BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Through the years, Tom Allen has cut his teeth as a defensive coach. But two years ago, the Indiana head coach decided to hand off the play-calling duties on that side of the ball.
There was a good reason why. There's a lot that goes into the daily routine of being a head coach, and as he was building this program, he knew a day would come when other non-football things — like massive media, booster and recruiting demands — would require much more of his time.
That day came last Saturday.
When Allen's Hoosiers beat then No. 8-ranked Penn State 36-35 in overtime on Michael Penix Jr.'s dramatic dive to the slivered edge of the goal line on a two-point conversion, Allen's world changed dramatically. All weekend long, the media attention was off the charts, with Allen and Penix on national, regional and local television on practically every channel.
And it hasn't stopped, which is just fine with Allen.
This is what he envisioned all along.
'Basically, I just got less sleep, I will just call it what it is. That's a great problem to have at this point, so I will sleep when the season is over,'' Allen said. 'The bottom line is, this has been a huge opportunity for our program, a great opportunity to get recruits on the phone and parents on the phone.
"Just talking to them, they all watched the game, they all are buzzing about how everything finished, the way we handled the finish, the way we were prepared for the finish, the way we executed everything at a at a very high level, at a very intense time and under a lot of difficult circumstances.''
It helps a lot that he's no long trying to coordinate the defense too, handing over that responsibility to Kane Wommack and his staff before the 2019 season. He trusts his staff, and doles out a tremendous amount of responsibility to them, so this has worked out well.
'I just had to readjust my schedule,'' said Allen, who has the Hoosiers ranked No. 17 in the country now, their highest ranking in 33 years. "That is one advantage of me not calling the defense and being able to take that time to leave the room and go take care of those interviews and things that we are doing to really help promote our program, which has been awesome.
"If I was calling it, that would have been a more challenging situation to deal with what I did. The way we handle it, basically we have notes for every single play, and we go through and watch film defensively. That allows me to be able to go through it all while I am there, and I am seeing it live on the film together with the staff, and then they take notes for me. Then I go back and re-watch it myself later on in the evening."
Having an experience staff makes it all possible.
"The bottom line is that this is a great opportunity for us. We have a great staff. I delegate to these guys and I trust them,'' Allen said. 'We have to do things a little bit different schedule-wise, but that is just part of it, and we're all fine with it.
"This was part of the process to go through and us thinking about moving forward and about how I would be able to function as a head coach and not be calling the defense. We planned for this. It has taken some time to get here, to be able to have the wins that match up with it. This was a big, big win for sure, but it is only one win. This next week (against Rutgers) is just as big or bigger.''
Every Allen interview on national television and online with all of college football's best-known voices has included all the great images from the postgame locker room celebration, where Allen's LEO (Love Each Other) program staple was on full display.
You couldn't ask for a better recruiting video. Recruits saw it all this week, and their parents saw it all, too. This is Indiana now.
"You can talk all you want about culture, but all I had to do was send them the video of the locker room,'' Allen said. "That's what I told them, that I can I can sit here and tell you all day about what it is like here, but you can see it for yourself on this video.
"You can see LEO lived out in that locker room, you can see the passion that this program has, the edge that this team plays with, the fight and the grit of this football team by the way that we finished and did not get discouraged when it looked like we had a small chance for that victory.''
Now the nation knows Michael Penix Jr.
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has been enjoying all the attention, too. It's been a long time coming.
He's had two straight seasons cut short by injury at Indiana. He came here from Tampa to win games like this against Penn State, and it's finally happened.
He's been all over television, and was even featured in a national Sports Illustrated story by Pat Forde.
There's a lot of stuff in the story that we've shared locally before about Penix's recruiting, but now the entire nation knows it, along with several great new comments
Here's some of the highlights from the Penix story;
- His father, Michael Penix Sr., wanted him to stay home and play at either Florida State or South Florida. He wasn't happy – at first – when Little Mike signed with Indiana: “I didn’t want him to go to Indiana,” Michael Sr. says. “It was so bad and I was so selfish. I didn’t even speak to him when he signed. I realized, this isn’t about me. When I realized that, I cried and said, ‘I’m sorry, son.’ I acted really immature. I was like a spoiled brat, not a pops. It turns out, he made a good decision.”
- Michael Penix Jr. on the dive to the pylon, a play that will live in Indiana football lore forever: “I just looked at the pylon and kept a laser focus on that. I was just me versus him (Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker).
- And Dad's words to his son after the game? "You showed me how tough you are!''
- Link to story: CLICK HERE
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