INDIANA UNIVERSITY FOOTBALL MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 9, 2017
TOM ALLEN: Welcome. Just want to start by saying that it was a good to get another win on Saturday. Every win's a win and we're going to enjoy those. It was a game that we were supposed to win and so we want to commend our players on playing and preparing at a level that we expect them to. So that was very positive. As far as the game itself, encouraged by the discipline of our defense in a tough -- your eyes can play tricks on you a little bit in that system as we saw against Georgia Southern. And to hold a team to a shut out first time since 1993 is a big deal. I think it's hard to do that, no matter who you're playing. And not allowing them to have any yards, it's the only time in school history that's happened. So proud of our secondary for being disciplined and being in the right position. Just thought we tackled well as a group and were in just good fits and just played assignments sound and did some good things, let them across the 50 a couple times, but not very many. So very encouraged there. I thought Payton did a nice job of running the offense, and being a good distributor of the ball, throwing for over 300 yards in a very methodical type of way. First freshman to do that since 2006. Taysir, going over 100, first freshman to do that since 2008. So a couple good performances there by our young guys that did some good things. Just wanted to be -- the weather, as we all experienced, got a little crazy, and the rain was definitely more than anyone probably expected, so my biggest concern was just protecting the football, continued to emphasize that again yesterday in our work and that will not change, so did not -- I thought their guy did a good job on Simmie, who has got to put the ball away, but just protecting the ball with our running backs, got one of them back, heads up play by Payton, and then throwing the pick that was tipped. So, but still ball security, huge, dropped a pick six that we can't do. Dropped another pick. Thought we left two picks we felt like out there on the field, so continue to emphasize that. Worked on JUGS machines more yesterday and going to continue to get what we want from that. Went back and did a whole summary of our opportunities for takeaways and we have had like over 30 of them in the first five games and so just going to really do a great job of helping our guys see where those opportunities are, make sure we take advantage of those and also did a summary of every single time we turned the ball over of exactly what happened, had this all written up, why the turnover occurred, and what are we going to do to get it corrected. So going to take a proactive approach to getting what we want. We know as we get back into Big-10 play those takeaways, those turnovers are going to be huge in each and every game. In regards to players being recognized, offensive player of the game was Wes Martin. Really thought that was a great choice by our offensive staff, just because of his steady play, leadership, it's not surprising, but his play matches his personality, it matches his work ethic, it matches his everything he does, he's so consistent, he is a tremendous leader for us, especially behind the scenes and in the day-to-day locker room and his consistent practice performance, his consistent play on game day is encouraging and he's a strong leader for us and he's recognized as such. Then defensive player of the game was Chris Covington. Extremely productive day, continues to play well, could have gotten it in another couple games. He and Tegray continue to lead the way in both production and leadership, which is what I demand and ask of them for that position. They're doing a great job. So really proud of Chris's growth. Special teams, Griffin Oakes, two more field goals, hit all his PAT's, thought he was very accurate on his kicks, even with dealing with the wind on his kickoffs and the way that we want those played. So really encouraged by his continued development and production. Scout team players of the week, very important part of our recognition on defense Mo Burnam and Thomas Henderson, both doing a great job. Mo's a linebacker, true freshman, getting better every week. Thomas Henderson is a young man who is battling through injury, keeps fighting and competing out there to help us get better. Offensively, the scout team players of the week we had three guys, Shaun Bonner at tight end, Alex Rodriguez at running back and Connor Thomas at running back. Appreciate their attitude to come down with us on the defensive side of the football. I see those guys and being with that area and really encouraged by just the consistent way that they're bringing effort and helping us get better and be prepared each and every week. Also thought Mike McGinnis continues to improve at linebacker, encouraged by his growth. Dameon Willis played well also, had one critical mistake that gave up a -- their only explosive run of the whole day came on a mistake -- but other than that I thought he played well and we need to continue to bring those guys along. So, encouraged by the play there, also want to recognize defensively we, I make, I made a big deal, will continue to, we want to be a top-25 defense, that's our stated objective and as the season progresses and we have had to face a couple high powered offenses within our conference and so we just continue to fight and claw and scratch to get back into the top-25. We're now 24th in third downs, 24th in sacks, 23rd in tackles for loss, and second in the country for three and outs. And all our other numbers continue to go down as we progress through the season and just keep getting better as a unit and that's the kind of the stats, they always can get skewed, it's really how you end up is really kind of how it's going to be ultimately judged. But we put that out there as being our goal and so I want to make sure we understand what we're moving towards. Very much looking forward to this weekend, chance to play the Michigan Wolverines at home for homecoming. Expecting a big crowd for this game and really excited to be able to compete for all of our former players that will be here, all of our students, everyone that's associated with our university that's both alumni as well as our fans that are going to be supporting us here and all across the country. So a chance to have one of the top programs in the country to come to Memorial Stadium and allow us to be able to compete at a high level and be able to be at our best at kickoff on Saturday. We have Breast Cancer Awareness will be the emphasis. This will be our game for that. So very important, some of our coaches' families and players' families affected by that and we'll be honoring them with that. So looking forward to that as well. So big week for us great opportunity for the Hoosiers to get back into Big-10 play. Questions?
Q. As a defensive guy, I think Michigan's first in the league in total defense. What makes them good? What do you see from them?
TOM ALLEN: Just watching them, I saw them early play in a couple games, as you get to watch some, they're very athletic in the core, really modified their system to match their personnel and different than last year. Much bigger last year and played from more of a four down, now they're really a three down and moving all over the place. They create a lot of havoc, a lot of movement, that's why they create a lot of sacks, more so than even last year at this time and very good. We're number two in three and outs and they're number one. So you got the top two teams in the country defensively in three and outs coming to play on Saturday. So Coach Brown there is, he's one of the best he truly is. I have a ton of respect for him. I always kind of studied what they do, don't really know him, never met with him but have always watched and got their cut ups and just broke it down and just because he's, wherever he's gone he's done well defensively. So lot of respect for them. They will be very well coached and will play really hard and they have got a lot of good players, lot of athletes. Good linebackers, good D-line, guys that can cover. So we definitely will have a tremendous challenge offensively, but that's what you want, that's what you have. So hats off to them for playing well defensively.
Q. The relationship with Payton and Mack, obviously that surfaced on Saturday. Where does that continue to be to need to grow?
TOM ALLEN: Well I challenged Taysir to rise up. We had some injuries at that position and so that's what freshmen are supposed to do. He responded. And so any time you have a guy I think as well that he and Payton were on the scout team together last year, so throwing to each other in that setting and just the reps that they got over the summer and just everything, I think it just adds to it, it helps. For sure it's a timing and a comfort issue for them, but we just need Taysir to elevate his play and he did and now he's got to elevate against a top tier opponent. So it's about confidence, it's about execution, it's about belief, and yourself and your coaches to get you ready to play and then when the ball's thrown your way to go make those plays. So we need him to continue to grow.
Q. In that vein a couple of those guys we saw out last week, Thomas, Hale, was that kind of they couldn't play or more just holding them back?
TOM ALLEN: No, we had several that did not play and I would say there's a handful of those guys that could have. We are probable to get Ian back. I don't know some of the others. I feel good about the chance of hopefully getting Nate back and he's a guy that will be real important to us. Questionable with the rest of them at best, I would say. So don't really know, it's early in the week, I'll know more probably on Thursday than I know right now. But there was a couple guys in there that could have gone, had we been in a situation where it was a must go. But regardless, we're always going to take the high road with them and I told one of them yesterday, hey, you're not going to come back until you're healthy. We're not going to bring you back before then. And I want them to play at a high level and to play in the Big-10 and to be an elite player you got to be healthy. So for their best interests and for the team's interest, so our training staff just an excellent job and it's close monitoring of them and making sure that they're back to health.
Q. After having some time to study film, just what do you think Payton did well, what do you think he needs to improve on?
TOM ALLEN: I felt like that he did a good job of running the offense, distributing the football, making good decisions, got a lot of guys involved, a lot of different guys catching the ball. I felt like that he missed a couple reads on his run reads to where he can give it or pull it and he'll get better at that the more he does it. I think that he just needs to continue to, when he decides to run it, run it. And that, he's been good at that and I think that's something that as the play continues to elevate and the opponent elevates real quickly here on Saturday, you have to make those quick decisions of whether it's releasing the football in your reads, a couple late on a couple throws, getting the ball out quick, and then deciding to tuck it and run. I think one of his biggest strengths is just being able to extend plays and you having to account for him in the way that you cover and the way that you rush the quarterback. Not so much necessarily the designed quarterback runs, those there will always be a few of those every week, but his strength to me is when he's able to create things when things breakdown. That's when you can get receivers open. He does a good job of seeing down field as he's running to be able to create those. That's what the good mobile quarterbacks can do. And that's what makes it hard on the defense is that the ability for them to have to handle him and cover your assigned guy or -- I know Michigan plays a lot of man, so that's going to be something we try to be able to take advantage of.
Q. Using Brandon Knight the rest of the way, is he a guy you can mix and match as situations dictate?
TOM ALLEN: To me he is just still continuing to, he missed the entire fall camp from a practice perspective, he was doing a lots of other things to get back. But just needs reps. So we just try to ease him back in here and bring him along. I think it's a big week for him to get back to full strength and just to get back in the flow, just making up for all of those practices that he missed during the fall, which is 25 practices, just before the first game. So you just don't just show back up and expect there not to be a little bit of some rust and just some contact that you need over and over begin. So I think he's progressing for sure, but I expect him and challenging him to continue to grow and get back to the full strength.
Q. The fact that Michigan is coming off a rivalry loss, does that affect anything in terms of the way you think they will approach you?
TOM ALLEN: Sometimes I think that when you have a good program like theirs that expects to win every week, I know that's a huge game for them to play Michigan State. Last year they came off a tough Iowa game that they fell short on that and we played them the very next week, sort of a similar situation in some ways. I think that the really good coaching staff, they will have him probably sharper than of the next week. I just kind of expect that. There's no question they will comeback with resurgence in your focus in some ways maybe, but it's a Big-10 football game and we expect to get their very best and I just think that you want to win them and when you don't you sometimes have a tendency to be more detailed and less overlooking the little things when you do fall short. So I think it will probably make them even sharper, to be honest with you.
Q. (Question about Michigan quarterbacks.)
TOM ALLEN: There's a lot of similarities. So you go through and evaluate. Even if you listen and then talk about earlier in the season when it was the Florida game and O'Korn played and it was designed, it wasn't like he, it was brought in after the second pick six, that was just the way that they expected him to play at that point in the game, according to their coaching staff. So they obviously want him to play and so I don't think there's a huge drop off, there's not a big difference, it's a very similar skill set, similar size. I think O'Korn's more mobile, he creates more issues there for sure and does create some things. I know in our game last year, his scramble, when we had him, had a chance to get him sacked and did not, that was a huge play in the game and momentum and they went on to score a couple plays later. So his ability to extend plays like that is probably where he gives, I would give him an advantage over their previous starter. So good quarterback, great player, and really good football team, so we're going to have to be at our best.
Q. Your team allowed zero completions. I mean, how do you evaluate that? Some of it obviously is them and some of it is your play. How much of it was your play and your guys being in the right position?
TOM ALLEN: I would just say this, when you go back and watch it and sometimes -- and I don't think I've ever been, that I could ever remember in 25 years of coaching -- that we held a team to zero catches. So it's not something that's easy to do or happens frequently, but I would say when you go back and watch the film, there were not open receivers that just dropped balls, which sometimes happens. And I thought that our guys were very, very disciplined. They tried several play action wheel concepts that if you go back two weeks ago we gave up a couple of those against Georgia Southern. One was a touchdown and one was a big play. So bottom line is is that I think it was a combination of both, they are not a passing football team, they're going to throw the ball minimally. But I know from playing a team like Navy in the past they run the ball extremely well, but how they usually get you is on those play action passes. It's hard to play both of them without compromising one or the other. So that's why I made it an issue to compliment our secondary and our coaching staff in the back end for doing a great job, because I know that that is easy to, even the course of the game, letting one guy, especially when you're playing we played a lot of guys back there, and to have all of them be in the right position was encouraging that they our coaches had them ready to play and they executed. So a little bit of both, but they weren't your typical drop back, throw the ball 45 times in a game. So I think they had 10 or so, but just to be able to be in the right spot is what you want. So that was encouraging.
Q. The fact that the defensive performance, how big is that confidence boost heading into a big game?
TOM ALLEN: I don't care who you play, it's still confidence. You played well, you got a shut out, they're hard to get. We take a lot of pride in our defense here and our kids work really, really hard. So we made a big deal about the shut out to them, once they got it. And once that started happening, our guys were, I mean they, that's all they were talking about was wanting to keep that preserved and a lot of pride in wanting to be a top-25 defense. And like I say it doesn't matter who you play, you just want to be, whoever is out there, you want to play well. So I understand that they're not a Big-10 football team, so we're not going to over blow that and make it bigger than it is, but I do know and I've been here long enough, been a lot of places long enough to know that that doesn't always happen. So we played 1-AA teams in the past and gave up almost 50 points, so, and not that long ago. So you don't take anything for granted.
Q. How much do you want guys sort of recognizing that sort of in the moment as the game progressed what they were playing for. What did you want guys aware of on stuff like that in the game?
TOM ALLEN: You don't really mention it much, but the kids do. And once they can see what's going on and so we have got such strong leaders on defense that have worked so hard to change the culture to where they know that was a big deal and I don't think they knew exactly how long it had been and I didn't either but until after the game, but I would say probably you when we got into late in the third quarter that when we come off of the sideline and you get on the sideline or you're in a TV timeout and talking there with our guys, they're talking about, hey, just being disciplined, because you know you're just one misread in the option or one bad read in the secondary on a play action pass to giving up a cheapie. And so we didn't want that to happen. So I'm sure the weather helped a little bit, kind of not, kind of hard to throw the ball when you can't even see across the field. I thought I was looking for Noah's arc to show up, but it was, that was sure didn't do anything to hurt our cause defensively, but still, I just think you don't want to offer play it for sure, but I just have been around guys enough to know that when it comes close to being a reality that you might shut somebody out, it becomes the battle cry to keep that going and keep the guys locked in. That makes sure everybody that steps on that field is realizing that they represent our defense.
Q. Did you have to kind of balance working into getting a lot of reps for backups and still wanting to preserve --
TOM ALLEN: Oh, and we do, and also just wanting to make sure that you got guys out of there so nothing happened to them. There's no question you balance that and still wanting to get that shut out. But I would definitely say, hey, we'll, I want twos to play, I want to get some of the starters out, and now you go do the job. So it was more a challenging those twos and some threes, hey, we got this going now, now it's on you to finish. And instead of putting starters back in there just because we're trying to get something at the end of the day isn't near as important as having our top guys ready for this week. So you got to balance that for sure.
Q. Michigan expecting to win, the whole break through creed that you have, how much of it is Indiana having the mentality of expecting to win every week and if so just how far along do you feel your team is?
TOM ALLEN: There's no question, I think I've been pretty clear about what break through means to me and it's an attitude, it's a mindset, it's an expectation. I've said that many times. It is an expectation for sure. And it is created over time. I've been places where we won most of our games and we expected to win. If games were close, teams were fighting us, whether they were supposed to or not, we expected to find a way to win. And you have to create that. It doesn't happen through talking about it, you have to live it, you have to experience it, and to me I'm a guy that goes back and studies history, and we haven't beaten Michigan in 30 years. And we have beaten themes twice in the past 50 years. So I understand the history. And so there's no question if I'm on the other side of the table I would expect to win. So the bottom line is that how do you break through that from our perspective and to me we have laid that out. It's about doing the little things, our one word for this week is confidence. And to me preparation creates confidence. And I've said that ever since I got here, that's not going to change, it's about us doing the little things that we're supposed to do in film study, in the weight room, after practice, pre-practice, during practice, to prepare to have that confidence to make those competitive plays when the game comes down to it. And that to me -- you can go back to, we played them here a few years ago, I wasn't here, but it was the fourth down I believe and goal on the seven or eight yard line and we had a chance to win the game, we were winning, and they scored, goes to offer time, double over time, we ended up coming up short. So there was another game here I think it was 2008, 2009, one of my former players was playing here, so I was watching the game, watching him, I wasn't coaching here and back and forth, back and forth game all the way to the end and so I believe Indiana scores in the last few seconds and then they drive down to get the win. So those are kind of things that you talk about, you see, you want to change the outcome and you change the outcome not by talking about it over and over, by changing the way you prepare. And so tremendous challenge and opportunity wrapped up into one. But that to me is what this is about and I told our team break through is going to happen. When is up to them. And that to me is the mindset that I have and we continue, we know what we believe we know what we want to do, and we're going to fight and fight and fight until it happens. And when it happens, we're going to fight and fight and fight to take the next step from there. And that to me is what we're about. I want a physical football team, mentally and physically, that's going to be tough. That's what I want. And that to me is all part of this process. And it's, you know, it's what it is, I've laid it out there and I'm not running from it and I will never run from it and I believe in my heart it's going to happen. We just got to keep staying the course. And when it does, we'll readjust and go after bigger goals.
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