Hoosiers defense finding its footing as season progresses
Tom Allen came to Indiana to build a rock solid defense.
Four seasons later, the progression continues.
Allen was exuberant Saturday after the Hoosiers pitched their second shutout in five games, scored one touchdown and held Rutgers to one yard passing and only 75 total yards in a milestone performance that could provide the Hoosiers with the confidence and momentum needed to make a postseason push.
“We’ve worked really hard here to build a culture, I think that’s what you see,” Allen said Monday during his weekly news conference. “We had a couple games here where we didn’t play to our standard defensively, and that was very upsetting to me. I take it personal. You step on this football field and you represent our defense, this is how we’re going to play.”
Allen couldn’t quibble with the latest game tape.
But it’s this season’s rollercoaster ride that has tested his patience.
He was stunned by the number of missed tackles in a season-opening victory over Ball State and fumed after his defense gave up 91 points in losses to Ohio State and Michigan State.
Yet in victories over Eastern Illinois, Connecticut and Rutgers, the Hoosiers defense barely cracked — allowing just three total points. And it will be tough to match what the Hoosiers accomplished Saturday.
Indiana held Rutgers to the fewest passing yards in a Football Bowl Subdivision game all season, the lowest total allowed by the Hoosiers in a single game since 1985. The total yards marked the fewest allowed by Indiana in a Big Ten game since 1966.
The Hoosiers have now recorded four shutouts since 2017, second in the Big Ten to Wisconsin, which has four shutouts this season.
Reakwon Jones’ fumble return for a touchdown on the first play Saturday also is believed to be the fastest score in Memorial Stadium history.
Of course, Indiana (4-2, 1-2 Big Ten) did that against a team reeling from the midseason firing of its head coach and offensive coordinator and the loss of its top two quarterbacks and top offensive playmaker.
That’s not good enough for Allen, though.
“It’s going to get harder,” Allen said. “But to me, it’s encouraging to see it. You’ve got to see it first with whoever you’re playing.”
Indiana’s next chance comes this weekend at Maryland (3-3, 1-2), which struggled without starting quarterback Josh Jackson in last weekend’s loss at Purdue.
And Allen expects the Hoosiers to continue building off the foundation they showed last weekend. He expects them to play cleaner, force more turnovers and become the kind of asset he anticipated from the moment he was hired as defensive coordinator in 2016.
His expectations haven’t changed since he was promoted to head coach in December 2016.
“We’ve done a lot of very, very intense meetings about getting some of these things corrected,” Allen said. “I thought Saturday was just a good exhibition of just good, fundamentally sound football defensively and playing with fanatical effort. It’s all leading up to what we’re about to get into.”