Indiana vs. Northwestern
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington
Radio: 1250 AM
BLOOMINGTON – Just like he usually does on Thursday mornings, Tom Allen spoke to the media, outlining as much of the game plan as he wanted to ahead of Indiana's Saturday night game against Northwestern.
Then, he took a detour.
Allen stopped inside the Indiana Memorial Union, a hub of activity for IU students.
He was there to do what he could to drum up student interest for Indiana's first November night game in the 59-year history of Memorial Stadium.
He walked through the food court greeting students and handing out signed game balls.
He tossed footballs back and forth with students at Starbucks and passed out free tickets to students who wanted one.
These actions backed up Allen's words from nearly a week ago, when he pleaded at a podium in Lincoln, Nebraska, for Indiana fans to come support his team.
“I want a huge, huge crowd for this football team. These kids have fought, and fought, and fought and fought,” Allen said while smacking the podium with his right fist.
“I understand the frustration of the past, but I don't care. I haven't been here very long, all I know is what we're doing right now.”
Those who make the trip to Bloomington for Saturday's game will again be left in the dark regarding IU's starting quarterback situation.
Allen confirmed Thursday that Michael Penix Jr. has practiced this week and will be a game-time decision to play. This comes four days after Allen reiterated that Penix is the team's starter, despite stellar performances delivered by Peyton Ramsey in recent weeks.
Fifth-year offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak will be back at right guard for the Hoosiers (6-2, 3-2 Big Ten) after being a late scratch from the Nebraska game.
Allen said Penix is the only game-time decision for the Northwestern game, reinforcing what Allen has preached to his team this week about needing to be at its healthiest and very best against the Wildcats (1-6, 0-5), despite their dire record.
“You want to be relevant in November, you want to be in games that matter and that people are talking about,” Allen said. “Now we're putting ourselves in those positions and you want to embrace that.”
A year removed from winning the Big Ten West, Northwestern's sputtering offense has been the main reason for its 2019 demise.
The Wildcats have scored 15 points or fewer in six of their seven games (all losses), including an average of just 7.6 points in Big Ten games. They haven't scored a touchdown since Oct. 5.
Statistical metrics further confirm Northwestern's woes. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's team is last in the country in scoring, passing offense efficiency and in recording plays of 20 or more yards.
Even the weather should cooperate with Indiana's plans.
Saturday's forecast calls for cold temperatures and sunshine all day long, but just in case Allen had the Hoosiers practice outside Thursday in the sleet.
Another potential surprise was squashed when Allen said the Hoosiers would wear their normal uniforms Saturday and not any kind of special black uniform, which had been leaked over the summer on social media.