Hoosiers bring new attitude to matchup
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.