Hoosiers bring new at­ti­tude to matchup

The Citizens' Voice - - Sports - BY DONNIE COLLINS STAFF WRITER Con­tact the writer: dcollins@timessham­rock.com; 570-348-9100, x5368 @psubst on Twit­ter

For a while, maybe they were think­ing a bit more about the pigskin than the up­com­ing bas­ket­ball sea­son at In­di­ana. Who could blame Hoosiers fans if they did? For the first time in a long time, Kevin Wil­son and his fast­paced, quick­strike of­fense had In­di­ana com­pet­ing for yearly bowl bids. The last two sea­sons, in fact, saw In­di­ana head­ing to the post­sea­son.

The Hoosiers had only been to one bowl in the 22 sea­sons be­fore that run.

But when Wil­son re­signed his post amid two school-led in­ves­ti­ga­tions into his treat­ment of in­jured play­ers early last De­cem­ber, the Hoosiers ath­letic depart­ment didn’t ex­actly shy away from those who knew him best when it came time to find his re­place­ment. What of­fi­cials did do, how­ever, was make a hire that may have put the fast­paced, quick-strike of­fense that be­came the pro­gram’s iden­tity in its place.

First-year head coach Tom Allen will look to shock the col­lege foot­ball world, not to men­tion pick up his first-ever Big Ten win, when he leads the Hoosiers into Beaver Sta­dium at 3:30 p.m. today to face No. 4 Penn State. If In­di­ana is go­ing to get that job done for him, it be­lieves it will be with a de­fen­sive ef­fort akin to the one that, for three quar­ters at Me­mo­rial Sta­dium in Bloom­ing­ton last sea­son, stymied a Penn State of­fense that has taken off since.

“Tom Allen is a de­fen­sive guy,” PSU coach James Franklin said. “That’s now what they pride them­selves on.”

Hired by Wil­son away from South Florida in Jan­uary 2016 to run the Hoosiers de­fense, it saw im­me­di­ate im­prove­ment last sea­son. The Hoosiers went from the 121st-ranked unit in the na­tion in to­tal de­fense in 2015 to a stun­ning 35th in 2016, when line­backer Tegray Scales racked up dou­ble-digit tack­les in nine games and el­e­vated him­self to Al­lAmer­i­can sta­tus.

But de­spite a fourth-quar­ter col­lapse that led to 24 points and ul­ti­mately a 45-31 Nit­tany Lions vic­tory last Nov. 12, the first three quar­ters of that game might have been Allen’s de­fen­sive mas­ter­piece with the Hoosiers. They picked off quar­ter­back Trace McSor­ley twice in that game, and even more im­pres­sively, the Hoosiers de­fense held Penn State run­ning back Saquon Barkley to just 58 yards on 33 car­ries.

Since that game, Barkley has rushed for 901 yards on 138 car­ries over his next eight out­ings. That’s a 6.5 yards per carry av­er­age.

Scales re­turns at line­backer, and the Hoosiers are hop­ing in­juries sus­tained this month will not pre­vent cor­ner­back Rashard Fant — the na­tion’s ac­tive leader in passes de­fenses and bro­ken up — safety Marcelino Ball and de­fen­sive tackle Nate Hoff from play­ing.


First-year In­di­ana head coach Tom Allen takes on the Nit­tany Lions today.

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