Freshman tackle Matthew Bedford was solid at left tackle, replacing injured senior Coy Cronk. Freshman corner Tiawan Mullen faced one of the conference’s most seasoned receivers, senior Darrell Stewart, and more than held his own.

But when it was over, the Hoosiers were dropped to 3-2 on the season. Fischer has seen that kind of story play out before.

“I know I haven’t been here all those years in the past, and I know you’ve seen a lot of football here, a lot more than I have,” Allen responded, “but I see it as two things. No. 1 is youth with this group, all right. And No. 2, I feel like it’s you have to learn how. You do. You have to learn how. Learn how to finish. Learn how to win those kinds of games.”

“This was one of those, it was back and forth, back and forth the whole game, and with five seconds to go in the game, it was 31-31, OK?” Allen added. “You played all that, almost 60 full minutes, and it’s 31-31. … But at the same time, you have to finish. So that part doesn’t change. It’s just us doing a great job as coaches and as players of staying the course and finding ways to finish. And that’s the plan.”

It’s not just finishing a game but a half. Television cameras caught Allen in a heated moment with defensive coordinator Kane Wommack after the Spartans scored to go ahead 21-14 just before halftime.

Allen admitted it’s hard to be the defensive coordinator for a head coach that used to control that side of the ball. He sympathizes with Wommack in that regard. At the same time, Allen felt the need to say something, and he won’t hold back.

“If you saw that interaction, you just know who I am. I’m a pretty fiery guy,” Allen said. “I love Kane, and we’re really close. I’m going to rip his tail when his tail needs to be ripped.

“But the bottom line is it was right before half. It was that whole thing there — we needed to get a stop. Hey, I’m OK with that. Like I said, I’m not ever going to sit here and apologize for being fiery and intense because no sense in apologizing; it’s going to happen again.”

Injury update

The Hoosiers came out of Saturday’s game at Michigan State healthy, according to Allen.

But the bye week will help them get back two players that were missing last time out.

Defensive tackle Juan Harris and cornerback Reese Taylor should be ready for Rutgers.

“(Harris is) a guy we need in there that provides a lot for us. So I expect him to be back, and I think Reese Taylor, you know, we really missed him,” Allen said. “I thought we really needed him in this game, and it was unfortunate. But he should be back for Rutgers if it goes as planned.”

In Harris’ absence, freshman defensive tackle Sio Nofoagatoto’a played more snaps versus Michigan State.

While Mullen played well, the secondary struggled versus the Spartans, giving up 300 passing yards to senior Brian Lewerke.

It’s been an up-and-down start to the season for Taylor, who suffered a hand injury in camp and missed the opener. IU’s secondary was also missing senior A’Shon Riggins versus MSU.

“Don’t think he’ll be back this week. So we’ll see what the future holds for him,” Allen said of Riggins. “He’s definitely battled some injuries this year, and it’s been hard for him. He’s given so much to our program. Just want him to get healthy so he can get back and help us.”

Penix honored

This season, Penix has played two games from the first quarter to the fourth.

He’s now been the Big Ten’s freshman of the week following both of those outings.

Penix was 33-of-42 for 286 yards and a career-high three passing touchdowns in the loss to the Spartans. He completed a school-record 20-straight passes, which is the second-longest streak in Big Ten history behind Iowa’s Chuck Long (22 straight in 1984).

Penix also had one rushing touchdown, the first of his career.
On social media, Penix thanked his offensive line for helping him earn the award. Allen also pointed to the Hoosiers’ backs for their work protecting the lefty quarterback.

“I mentioned Stevie Scott. His effort on pass pro was phenomenal,” Allen said. “That’s a collective buy-in that you see. That’s a guy understanding LEO (“love each other”) and understanding it’s not about him. He’s not caring who gets the credit.

“Ronnie Walker is the epitome of that, (too), and just doing his job 100 percent.”

21 comments

  1. Right on Coach Allen, stay that fiery coach and stay the course. IU is headed in the right direction under Coach Allen. As Podunker put in on another post (paraphrasing here), anyone who is not recognizing the improvement in this team over last year’s team has their head in the sand. Yes, they HAVE GOT TO learn how to finish. It’s a young team, and once they get over that hump in a close game, I believe they’ll take off. Patience is a virtue, and I’m not the most virtuous of people, so it’s wearing thin. But I remain steadfast in my current support of Allen. GO HOOSIERS!!

  2. I find it strange that a few years ago when Kevin Wilson ripped someone (assistant coach) on the side line for over celebrating on the side line when the team went ahead in the game and advise that he chastise that coach for celebrating by saying we have not “finished the game”. But, Tom Allen can rip a coach (defensive cord) on the sideline in the middle of the game and it is totally acceptable by most on this blog…”ooh, Tom was just excited and Tom was just trying to “finish the game”. My other question is when do you get a veteran team in college football?? When you have all senior at starting position. Indiana had six-seven returning starter on offense (P. Ramsey, N. Westbrook, D. Hale, S. Scott, W. Philyor, C. Cronk, S. Stepaniak and H. Littlejohn). and four-fix returning starters on defense (A. Brown, M. Ball, A. Riggins, J. Johnson and A. Stalling). Maybe a young team on defense, but definitely not a young team on offense….Maybe now some of the best players on this team are freshman, but is Indiana playing those players regularly.

  3. KW rarely appeared to be extremely fired up. He had a more stoic presence on the sidelines and insisted his coaches do the same. He got involved with an assistant coach who became a bit too animated by one good play and according to his comments after the game told him, “hey, save that celebration until we accomplish something of significance.”

    My question about TA ripping Wommack’s “tail” is why was Wommack not ripping his defenders’ tails for failing to perform in ways that produced a stop right before the end of the first half? Are TA and Wommack on the same page? This is the second time in recent weeks where TA has “ripped” Wommack’s tail on the sideline during the game. I’m not sure that’s the best way to manage your assistant coaches in public, but more importantly, it suggests that head coach and DC are not on the same page. Wommack is a very young Big Ten DC. I hope he progresses through the learning curve very quickly, because his defense has not demonstrated that it can stop Big Ten offenses. TA’s career as a head coach will succeed or fail based on how Wommack performs as IU’s DC.

  4. Irrespective of this year’s Indiana Hoosier football team, Young has been a staple ever since I can remember. Even the Rose Bowl team was young. IU football has always looked to the future instead of winning now, today. I think this IU could win 7+ games if Penix and some others stay healthy or regain health.
    However, yes MP had excellent game against MSU. Often offense has not helped defense (though defense seems to take brunt of the blame). Against MSU defense definitely did not help offense. It seems rarely they both, offense and defense play well in the same game. That is recipe for losing.
    A major concern is right when IU football looks like it could take off to a winning season it has fallen flat on its face. In other words how well will IU play against Rutgers and Maryland? (2 winnable games). How well will IU execute game by game wins throughout rest of season? Seen this same scenario many times even though it seems as in the past something could be better this year.

  5. Young, old, middle age, injuries, fiery, subdued, 5th year senior, true freshmen, learning, showing progress…….who cares? What Fisch said is Hoosier Nation has heard this crap over and over again. IUFB has been and still is unable to finish games. Go fix ur problems, coach. See ya next year.

  6. There’s a saying in Spanish – entre dicho y hecho hay gran trecho. I suppose there’s an equivalent in English, but it’s not occurring to me. Basically, there’s a huge chasm between saying something and actually doing it. TA’s been talking this kind of talk since he took over as HC. His teams have never yet walked the walk. We should have own the MSU game. But it won’t mean anything if we win the games left on our schedule that we should. Another thing we’ve all said a million times, but which never happens. So my response is seeing is believing (ver para creer). Make it happen.

  7. How many times? As I sat there watching the MSU game, I was thinking that the Hoosiers might just pull this one off. Ask yourself, how many times have you sat there thinking that? And how many times the same result? IUFB in a nutshell. My family thinks I’m a masochist, and I don’t really have any answer. My Euro-wife has no clue about football, my daughters think only about cats, and my teenage son, who used to follow the Hoosiers as all eight-year-olds follow their father’s teams, now only watches the Bears and the NFL. I am so blessed to have all of you here on the Scoop. BEAT RUTGERS AND SCHEDULE NOTRE DAME NOW!!!

  8. APPROXIMATELY: 700 plus games at about 4 wins per season average (minus 250 plus wins + minus 50 little chance blowouts) = APPROXIMATELY 400 that’s how many times.

  9. The difference with this loss compared to previous close games was the fact that IU went toe to toe with MSU and only the final two minutes got away from them. Previous games IU rallied short of winning when the other team took their foot off the pedal thinking they had the game won. The encouraging thing to me was IU taking the lead 24 – 21 and then tying the game at 31. This team certainly seems like they can rise to the occasion but now need to learn how to finish.

    1. Coaches sure don’t see it that way, because it tells players that anything less than winning is somehow successful anyway. Don Fischer summed it up well: IU has been in this spot before and it means nothing to have played it close or to have gone toe to toe because they didn’t get the W.

      1. Brad, I don’t coach any more but see the team as a fan trying to evaluate if this team has something need to turn into a winning program. Of course winning is the point and effort to win isn’t enough but looking at game issues does give us some insight into where the team is right now.

  10. Somebody bring up how awesome Jeff Brohm is.

    That’s been a steady mantra around here based on…not much.

    Tell me again what an amazing hire he was.

  11. Going toe to toe one game against a team like MSU is nothing more than what it is. One game going toe to toe. If that would happen enough times there would be some wins in there somewhere. It is going to take more than one game, more than two games, more than a few games and seasons to turn any kind of corner. Regardless, IU’s level of football competition makes it a very small chance to sustain. IU can get better and sustain some BETTERNESS. Examples: Minny and Northwestern. Nebraska is seeing how tough sledding it is in big ten west. Iowa has been pretty solid. Then, there are the football staples of the big ten. They eat surf and turf. Then, some eat really good cheeseburgers. Others eat hotdogs. The rest get table scraps.

  12. Toe to toe. 1979 Michigan scores on last play of game. Pass to Anthony Carter and of course signature play by IU missed tackle. IU had tied game with 52 seconds to go. *Lee Corso vs Bo.
    * IU 3 Wisconsin 0
    *Michigan 54 Wisconsin 0
    *IU beats Brigham Young in Holiday Bowl

    1. I was actually at that game. My buddy and I bought tickets in the visitors section of the Big House at the Assembly Hall ticket office on Friday.

      So, we drive to Ann Arbor. Had a big ‘ol time with the Michigan fans.

      Then…the bars closed. It was 10 degrees and we had no where to stay. We found an unlocked dorm door and fell asleep on the couches. Security showed up to run us off. A sympathetic girl let us sleep on her floor.

      We got to the game and our tickets were 2nd row, 50 yard line…at the Big House.

      Helluva football weekend.

      1. Chet it was great to be young dumb and willing to take a chance to have a great memory. One of the things about college life was taking dumb chances to have a great experience and build memories; few responsibilities give us the freedom to live for the moment. Thanks for the story about making to the game in Michigan.

  13. Chet: my thoughts exactly. It kills me how many people on this site constantly throw Tom Allen under the bus. I recall many a post about how superior a hire Brohm was, and how mightily Purdue’s football program loomed over IU’s program. Now, to be fair to Brohm, who is starting 10 Freshman on defense and has lost his two most potent players on offense, his team is playing hard and has had some unfortunate breaks. Then again, IU was without its best quarterback for 2 games and has lost its best lineman for the year. At any rate, I think Allen and Brohm are BOTH good coaches and have programs moving in right direction. Yes, Brohm is 2-0 against Allen. But I’ll need more than two seasons worth of a body of work before I go to the top of the mountain and declare Brohm the better coach.

    Here’s some fun IU-PU facts from days of yore: Keady recorded a 21-20 record against Knight and won Big Ten coach of the year seven times, two more than Knight. Does that somehow indicate that Purdue, under Keady, was a far superior program to IU, under Knight? Hmmm, I think not.

    Opinions are just like tail ends, everyone’s got one. It just dumbfounds me how many people/fans throw Tom Allen to the wolves after less than 3 seasons of work. When anyone who knows anything about college football will readily acknowledge it typically takes a good 4-5 years for a college football coach to make his mark on a program. Yes, there are exceptions, just like anything else in life. Yes, IU took a chance on Allen, a coach with no prior head coaching experience. Fans of Malcolm Gladwell can recognize it takes a solid 10,000 hours of having worked at one’s craft before you’re really proficient. I wonder how many of the impatient fans on this site were or are wunderkinds in their chosen professions? I suspect few and far between. I sure as heck am not one.

    Yes, stay thirsty IU fans and whine and moan over all of the IU football failures. You might also try to back the current regime and give Allen and Co. a chance, rather than lump them in as yet another failed IU program and a continuance of IU’s illustrious football history. Yes, TA has made his share of mistakes and will make more. Let those of you who haven’t cast the first stone at his Glass house. I’ll refrain from doing so and give the good man the benefit of the doubt. Go HOOSIERS!

  14. While an unfair comparison, how the Colts just beat the Chiefs is what I’ve been talking about since posting. Outmanned, double-digit dog, on the road, most explosive offense in the NFL for 25 years!
    This is the equalizer. Get 2 or 3 top offensive linemen, add 2-3 top defensive line personnel and RUN THE DAMN BALL. Eat the clock. Wonderful to see great old fashioned, tough, effective, winning football.

  15. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

    Signaturewinahoosierrisingamovementhingestowe’rebacktowintodayabreakthroughfeelingnauseous

    Even though the sound of Pee-yew
    Is something quite atrocious

    Some fans drink weak Hoosier pride
    with green slime and Pur-Dulcolax
    to make others on Scoop nauseous.

    Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

    Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-IU!
    Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-little Purdue…
    Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-IU!
    Um-dittle-ittl-um-dittle-little Purdue…

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