BLOOMINGTON – Indiana football coach Tom Allen and the Hoosiers refuse to overlook their next opponent, regardless of the reputation Rutgers has in the Big Ten.
The Scarlet Knights (1-4, 0-3) have not won a conference game since Nov. 2017 and the scoring margin (130-7) against Big Ten opponents this season speaks for itself.
After a 1-3 start, Rutgers parted ways with coach Chris Ash and offensive coordinator John McNulty.
Interim coach Nunzio Campanile had a rude welcome to the Big Ten last week when Maryland rolled to a 48-7. But for Indiana — which is coming off a bye week — that means there is at least one game of film to watch ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
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During IU’s bye week, Tom Allen took in the Carmel vs. Ben Davis game on Friday. (Photo: Doug McSchooler/for IndyStar)
“I watched a lot of games, so it was kind of a nice change of pace to be able to sit there and watch as many as I could get in,” Allen said. “I watched situational things that teams put themselves in and how they answer those as coaches and evaluate things.”
Heading into the bye week, Allen stressed the importance of his players taking the opportunity to get rest from a physical and mental aspect. Allen spent Thursday and Friday recruiting around Indiana while some of his players cleared their mind from the weekly grind of college football.
“I took a break from all football. I didn’t watch football Saturday or Sunday,” junior wide receiver Whop Philyor said. “I played 2K a lot. I took a real, real break from football.”
The bye week came after Indiana lost another close battle against a ranked opponent (40-31 loss the Michigan State). However, having been in the situation multiple times in the past, Philyor said the team feels confident in learning from losses like that and could win out this season.
“We’ve got an edge about us, and we’re bringing the young guys with us,” Philyor said. “We tell them, ‘We can really do this, just come on. Get on the boat.’”
DeBoer is confident with improvement of offense
When redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. returned to the starting lineup against Michigan State, the Indiana offense immediately clicked.
Penix went 33-for-42 against the Spartans, which included a stretch of 20 consecutive completions.
While IU rushed for just 70 yards compared to MSU’s 142, the team was still able to combine the rushing attack with a short passing game to open up plays downfield.
“We have a lot of playmakers, that if you give them a chance, sooner or later they’re going to bust them,” offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said. “Just to get the ball accurately to the playmakers is really important. It gives us just more chances to keep the chains moving, stay ahead of the chains and have the whole playbook really available to us.”
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. gave the Hoosiers offense a jolt in a close loss at Michigan State. (Photo: Al Goldis, AP)
Despite being in his first Big Ten season, DeBoer said he has not changed much of how he approaches play-calling and has noticed progress from his team with each game.
“Last Monday was probably the most locked in … I’ve ever seen them, and that’s after a loss,” DeBoer said. “It just shows they’re becoming more confident in who we are. It’s a process, and we’re only as good as our last game and the next one’s coming up here really fast.”
Indiana now enters its first four-game conference stretch since 2016 that does not include Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan or Penn State.
However, Allen continues to stress “earmuffs and blinders” in reminding the team to only focus on the next game ahead. For Penix, it will be his first home start against a Big Ten opponent as he looks to help Indiana win its first homecoming game since 2010.
Allen gives his best Bill Belichick impression
Ask Allen about his thoughts on the California Fair Play to Pay Act and there won’t be much of an answer.
“I haven’t really talked to anybody officially about it,” Allen said. “It’s not something that I’m in control over, so really focused on our task at hand.”
The response comes less than a week after Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller showed his support for the law at Big Ten media day.
“I’ll do whatever I can to support our guys,” Allen said. “I just think those are decisions out of my hands, and I focus on things we can control which is getting ready to play Rutgers.”