BLOOMINGTON – The past week, Indiana football coach Tom Allen has answered the same questions about the health of Michael Penix Jr.
Indiana has kept its cards close to its vest regarding the status of its redshirt freshman quarterback, who didn't play last week against Ohio State due to an unspecified injury. However, to the questions being asked, be it about Penix's rehab or his game day availability, Allen has revealed little.
It continued Thursday as Allen said Penix's status for Saturday's noon home game against Connecticut is still unknown. But in the week of soul searching that followed Indiana's 41-point home loss to Ohio State, Allen found plenty on that side of the ball to worry about aside from his starting quarterback.
“I want to see our offense in a good rhythm where we have good ability to feel like we can keep (the opposing) defense off balance,” Allen said.
Indiana's run game has been at the forefront of his mind.
Through three games sophomore running back Stevie Scott is averaging 3.2 yards per attempt, a steep drop from the 5 yards per carry last season. His nine-yard rushing output against Ohio State marked his lowest as a Hoosier.
Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer said Monday there are no health issues limiting Scott on the field, while Allen cited a lack of cohesion along the offensive line as a reason for Indiana's run game issues.
The Hoosiers had to replace their starting left guard and right tackle this offseason.
“It is a chemistry-driven group,” Allen said. “The bottom line is I do feel like we have not a lot of separation up front.”
With junior Harry Crider now at left guard and massive redshirt sophomore Caleb Jones (6-foot-8, 358 pounds) at right tackle, Allen said a lack of unity among offensive linemen can reveal itself in different ways.
It can come by not holding onto a block long enough, and knowing when to maintain a double-team or a scoop block against on-rushing defenders are also some of the kinks that must be ironed out.
To this effect, it's a good thing Indiana plays the Huskies this week.
According to Football Outsiders, Connecticut's defense ranks among the bottom 19 in the country in its ability to stop the run the last two seasons.
The Huskies have surrendered more than 100 yards rushing in each of their two games this season.
It's an improvement over last year's 1-11 Connecticut team which allowed more than 600 total yards per game, and the Huskies did have seven tackles for loss in their most recent game, a 31-23 loss to Illinois on Sept. 7.
Allen expressed a desire to get the ball on the perimeter more on running plays. He also challenged the offense to create seams for Scott and others to run through, which in turn should help the offense's ability to run play action.
This carries increased importance should Penix be unable to play, leaving redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey, who lacks the deep passing threat of Penix, behind center.
His outing against Ohio State (19 of 33, 162 yards, 1 INT) wasn't helped by Indiana's limited rushing attack.
Allen hopes this weekend will remedy both problems.
“You have to look (at) yourself in the mirror and face the things that you need to get fixed and press on together,” Allen said.
Indiana vs. UConn
When: Noon today
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: 1250 AM