Written by Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
Media Monday Notebook
Indiana head coach Tom Allen took the podium on this holiday Monday to put a bow on the win over Ball State and preview Eastern Illinois
- Players of the Week: Offense: Whop Philyor Defense: James Head Jr. Special Teams: Aaron Casey Scout Team: Davion Ervin-Poindexter, CJ Person, Ryan Barnes
Injury Report: None
On not being overwhelmed playing Ohio State:
“The reality of what you have to handle and deal with, and we've played them earlier. My first year as head coach, it was our first game. This year it's our third game. But first conference game.
To me, as we started our -- we're on the field today, as I talked to our team, it's the most important game of the season, and I asked the question why? And their response was, because it's the next one. That's where I think it begins, the mindset of, yes, this is obviously a huge game for us because it's the first conference game, it's a home game, and it's the Ohio State Buckeyes. But at the same time, as you mentioned, you can't make it bigger than it is. But there's no question there's a heightened sense of intensity and focus and urgency that's created because of who it is and the fact that it's a conference game.
I think everybody understands that, and our older guys have to help our younger guys realize that in how we prepare. To me it's just about getting in those habits of how you prepare to be at your best on game day. So that's why even playing whoever we would have played last week, it really didn't matter, our objective was to play to our standard and to get better in the areas that we addressed.
But you know, I get it. When you play a different team of this caliber, you're going to have a different result in regards to how you approach it. But the process you go through has to be consistent, so that's how you train your younger guys and how they watch film and how they practice and how they're locked in. That can't change.
But yes, there's no question that this game is going to bring out -- has to bring out our very, very best, and that's what we're looking forward to, and that's what we expect.”
On stopping Ohio State’s explosive plays and limiting the time of possession:
I think it's always kind of been that way. This will be -- played these guys several times now, and it's always -- it's the same, different guys. Some of these guys -- I was going back and looking at a lot of our previous games, like you always do -- and some familiar faces that have been there for a while. But new faces, as well. But same type of explosiveness that you're used to seeing.
When you go through and you watch the film, sometimes it's like, man, I mean, they score so fast, and it's different guys, and you make one mistake and you give them a crease and they make you pay. But that's what the great teams do.
When you have elite athletes like they do and so many of them, you have to have great angles, you've got to tackle well, you've got to fit things right. You make one mistake and they can score in a hurry. So not every team is like that.
But once again, that's kind of what I'm used to seeing when we prepare for these guys, and they've traditionally gotten after folks in the early games in the season, and it's no different this year.
On finishing the big games strongly:
That's the expectation, yes. You can see, you go back from 2017, '18, watching those games again and I was the head coach then. And what you just said, you get -- late in the third quarter, the game was close, and then they pulled away from us both times. Bottom line is that we have to finish. And it's not about just competing with them and feeling good about that. Certain stages of your program you feel that's what you want to do. And to me, we've been there and we've done that, so now we've got to finish. So there's a lot of variables that go into that. It's obviously executing on the field in those situations, which they have done that and we have not. And also it's that the depth that you have in your program to be able to keep playing guys and keeping them fresh and being able to play at that high of a level in the fourth quarter. That's what it's going to come down to.
So that to me is what -- that's why you recruit, that's why you develop, and we've made progress in that area. I guess this is a test case to see where we are.
But in my mindset and the expectation that I have as the head coach of this program, we've been competing with them now for the last few years, and so it's our objective and expectation to be able to finish the job.
On the mindset of ‘next game up’ heading into this week:
We have, and we've brought various ones in and just did another one here at the end of fall camp. And to be able to address the mental side of your preparation, which I think is very, very important, and also just the way that we train in the weight room, just doing different things and additional things and strategic -- either exercises or activities that we do with our guys at critical times of a workout, late in the workout, often at the end of the workout. We call them finishers. Just to get our mental toughness to where we're able to, no matter what gets thrown at us, it's just the mindset is that it just doesn't faze us. That nothing -- my mind of mantra is that nothing can break us unless we let it. We are the ones that allow it to happen. But no person, no situation, no environment and no set of circumstances can break this football team. So that's what you want.
Now, we've got to work hard to get there, and to me you're changing a mindset, you're changing a culture, you're changing expectation, and I guess at the end of the day, you're just changing belief. So that to me is what gets tested in these games.
I know the history. I know where we're at. I know what's it been since we've beaten this team, and so to me, it's about being our very, very best on Saturday. And we have to play extremely hard, we have to play extremely well, we have to play extremely physical, and we have to do it for 60 minutes, not 50, not 40. It's got to be 60. And that to me is the next step for this program and this game.
Tremendous challenge and tremendous opportunity all wrapped up into one.
On facing Justin Fields:
“Yeah, any time you get a young man that can run and throw the ball with equal effectiveness, it always creates a lot of challenges. The style of -- Haskins last year was more of a pocket, big-time NFL arm, and he was a very, very special player, created some different challenges. And Justin Fields has a very strong arm, as well, but also he can really run, as the film has shown consistently.
That really does create a lot of problems for the defense, and so we've got to do a great job of being able to contain that, and not giving up those explosive plays has already been mentioned a couple times.
They kind of live off of those, and it's not that that's all they can do. They can do other things, as well, but they really put pressure on you by scoring fast and often and then trying to utilize that tempo within that realm to really keep you off balance and on your heels as a defense.
Yeah, he's a tremendous quarterback, great, great player, and a lot of respect for his skill set and talent. Don't know him as a person, but what he's put on film has been very impressive so far.”
On J.K. Dobbins:
“He demands a lot of our attention. I remember he started as a true freshman there in 2017. Didn't know much about him. Had to go back and watch his high school film to kind of figure out -- I think going into that game, we weren't even really sure. I think Weber had had some hamstring issues. We weren't really sure who was going to start, and then they put in Dobbins, and it was like, whoa. So he made a couple jump catches that were pretty elite for a true freshman. Just really strong. He's got great balance and vision and he's just another great running back from Ohio State. They've got a bunch of them and had a bunch of them. You've got to swarm him. Not one guy around him, you've got to get a lot of hats to the ball. And that creates challenges. You've got to be able to do that.
And then you've got a quarterback that can run and throw. But that's kind of been the mantra of that's what they create for people. He's a very, very talented player, and they've got a really good one behind him, as well, and another good one behind him. So it really doesn't matter who's in there. You're going to have to respect the run. Defensively you want that part of the game to be under control. You want to be able to stop the run game and then force them to be one-dimensional. Because if they can run it, then they've got both options usually, and that's not good for the defense.
But yeah, very, very good football player, and we've got to get a lot of hats to him. That's why the tackling has been such a big deal for me. I knew what was coming. I knew that when this was going to be here, so we've got to have our best game of tackling on Saturday, yes.
On the physicality of Ohio State upfront:
“ Well, you know, I think Harry and Caleb, we've just got to get -- just keep getting better. I mean, there's a level of intensity and toughness and just -- it's every little step you take and working with the guys around you. Caleb is obviously a big individual, but he's starting for the first time. And Harry has played even more than he has. But just being able to go against these defensive ends they're going to play against on the perimeter is different than the first couple weeks, a lot different. And then the two guys on the inside they're going to be facing, that Harry will be matched up with is more physical, more explosive, bigger guys. It's a heightened sense of technical precision you have to have in everything that you do, whether it's the communication piece or whether it's the footwork, your hand placement, the line calls, and checks and adjustments, all the stuff that they do.
He will be -- one thing about -- Caleb was able to play last year against Iowa, so that was a good chance for him to be in the fray of this type of competition that he's going to be seeing. Obviously those three seniors are huge. Those guys, they've been there, they've done that, multi-year starters and been in these games, played in these games, love these games.
Two of those three guys are Ohio guys, as far as our three seniors. So to me that's just that whole mindset that you bring as a senior leader to our program and how you prepare and what the game means and just all that goes into it. So I think those are -- you lean on those guys this week for sure, especially early in the season when we're still -- got a lot of young guys that are going to be several guys first time playing against Ohio State, and some guys just maybe did a little bit last year, but didn't play a lot, that were either there or got some snaps.
But I think you definitely lean on those older guys to step up and show the new guys how it's done.”
On what a win over Ohio State would mean:
“Well, those are program-changing opportunities and program-changing wins when they occur, and they don't happen as often as you want them to, but that's what makes them special. And so there's no question that they're who this whole conference has been chasing and they have performed at that level. So yeah, playing in this league creates those opportunities. Coached in the SEC West, now the Big Ten East, I think the two best divisions in all of college football. That's obviously up for debate, but I've been in both, seen both, and know how hard they are playing against teams of this caliber so frequently and having so many in your own division.
But it also creates tremendous opportunity, and that's how I look at it. Yeah, it's tough, there's no doubt. Your margin for error against these guys, teams like this, is right there. Every mistake you make gets magnified. They expose you in a lot of ways. That's why you have to play so hard and so well together and have a complete offense, defense, special teams game.
But that's what you have, and so to me, I've been some places where you don't have an opportunity to play many of those places and those teams. And it is a great chance for us to be able to take that next step as a program, as we always like to say, and those are definitely program-changing, program-defining wins that affect recruiting and affect the trajectory of your program.”