Allen, Hoosiers enjoying breakthrough season
Indiana basketball season officially tips off on November 5, but don’t tell that to anyone invested in the 2019 Hoosiers football team.
Tom Allen’s program is in midst of its first three-game Big Ten winning streak in 25 years after going into Lincoln and beating Nebraska at Memorial Stadium last Saturday, 38-31, after coming back from a 14-3 first-quarter deficit. In his third season at the helm of the program, Allen knew the magnitude of the win.
Sure, Scott Frost doesn’t have the Cornhuskers where they need to be yet. But it’s not often that an Indiana football team beats a program with such a rich history.
“I got really tired of standing in front of you all and talking about how close we are and being disappointed and trying to figure out how I am going to spin it the right way when I know I was just torn up on the inside,” Allen admitted to reporters after the victory. “It feels pretty stinkin’ good to stand here and answer questions after a big-time road win for the Hoosiers.
“I don’t really even care what anyone else thinks. This is big. This means a whole lot to our program and changes a lot of things with our guys.”
The victory over Nebraska meant that the Hoosiers (6-2 overall, 3-2 Big Ten) clinched a bowl bid before the month of November for the first time in 25 years. It was also IU’s first win at Nebraska since 1959, though the program was making its first trip to Lincoln since the Huskers joined the league. Still, nothing could take the shine off of this big win.
“It was a pretty special night,” Allen said.
There is a lot more football to be played the rest of this season, of course. The Hoosiers still have dates with Northwestern, No. 5 Penn State, No. 14 Michigan and Purdue. But as we head into November, IU is enjoying a breakthrough campaign. This is the earliest the Hoosiers have earned six wins since 1993 under Bill Mallory, and it’s validation for the job Allen has done in Bloomington.
While the Hoosiers were unable to make a bowl game in Allen’s first two seasons after finishing 5-7 both times, there were signs that IU was close to breaking through and becoming annual postseason contenders. So often the team has had to go into the regular-season finale against Purdue needing a win to go bowling. That is no longer the case after the postseason-clinching win over the Cornhuskers.
“Mentally, it shows that we can beat anyone right now,” said wide receiver Whop Philyor, who leads the Big Ten in receptions (57) and receiving yards (737) as part of the top passing offense in the conference. “We’re doing exactly what we need to be doing. I’m so proud of my team right now. I’m so happy.”
The Hoosiers were able to continue on their roll despite playing without starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who was injured in the previous game at Maryland. Ramsey rallied the Hoosiers to a win in that one and played well again versus the Huskers, completing 27 of 40 passes for 351 yards and two touchdowns.
Having a signal-caller such as Ramsey is quite a luxury, as he could start for a majority of teams across the country. He has the talent and experience, having made 19 career starts, to keep this offense humming along no matter how long Penix is out.
It’s unknown who will start this week under center against the Wildcats, but one thing is clear: Allen would love the support of the home crowd. After the Huskers game he admitted that he understood the history of Hoosiers football has been frustrating to fans but that the potential is there for everyone associated with the program to enjoy a “special” moment. It should at least be a special Saturday this week in Bloomington.
This weekend’s scheduled 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff will mark the first time in the history of Memorial Stadium — a space that opened in 1960 — that the Hoosiers have hosted a night game in the month of November. Remarkable.
With a fun brand of football to be sold to recruits and a real good shot at an 8-win season, life is good in Bloomington right now. And it’s not even hoops season yet.