Hoosiers balance hunger, confidence heading to PSU

Everything the Hoosiers have accomplished to this point has required a level of belief.

A winning season hadn’t been claimed since 2007. They believed it could be, and sitting at 7-2 in early November, they have been proven right.

A top 25 ranking hadn’t been awarded to the Hoosiers since 1994. Before the season started, IU coach Tom Allen told his team he believed in their worthiness. They just had to go out and prove it. Their No. 24 ranking arrived Sunday.

As the Hoosiers come off of their bye week, readying for a trip to No. 9 Penn State, their belief in the program’s forward momentum will be distilled into this next test.

Never, ever have the Hoosiers won a game in Happy Valley. Outside the program, there unsurprisingly isn’t much belief IU can win this time around, either, resulting in early betting lines with the Hoosiers as two-touchdown underdogs.

But the Hoosiers have to block it all out. All that concerns Allen is whether his players believe. If they don’t?

“Then don’t get on the bus,” Allen said. “That’s the bottom line. If you don’t believe, we got no chance.”

Confidence is high within the Hoosier program. But with a winning season and a bowl berth already in the bag, the last quarter of the regular season provides the Hoosiers with a chance to fully realize their self-belief.

A streak of four-straight conference wins now carries into contests at Penn State, then home versus No. 14 Michigan and on the road versus rival Purdue. Extending that streak to five or more — and staying ranked beyond this week — will be a tremendous challenge.

Penn State’s offensive and defensive lines are the strongest Allen has seen in his time at IU. K.J. Hamler, PSU’s electrifying receiver, makes defenders look “silly” in space, Allen added. And coming off of their first loss of the season, the Nittany Lions will be motivated.

“We just can’t have any mistakes, especially going against big teams, top 10 teams,” sophomore running back Stevie Scott said. “We can’t be on different pages, really. We have to be all on the same page. That’s the only way you can win, especially against a big team like Penn State.”

IU has faced a couple of tough road tests this season, including at Spartan Stadium and Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium. Beaver Stadium, with its 106,000-plus capacity, offers another level of unfriendly.

IU has one victory all-time over Penn State, which came in 2013 in IU’s Memorial Stadium, 44-24. In a series that dates back to 1993, the Lions have taken the other 21 contests.

The games at Beaver Stadium, Penn State has won by an average of 22.5 points.

But that history won’t factor into anything this week. In fact, Allen has tried to forget the 28-0 first-quarter lead Penn State built during IU’s last trip to Happy Valley in 2017.

“Probably not going to bring that up to our guys, except if they watch this news conference right now,” Allen said.

Allen spent much of Monday’s media availability talking about the Hoosiers’ No. 24 ranking, balancing its undeniable significance with necessary moderation.

It’s been a while, and Allen knows it. The last time the Hoosiers were a ranked football team, Nelson Mandela was the recently elected president of South Africa. Forrest Gump was just released in theaters. Gas was around $1 a gallon.

Allen was still in the first coaching stop of his career, leading Temple Heights Christian in Tampa, Fla.

Still, IU’s first ranking in a quarter-century will not earn them any points versus Penn State.

“Just because you get ranked one week doesn’t mean all of a sudden you’ve arrived,” Allen said. “At the same time, it’s an acknowledgment of what you’re doing, the foundation you’re laying.

“As I talk to our players about what that means, some people will choose to be satisfied with it. Then it will go away, if that’s what you choose to do.”

One of the oldest Hoosiers, fifth-year receiver Donavan Hale, doesn’t want to let go of the progress the Hoosiers have made this season.

That means aiming up.

“We’re happy, but we’re not really satisfied,” Hale said. “We obviously came here to change the program around, but we’re not done. We want to be top 5 in the country. We are going to do whatever it takes to get to that point.

“It took me five years to get to this point, so it feels good.”

Maintaining those good feelings means striking a balance. They can’t be under-confident against Penn State. But they can’t be overconfident, either.

It feels like forever ago, but IU has been on the wrong side of that coin versus the Big Ten’s upper-tier. After two wins were followed by a 51-10 drubbing from now-No. 2 Ohio State in Week 3, the Hoosiers had to reorient themselves.

“You feel sorry for yourself or you go back to work. We chose to go back to work and get better,” Allen said. “So now we have a chance to line up again against a team of that same caliber. We’ll see where we are.”

13 comments

  1. This Penn State game worries me as a fan…sometimes you have a bad feeling about a game and personally I do…this game has all the setup of a blowout. Maybe that is the thinking from and about the pasted Indiana football teams, this Indiana football has a new belief and confidence. A competitive lost here would not be bad, but a blow-out would really hurt the fan base and possible recruiting. Lets hope the Indiana football team comes out ready…If competitive in the Penn State game, I believe the Indiana fans will show up for the Michigan game (weather permitting).

  2. Understandable. IU has been competitive against Penn State in past. A blowout would mean IU is on a continual plateau. However, it is already a winning season for IU no matter what though it should be a high note win at Purdue. That would show progressing in upward direction this year. Team improvement is recognizable.
    Having said this Penn State is beatable.

  3. I wish we played Michigan first and then PSU. I am hoping for a competitive game and no major injuries heading to Michigan.

  4. Penn State appears to be at full strength getting a player or 2 back for IU game; 1 from suspension from Minnesota game.

  5. PSU at Happy Valley will be a tough game to win but IU has some weapons to do just that. The odds aren’t good but better than many think. The game will have to have some breaks go IU’s way for them to win the game. Many thought going to Lincoln was too much for this team but they found a way to win. I know PSU is better than Nebraska but IU seems to be hitting their stride right now and I hope it is enough to come up with a big win.

  6. I would suggest some friends and family of our Scoopers’ football fanatics to get more prepared than nachos for PSU. Just sayin’.

  7. Penn State is much, much better than Nebraska. They’re not remotely close plus PSU plays a different style of football. Not a valid comparison.

  8. I wouldn’t say the PSU is invulnerable as MN showed that obviously not to be the case. PSU has several areas which can be exploited, but the question is, “Does IUFB still possess the capability to do so?” Last year for part of the PSU game, IUFB showed that it might have that capability. Guess we will find out Saturday if anything has changed since the other part of last year’s game.

  9. Seems like their heads are in the right spot. Really, they have nothing to lose. No one expected them to win this game when the season began, and few do now. So the upside is huge and downside minimal.

    Of course, I’d love to see IU win. But otherwise, when the game is over, I just want PSU’s players and fans to know they were in a battle so that they’ll will be thinking about playing an improved IU team next season.

    How this program did not get the “football death penalty” is just mind-boggling, and it still disgusts me. For centuries, big money has been spent to shield the guilty from the consequences of their sins.

    1. Po,
      How do any of the schools avoid the “death penalty?” With some of the things swept under the rug by ncaa, isn’t about time to apologize to SMU? Just now coming back to a semblance of FB relvancy. Here’s another little tidbit, how about both schools IUFB lost to so far this year playing an ineligible player? Kind of funny there is no talk of forfeiting the games they appeared in.

      While we are on the subject, as hard as we have been on the ncaa over the years for their lack of enforcement, how about the Memphis basketball case. ncaa finally does something about a player’s family supposedly having their moving expenses paid for and rules the kid ineligible. They go to court and get an injunction to keep the kid playing. A real mess of a case supposedly going back even into the kid’s HS playing career. What’s the ncaa supposed to do? When they try to do the right thing, they get overruled by the courts.

  10. Penn State and Nebraska are totally different they’re not really that different schene Poffensively except that Nebraska goes much faster and run their Qb’s more often,defensively they are different Nebraska runs a 3-4 and Penn State a 4-3 but Penn State players are better.in my view they’re probably gonna have to throw it to beat them Minnesota has a great running game could not run it on their front so I doubt IU with their okay run game will be able to,but again I hope they can make it a good game

  11. IU does have a running game, it’s just that the pitch-out from the QB goes forward instead of backward. Ramsey and Penix boast high completion rates, I just wonder how many of them are caught beyond the scrimmage line.

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