LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Indiana football team has defeated Penn State and Michigan in the same season for the first time in program history.
They have been named the national team of the week.
They have edged into the Associated Press Top 10 for the first time since 1969.
They have moved into the social media mentions of ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
Tom Allen and @IndianaFootball have been close in the past..this year they’re finishing games out. 3-0 for 1st time since Anthony Thompson was carrying the ball in 1988. Fun to watch a team start to BELIEVE. Tom Allen has done an amazing job in Bloomington.— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) November 8, 2020
Their game game at Michigan State on Saturday will air on national network TV (ABC) at noon.
“Ear muffs and blinders,” IU coach Tom Allen said Monday when he was asked how he has instructed his players and coaches to deal with all this love, love, love.
“We’ve got to keep that 1-0 mindset,” IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said. “We can’t be complacent. We still have a season to play.”
There is that. And there is more for this 3-0 team to prove, starting with these three items:
1. Finish in the top half of their Big Ten Division
This is the seventh season of East and West division play for Big Ten football.
Prior to the switch to geographical divisions in 2014, the league divided its members into the Legends and Leaders. (Sorry to bring that up.)
Prior to that, it was merely a conference with 10 or (with the addition of Penn State) 11 teams.
When was the last time Indiana finished in the top half of its division or the league?
It’s complicated. But the last time the Hoosiers were clearly in the top half of the league was 1993 when one of Bill Mallory’s team went 5-3, finishing tied for fourth with Michigan and Illinois in an 11-team league.
2. Prove the Running Game is Real
There is a reason that Allen awarded the game ball to Penix after the victory over Michigan. He completed 30 of 50 passes for 342 yards and three scores.
Michael Penix Jr. lands national honor after leading Indiana past Michigan for first time in 3 decades https://t.co/y7Xy4ob3ki— Saturday Tradition (@Tradition) November 9, 2020
After the game in the locker room, there is a reason Penix said he was not trying to be corny but that he believed the offensive line deserved the credit.
Last Wednesday, as the Hoosiers prepared for the Wolverines, Allen and offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan were not pleased by the performance of the offensive front.
IU practiced longer and more physically than it had in weeks. On Monday, Sheridan said that he was certain the offensive linemen were annoyed with him.
“The No. 1 pillar of our program is toughness,” Sheridan said. “You need to be able to run the ball when you have to. You’ve got to be relentless in your physical effort.”
Here are the facts:
Against Penn State, IU averaged less than 2 yards per carry. Against Rutgers, the average improved to 2.73. Against Michigan, it moved to 3.11.
Get this: Over the final 12 1/2 minutes of the game, Indiana ran 16 plays. Only one was a pass. They burned 3 minutes and 48 seconds on one drive and 5 minute and 5 seconds on the final drive. That is what winning teams do.
“We finished the game,” Allen said. “It was a great testament to where this program is headed.”
3. Beat Michigan State
IU is 2-14 over the last 16 games of this series. Ten of those Sparty wins have been by at least two touchdowns.
“We have not beaten them since I’ve been the head coach of the Indiana Hoosiers,” Allen said at least three times Monday.
There was 2017 when the Hoosiers had a win probability of nearly 79% with less than 8 minutes to play and gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and lost to the Spartans, 17-9.
There was 2018 when they trailed the entire game and lost to the Spartans, 35-21, in Bloomington while getting burned on a fake field goal.
And, of course, there was 2019, when IU lost to the Spartans, 40-31, in East Lansing in a game that was tied with 6 seconds to play.
Don’t ask what happened.
“We have not finished the game the last two times we’ve gone up there,” Allen said. “It doesn’t matter how you start. It’s how you finish. That’s why that word is so big to me.”
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