The message was clear. It was reiterated from players to coaches.
“Don’t let Ohio State beat us twice,” IU senior offensive tackle Coy Cronk said.
Head coach Tom Allen watched the film Saturday night after losing 51-10 to Ohio State. He was angry. He watched a team that fell short of his expectations in every phase of the game. That feeling was still there when he arrived to work Sunday morning.
Cronk said it was just as hard when he watched the film Saturday too.
During Monday’s practice the team walked through the mistakes from Saturday’s loss. It was the last time the team would linger on the loss.
It’s a mindset shared from Cronk to teammate Nick Westbrook and to Allen. “Flush it.”
“You have something like this happen and not allowing it to linger and one loss affecting how you perform the next week,” Allen said. “It just cannot happen. So that’s where your leaders have to rise up and these guys have been here and have experience. And the coaching staff and what we, the message that we send to our guys — and we have to live that out ourselves, I have to flush it as well.”
More responsibility will fall on the shoulders of team leaders such as Cronk and Westbrook this week. They are the ones that will be expected to flush the loss just as Allen requires and make sure the younger players, experiencing this for the first time, do too.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how we respond,” Allen said. “I’m excited to see what this will make us into. Because when you have strong leadership, which I believe we do, then adversity only strengthens you. Because it can do one of two things, it can either make you or break you.”
Allen wants to leave the anger he found watching film behind him. He wants his other coaches to have the same message, to move on and keep everyone’s head up after a loss where many, were down. His coaches have to flush it too.
Except for one, one who isn’t ready to let it go just yet.
“There are parts of it that you flush,” defensive coordinator Kane Wommack said. “But I told our guys this morning, I said, ‘Look it’s September 16, about 8:30 in the morning, let this be a memory when you walk in that locker room for your bowl game.'”
“When”. It’s a strong statement. When IU is in a bowl game. For IU to get there, Wommack doesn’t want his team to forget the loss. He’d rather it push them forward. Push his players just that much harder in practice. His defense got punched in the mouth, but the pain isn’t gone when it stands up.
“At some point every great program has eventually said enough is enough,” Wommack said. “We’re going to get it changed and we’re going to be the read why.”
IU allowed 528 yards against Ohio State. Sixteen players missed tackles, resulting in 166 yards for Ohio State. A large amount of that to J.K. Dobbins. Allen said it and Wommack re-affirmed. It wasn’t good enough.
“We didn’t play to standard we’re capable of defensively,” Wommack said. “Part of having grit is when adversity comes, you play against a good football team, you have to decide that enough is enough. When you walk out there on that field you say that enough is enough and I’m going to do my job and focus on my plays so that I can go execute at a very high level. That’s not what we did enough in that game.”
With quarterback Michael Penix’s injury causing him to miss the game, IU’s offense lacked a spark it had in the first two games. It extended to the running game, which again struggled. IU rushed for 42 yards. Total. For the second straight game, Stevie Scott wasn’t the leading rusher.
“We had nine third and longs, which make it really, really difficult to convert,” Allen said. “So run the football on first and second down and even having the threat of it on third does make a difference. So but to me it’s a combination of a lot of things, but it’s something that we know is a huge issue and a huge focus and something that we will work tirelessly on to get fixed.”
Eastern Illinois was a chance for IU to clean up mistakes in the win against Ball State. Now IU faces UConn, ranked among the worst FBS teams. IU again has a chance against a weak opponent to fix mistakes before taking on a top-tier Big Ten East team, Michigan State.
UConn gives IU a final chance to clean up mistakes before heading into conference play for good. It will be a week of preparation with a simple theme.
Let the loss fuel them. But don’t let it linger.
News and Notes
- Tom Allen already listed Michael Penix as a game-time decision for Saturday. The nature of the injury is still undisclosed, but indications are it is at least related to his throwing shoulder. To already be a game-time decision likely doesn’t bode well for Penix’s availability against UConn. Peyton Ramsey will likely practice with the ones this week.
- Tackling drills will again be a focus. Nine of the missed tackles were due to the leg drive, four due to wrapping up.
- IU only has two takeaways against three teams, a number below the coach’s expectations for a team that has been among the nation’s leaders in takeaways. Creating takeaways too will be a focus in practice. Defensive end Allen Stallings noted the coaches requiring the defense to create three takeaways every practice.