INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
September 11, 2017
TOM ALLEN: Good afternoon. Welcome. Just want to open by saying how proud I am of our football team for their effort in Charlottesville Saturday. Our first road game for our team. Several young guys that traveled for the first time, played for the first time on the road. So very encouraged by the way we handled bouncing back from week one, being focused, playing the way I believe we could in that setting.
Experienced some adversity, which is part of the growth process of your team. Really excited how we responded to that. Having to buckle down in the first half, especially first quarter, defense having to really set the tone, be in a tough position of just staying with it, staying with it, staying with it, keeping with it.
Our offense got rolling in the second quarter. Offense, defense, special teams played a special role.
In regards to that, players of the game that we like to recognize, offensively Wes Martin did a tremendous job up front blocking a lot of difficult fronts. Really encouraged by his leadership and his performance. Very consistent in both weeks.
Defensive player of the game was Chris Covington, played his best game since I've been here. Really encouraged by his growth, as well, his leadership. His care factor is extremely high. Played fast, played physical, made a lot of plays. Really need him to continue to do that.
Special teams players of the game Griffin Oakes. Just was huge. That kick before half, 51-yard field goal into the wind. They put a returner back because it was such a long field goal.
There were a couple comments on the sideline, Do we take a Hail Mary here because of the wind?
I believed in him. Said, Let's kick it. He nailed it. Nailed another 48-yarder into the wind, which was big, as well. Put him in position to be the all-time career field goal leader in our program's history with 55. We're really excited for him, encouraged by his performance.
The offensive scouts of the week was a couple guys, Nick Tronti, (indiscernible), call him A-Rod, continuing to give us a tremendous look each week in making us better.
Defensive scout players of the week, Josh Brown and Johnny Albomonte. Both got to travel because of their effort they're giving us. Really pleased by the buy-in that our team is showing.
Also had some all positives from a special teams perspective, as well. Heydon Whitehead was recognized, watch list individual this week. He's only had four punts returned on him in the 16 he's punted for a 27-yard total, doing a great job of controlling the ball, putting us in a position, pinning down. He's got I believe four inside the 10 already in two games, which is huge, several inside the 20. That performance is duly noted.
J-Shun Harris has been recognized as the Big Ten specialist of the week, which is a tremendous honor. I really used him as an example to our team because he had an errant decision he made early in the game that was really costly, that put us really, really pinned back on a punt return. Made a decision to keep him in the game, stay with him, let him know I believed in him.
I talked to him. I said, Hey, I believe in you. You got to flush it, press on, keep playing.
He came back with two big returns. Final one was a big touchdown. He's currently fourth in the nation in punt returns. Just proud of the way he's responded. He's been through a ton of adversity in his career. He just keeping fighting. Love his attitude, love his toughness. He owned his mistake, really proud of that response.
The game was kind of that way. We had a really tough situation with Greg Gooch. I don't think I've ever had that happen before where you are involved in a play where there's no flags called, and then it's reviewed for a potential penalty that is from the press box.
As that game was unfolding, that would have put us up 34-10, I think pretty much made it very, very difficult on them. All that emotion, you run 80-some yards, your whole defense runs, everybody is having a great reaction. I'm all fired up. Then you're like, Uh-oh.
They start explaining what it could be. They really weren't sure on the field. Then you find out it's a targeting call. Not only did we not score the defensive touchdown, they get the penalty assessed, they're in scoring range now, two plays later they score.
To me that's a great opportunity to teach. It's a great opportunity to learn how to compete and fight through adversity. I think we've prepared our guys for that situation. We have a name for that. We talked about that on the sideline. Our guys didn't flinch. We gave up a score, it was on a mistake with one of our pressures, but it wasn't because the guys were all down because of the penalty that was assessed.
Bottom line is sometimes things happen. It may not seem fair at the time. You just got to bow up and keep fighting. Our word for last week was 'grit'. I thought our team showed tremendous grit in our preparation, our performance, the way we finished. To win on the road is not easy. Against a good football team makes it even more challenging. I know that was a big game for them in talking to their guys. It was a big game for us. Our players responded. Very, very proud.
You got to recognize a guy like Peyton Ramsey who comes in and made tremendous plays for us. Just another example of grit and toughness, mindset. That's what our program wants to be all about.
Really, really proud of our players, proud of their performance. Just want to learn from it and continue to press on.
Q. Did you have a chance to look at the Gooch hit?
TOM ALLEN: I did. I only saw it replayed on the screen once. I didn't think it was a targeting call. When I watched it after the game on film, from a different angle, I can see why they called it. I do.
It's unfortunate. I mean, it's one of those situations where with the way the rules are written now, the way it's structured for player safety, that kind of hit, when it goes up through and the crown of your helmet hits the chin of the quarterback, they're going to call that.
I think the initial contact was on the shoulder, then it drives up and through. A lot of mixed comments. People thought it was a bad call.
Really doesn't matter what we think. In the way they're going to call the game at that position, for the quarterback position, that's going to get called. We just got to learn from it, lower our target, play with the same aggression, same intensity, same toughness.
I hate it for Greg, I hate it for our team because that was a big-time play to make. Scoop and score, those don't happen very often now defensively.
I was real careful. I didn't run past the 25. I learned my lesson on that. I was hauling tail down the sideline, jumping on everybody. Official was giving me a hard time about it.
Man, we were excited. Then you get the deflation of that being taken away, it's a tough deal. Naturally I've learned as you run down the sideline to create a celebration situation, I'm always looking for flags just to make sure there's no penalties that are going to cause it to be called back. I didn't see any. I was ready to get after it.
But, yeah, I do think that was unfortunately probably the right call.
Q. He has to lower?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, based on height of the quarterback, you got to lower your target. You just got to be able to sink your hips a little bit more. With the same toughness, same tenacity. Gosh, it's hard. I mean, to me that's not one of those penalties where you get on a kid. We had a penalty by another player that I thought was what I call a selfish penalty because it was lack of discipline. We shoved the quarterback late, lost another takeaway, all right? That to me was a selfish penalty, that was poor judgment. I was upset with him, made that quite clear.
With a guy like Greg, an act of aggression, just lower your target. It's hard. It's tough.
Q. With Heydon, how hard of an adjustment was it for him adjusting to American football? How hard did he work to find early success?
TOM ALLEN: He's one of the hardest working specialists I've ever been around. As a matter of fact, we have to hold him back. If he doesn't have the kind of day he wants, he'll be out here practicing at night. I have to go out there and say, You've kicked enough. He's a very, very hard working young man.
I'm sure it's an adjustment. The kicking part wasn't. But the thing that they have to adjust to, this is the second one I've recruited and signed, they have to get used to people running at them, having the reality they might hit you. That's what they're not used to in the way they've been trained. Just getting him used to handling that pressure.
We've been working hard on that all spring, in the summer, then in fall camp just to handle everything. As I'm running towards you, you're running to me. That's just kind of what they have to get used to.
Kicking the ball, that's what he does naturally.
Q. With quarterbacks, how do you juggle snaps now? Based on feel?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I think it's on feel. We have two different quarterbacks that have two different skill sets that I like. I know as a defensive coach, you listen to Coach Mendenhall's comments after the game, threw him a curve ball. They were expecting one thing, got another. Had schemed accordingly.
I know when you have two individuals at a certain position, especially that position that can play at a high level, that's where we want to be.
You got to have two quarterbacks, three quarterbacks to play a season long. I'm excited we have two that have proven they can make plays at a high level. We want those guys to compete. We'll make those decisions as they come. The bottom line is they're both going to play.
Q. Do you go with the hot hand?
TOM ALLEN: I think so. Yeah, I mean, it's a gut feel, for sure. But I'm just telling you, when you have the ability, whether it's change pace, change scheme, change things that force them, whether it's a runningback that brings a certain skill set, you bring another guy in, he brings a different type of running style, type of skill set that he can do, things that he does well maybe the other guy doesn't do as well, I think that it forces them to be able to prepare for both. That's hard to do sometimes.
So I just feel like that, you know, we just got to go with our gut, prepare them to play at a high level, to see how the game plays itself out.
Q. Last year he talked about how much Zander helped him through the rotation, that guy who is more experienced. When you are playing two, you have one guy that's younger, what do you need out of him?
TOM ALLEN: I think you need what you saw, that was being a great teammate, cheering him on, not going over and feeling sorry for yourself when you're not in the game. When he comes off, you're helping him, coaching him, encouraging him, the things he's seeing. You guys have trained all week to prepare to play. I think that's one of the foundational components of our program is LEO. Part of that is I don't care who gets the credit. I've said that from the very beginning, first time I got here. That is truly LEO lived out, that right there.
I was proud to see him respond that way because that's not easy. It's easy to say it; it's hard to live it out. Truly making it not about you. That's the other part you hear me say a lot about LEO. As I tell our team, these things aren't phrases to be put on a wall; they have to be lived out. When you have a chance to do it, you do it, I'm going to recognize you for that. To me it shows that you believe in it, you're actually letting it allow us to help win games, which is the whole point.
Q. (Indiscernible) working out before the game. Do you envision him getting back?
TOM ALLEN: Yeah, I don't really know yet. I think we'll probably know more today or tomorrow. Really excited about his return. That's getting real close.
Q. (No microphone.)
TOM ALLEN: Just trying to bring him along. He had an injury during fall camp that he missed a lot of time with. So getting him back in shape, getting him back where he needs to be to be able to help this football team. He's working through that right now.
Q. As far as International, what do you see in them?
TOM ALLEN: A team we played now the last couple years. Unbelievable to play a non-conference team three years in a row. Same quarterback they've had. So familiar with him. A couple of the same receivers. Same tailback from an offensive perspective. Some personnel on defense. Different coaching staff. You have a difference in overall scheme.
But the thing I already reminded our players of very quickly was the fact that for the last two seasons in a row, they have had the lead to start the fourth quarter in both games.
They're a football team that has talent. They're a football team that has toughness. A lot of pride in what they do. Coach Davis is the new head coach there. Has a tremendous amount of experience at all levels. A lot of great success at the collegiate and NFL level. Know him, respect him for what he's done on the field.
So they'll be ready. They'll have a great plan. They'll do a great job coaching their guys. They've had some adversity. You talk about what's going on in Florida. I've spent six years of my coaching career in the state of Florida. A lot of close friends down there. Obviously University of South Florida most recently. Friends there, as well, players, coaches, recruits that were young, players on our team, a lot of the young men affected by what's going on right now. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time. They're dealing with all that as a team. They were in Birmingham playing their game this past weekend. They've been displaced because of that. They got a lot going on. Our thoughts and prayers are with them. We're trying to do everything we can to help and support them, be thinking of them for sure.
Q. No chance that this game could be canceled?
TOM ALLEN: That's in other people's hands. Games canceled last weekend. I don't know what's going to happen this weekend. I don't think anybody knows right now. The intent is we're playing the game. I don't think they even know the damage. Last night just from my personal experience with our friends down there, we were on the phone with them up until 1 in the morning checking on them. They've kind of been hunkered down. Got some messages this morning from our close friends down in that area to say that they're okay, which is great. A lot of damage.
I don't think anybody knows really what's going on at this point. The plan is to play the game.
Q. You spoke after the game the other day about Peyton, his approach during spring. Being a coach's son, do you think he goes about things a certain way that are different from other guys?
TOM ALLEN: I think he does. We've talked about as a coaching staff when you recruit coach's kids, they have a different mindset, just being raised around it, understanding certain things. Some kids, it's just their personality.
He has a competitive toughness to him that is pretty special I think. Just a physical toughness, a mental toughness that has shown out to me in certain situations as a young player since he's been here. That's the qualities you want. You want that in all your guys, but especially your leaders.
That's why it didn't really surprise me thrust into the situation there he never seemed rattled or fazed at all. He just played football, ran the offense. That's the kind of even-keeled, tough kind of guy you want. So I was really impressed with that. Hats off to him.
Q. As you watch film, how do you feel Morgan graded out, particularly the second half?
TOM ALLEN: He's showing on game day what I saw during practice. He has the ability to create vision. Puts his foot in the ground, got some tough yards at some critical times that I thought was big-time for us. The ability to run the football late in the game, to eat the clock up. Did a great job of controlling the clock.
Even that drive we did not score, got the ball down to the three. That was a huge drive for us, eating up clock, taking the game out of their hands. But you got to run the ball to do that.
Morgan in that series, ball security was great for him. All those little things you're looking for. Understanding what we need on certain calls, not trying to get more than you need, just get what you need, keep those chains moving. Probably showed some maturity in how he ran the ball.
But some guys just have that ability to put that foot in the ground, get downhill. He does that naturally. Been a pleasant surprise for sure during fall camp, now he's showing it on game day, what we thought.
Q. You've mentioned before with true freshmen, they have to gain the trust of the position coaches. Moments in fall camp or any other point where you said, He's earned my trust, earned the right to play?
TOM ALLEN: I would say going live against our defense, that's when I knew he was legit. We got some good players on defense. When you're live, you're playing till the whistle, tackling like you do on game day, he was making plays, making guys miss, doing those things you saw him do on Saturday. Subtle movements, understanding where to take the ball.
Like I said, you can see that against maybe a lesser opponent or whatever, you're not sure. I knew going against our guys that he had it. I think we got a good one there.
Q. You talked about going with your gut in regard to quarterbacks. Is part of that going to be predicated on how well the offensive line is pass protecting? There's a difference in mobility with the quarterback.
TOM ALLEN: There is. What they feel they need to do, 'they' as in the opponent, in their scheme. You kind of saw what Virginia's plan was. Just to be quite frank, I mean, they do a lot of things, more than most. They really can make it hard to figure out what they're doing. They disguise things well, they run about every coverage that you could ever run. That's not normal. It makes it very difficult to try to figure all that stuff out. You're dropping eight guys. It's kind of like loading the box. They load the box, you can only block so many.
I just think they were kind of going the opposite direction. They were doing everything there, really giving us some things that Peyton did really well. So that is kind of part of it. It's like anything else, you got to do what you have to do to win the game. That's why you want a team full of guys that have a role to play, and they got to understand that. How you respond to that is going to define our success.
Very encouraged by some guys. There's different guys on defense based on the scheme that we're playing. They may play more than other times for who we're playing. To see guys cheer on their teammates when they're not the ones out there making plays is truly LEO.
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