Peyton Ramsey was confused when he saw what Whop Philyor had brought into the locker room. The team was preparing to leave Bloomington, and Philyor had a Chucky doll.
Halloween (Philyor’s favorite holiday) is quickly approaching. As IU made its push toward a bowl game — becoming a scary opponent in the Big Ten — the doll became representative of the team for Philyor.
“Chucky a bad man so we gotta bring a bad man out, cause we a bad football team,” Philyor said.
Whop even carried the doll with him as the team took the field at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln on Saturday:
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As IU celebrated in the locker room following its win over Nebraska, the Chucky doll came back out and was a fixture of videos on Instagram.
It was a chaotic, jubilant party as IU won in Lincoln — the team’s sixth win of the season.
Head coach Tom Allen missed the singing of “Indiana, Our Indiana.” He was doing his postgame interview for Big Ten Network. He didn’t get to be a part of the team as the players raised their helmets up and belted the lyrics toward the IU fans in attendance with an unfiltered joy.
Allen teared up in that postgame interview.
His celebration was all reactionary, sprinting over to the fans and parents seated on the way to the locker room. He emphatically swung his fist into the air, belting out a yell simultaneously. He continued toward the stands, jumping with the joy of a child as he held out both of his hands, high fiving every fan he could as he went into the tunnel.
It was exuding the passion that has become a trademark of the IU head coach.
After coming so close so many times, he had won a sixth game.
“We’re so happy that we’re able to go bowling,” Philyor said. “We’re happy for Coach Allen too ’cause they also say he can’t do things that he’s doing right now.”
Allen has gotten the Hoosiers over the hump in his third year as a head coach. IU is bowl-eligible before Halloween. It is receiving votes in both the AP and Coaches top-25 polls.
Allen is glad it’s over, glad he’s gotten the monkey off his back, glad he doesn’t have to think about it any more.
“I just think it’s a great thing to have out of the way, just being very blunt and honest with you about that,” Allen said. “I know the guys recognize, they knew when we won the game that we were bowl-eligible, but that was never the goal was just to get to six.”
It was a relief for Allen. For weeks leading up to Nebraska, Allen and players have talked about being focused on more than six wins. After the Maryland game, Allen said his players set a goal not just to get to a bowl game, but win one.
At six wins, the first step is out of the way. IU is going bowling. Now the Hoosiers can focus on the games ahead of them, without the pressure of finding a way to get to six.
“Now it’s just 100 percent, full-bore focus on Northwestern,” Allen said.
That’s why there are no concerns with being complacent.
“I don’t really envision complacency being too big of an issue,” Ramsey said. “Everybody came in, and was really energized, really excited about what’s to come.”
Throughout Monday media sessions over the course of the season, nearly every player made available has talked about focusing on the next game being the most important simply because it’s the next one. They’ve all bought into the mindset Allen has tried to instill.
They aren’t taking Northwestern lightly even with a 1-6 record. The Wildcats do have one of the nation’s better defenses, and have played a brutal schedule.
IU will host Northwestern under the lights, the first November night game in Memorial Stadium history.
After two games on the road — two narrative-breaking wins — IU heads home for a victory lap, or at least what looks like it on the surface.
Allen and the players see it as just another game, no different from the way they’ve treated every other game this season.
With or without the Chucky doll.