Tom Allen ran out of the northeast corner tunnel of Assembly Hall with one hand balled into a fist raised into the air and a yell, the exact same way he leads his team onto the field before every game.
The largest cheer of IU men’s basketball’s win over Princeton didn’t go to anything the basketball team did. It went to Allen, and the three players that joined him at center court.
Allen pleaded with fans to come Saturday to the final home game of the season. He wants Memorial Stadium packed and loud as No. 13 Michigan arrives. It only is one of the biggest home games in the program’s history.
Peyton Ramsey stood alongside Allen on the floor. He wore a black quarter zip and jeans; like always, he didn’t stand out. There was no show when he lost his starting job. It hurt, it was one of the hardest days of his life. He didn’t have to help Michael Penix in fall camp and into the season. Frankly, he didn’t have to stay.
But he did, and Indiana wouldn’t be where it is without him.
Ramsey is completing 72.7% of his passes for 1,673 yards. He’s thrown for 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions. His quarterback rating is 157.3. He’s already ninth in the Big Ten passing yards with by far the fewest pass attempts. Project those numbers out over the full snaps of the season and he’s may be the Big Ten passing leader.
With new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, Ramsey has found not just a system that has allowed him to excel but a play caller that knows how to utilize what he has.
DeBoer and Ramsey have formed a perfect pair. When DeBoer arrived at IU, Ramsey’s preparation was one of the first things he noticed. He learned the offense quickly, and soon enough was even checking DeBoer’s own checks.
“You just see protection checks and how comfortable he is with that,” DeBoer said. “He just had full control of it. I felt very comfortable all week long telling him ‘When you see something, it’s all yours.’”
When DeBoer took the podium at his introductory press conference, he said he would cater his offense to fit the personnel he had, not force his scheme on players he didn’t recruit.
It’s worked. IU has the Big Ten’s top-rated passing and the second total offense.
Ramsey has always been unflappable. He’s always been cool and collected. But add in an offense that lets him play to his strengths, and it’s clear why he’s put up career performance after career performance.
When he was called upon against Maryland, Ramsey made the tough, gritty runs his head coach lauds that helped IU win a game where the narrative of years past would end in a loss. He went into Nebraska and threw for 351 yards leading IU to bowl eligibility in front of one of college’s football’s most famous environments. And when he went to Beaver Stadium, one of the few more difficult places to play than Lincoln, Ramsey threw for a career-high 371 yards. Ramsey made the plays both with his arm, and even his legs, that gave IU its best shot to win at Penn State in decades.
“I think that you always want to see a young man each year get better and elevate his level of play, his execution,” Allen said. “And, boy, he has sure done that.”
In IU’s most important wins of the season, it’s been Ramsey. He’s been Allen’s greatest insurance policy. Frankly, he’s more than that now. He’s the leader of the offense. It’s why he was promoted to a team captain after Penix was ruled out for the season.
“It does mean a lot to me,” Ramsey said of being a captain. “It signifies the fact that coaches, teammates, everybody involved with Indiana football has belief in me. It’s bigger than football. As a person, as a man that people look up to me and they listen when I talk. It was really special.”
It’s why IU hasn’t lost a beat, if not taken another step forward, without the star redshirt-freshman.
It’s why IU has one of its smallest lines against Michigan in years.
Michigan leads the all-time series against IU 58-9. IU hasn’t beaten Michigan since 1987. But the line opened with IU as seven-point underdogs. Though it has climbed to 10 on Bovada as of Thursday.
IU is already going bowling. It already has as much excitement, energy and momentum. around the program as it has had in years. But it still hasn’t had the breakthrough win over a ranked team in Allen’s tenure.
On senior day as the upperclassman, who have been integral to one of the Big Ten’s youngest teams, take the field at home one last time, they’ve never felt closer than they do now.
They know they have the quarterback to lead them.