The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, October 29, 2019 1:00 am

6-win IU striving to avoid bowl talk

Allen: Goal is to get 'better every ... week'

Cameron Drummond | For The Journal Gazette

BLOOMINGTON – Complacency won't be an issue for the Indiana football team this week, at least if Tom Allen and Peyton Ramsey have a say in the matter.

Saturday's win against Nebraska was the Hoosiers' sixth and allowed them to secure bowl eligibility in October for the first time since 1993, but both men remain aware of the need for Indiana to show it can handle on-field success.

That process begins Saturday night with the first November night game in Memorial Stadium's 59-year history as Indiana (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) plays reigning Big Ten West division champion Northwestern (1-6, 0-5).

It will be the first time since 2007 that IU plays a regular season game with six wins already obtained, offering a chance for the Hoosiers to set their sights on loftier goals.

“Now we can just go back to the business of getting better every single week and trying to win our next football game,” Allen said. “We have not had a ton of conversations about bowl games and six wins. OK, we got it. So our guys do understand that, but it is a great relief in some ways to get that out of the way.”

Ramsey said after Saturday's win that bowl-game talk wasn't part of IU's preparations for the Cornhuskers. The same mentality would serve Indiana well when getting ready for a Northwestern defense that has limited opponents to just 180 passing yards per game.

It remains to be seen if Ramsey will start.

Allen said redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. remains IU's starting quarterback, but it won't be until at least Thursday that Allen gets a sense for if Penix or Ramsey will start against Northwestern.

The possibility remains it will be another game time decision to determine IU's signal caller.

Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said Monday that IU has run the same variety of plays he expected to this season, despite shuffling so often between Ramsey and Penix.

“He (DeBoer) does a really good job of spacing the field, different formations, different looks,” Ramsey said. “Throughout the course of the week he's a good teacher of quarterbacking.”

Moving pieces also continued to be a theme for Hoosier offensive linemen Saturday when fifth-year Simon Stepaniak didn't play at right guard, forcing redshirt junior Mackenzie Nworah into action.

Allen said Stepaniak will be fine, but a more dire injury occurred to Allen's son, redshirt sophomore linebacker Thomas Allen, who will have shoulder surgery next week and is out for the season.

Continuing the theme already apparent on offense, Allen has tasked redshirt freshman linebacker James Miller with stepping into a more active role.

“Just like I gave Coy (Cronk) the same charge to get Matt (Bedford) ready, I gave Thomas the same charge to get James ready,” Allen said. “That's what great teammates do.”

IU hasn't missed a beat along the offensive line despite Cronk's season-ending injury Sept. 21. The Hoosiers lead the Big Ten in fewest sacks allowed with 11 and have provided relatively clean pockets for Penix and Ramsey to operate in.

But if nothing else these injuries work as a reminder to Allen and his football team that even though six wins have been attained with four games still to play, things can always change.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily