‘Fourth Quarter Warriors’ capture crucial takeout in Indiana season opener


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – On the practice grounds outside of Memorial Stadium during fall camp, it became common to hear Tom Allen shout certain words or phrases through his megaphone.

“You have to physically and violently grab the ball,” was one of them.

Referring to this game-changing game, Allen almost always chooses to use the word takeout — not turnover — to convey a specific mentality and instinct to his defense. He doesn’t want them to wait for the attack to put the ball back. He wants the Hoosiers to take him. The three pillars of a defense coached by Tom Allen are takeaways, tackles and effort. He uses this expression every week, if not every day too.

Whether a slew of injuries or a change in pattern was the root cause, Indiana lost that identity in 2021. Going from 17 steals in eight games in 2020 to five steals in 12 games In 2021, Indiana’s massive takeout decline has been accompanied by an equally drastic one. overall record dropped – 6-2 to 2-10.

That’s why Allen was so obsessed with that message at fall camp. It’s also part of the reason he’s chosen to take over defensive call-to-play duties for the first time since the 2018 season. What if Friday night’s season-opening win over Illinois was an indication, the message was well received.

Indiana trailed by one point late in the third quarter when the Illini burst into the red zone, threatening to extend their lead. Illinois quarterback Tommy DeVito fed the ball to Chase Brown on the flat, but Indiana defensive back Noah Pierre hammered Brown to the turf before he could secure the ball. It was ruled a back pass, and instinctively Pierre recovered the loose ball. It was Indiana’s second takeout game, after a forced fumble by Lance Bryant, which was recovered by Cam Jones in the first quarter.

Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Noah Pierre (21) recovers the fumble from Illinois Fighting Illini running back Chase Brown (2) in the second half at Memorial Stadium.

But still, Allen knew Indiana needed more.

“Guys, to win this game, we have to have three [takeaways]Allen said in his defense.

After losing 14 yards on a sack on the first play of the fourth quarter, Indiana was forced to punt. Hanging on to a one-point lead, DeVito and the Illini raced down the field to Indiana’s two-yard line. Brown was approaching 200 yards that night, looking for a touchdown that would seriously jeopardize the game for the Hoosiers.

DeVito handed the ball to Brown midway through third down, but linebacker Cam Jones and safety Josh Sanguinetti crossed the line to fill out the run. Illinois stayed with their best player, Brown, again on fourth down, but JH Tevis found space in the line and Aaron Casey swung from the rim for Stonewall Brown on fourth down. As Allen returns to calling defensive plays, Casey said he thinks Indiana’s defense is playing more confidently this season.

“When they had to put their heels in the dirt and stop, they did it,” Indiana defensive coordinator Chad Wilt said. “I think we all know [the goal-line stand] was a big factor in the outcome of this game.

Indiana's Aaron Casey (44) celebrates his infield tackle from Illinois' Chase Brown (2) during the Indiana vs. Illinois football game at Memorial Stadium on Friday, September 2, 2022.

Indiana’s Aaron Casey (44) celebrates his infield tackle from Illinois’ Chase Brown (2) during the Indiana vs. Illinois football game at Memorial Stadium on Friday, September 2, 2022.

But Indiana had to kick again just three plays later, giving Illinois another chance to seal the game with a touchdown. As the Illini crossed the 50-yard line and approached goal distance, DeVito looked for his trusty receiver Isaiah Williams inside the 10-yard line. But his throw went over Williams’ head and Sanguinetti dove to intercept the pass.

Indiana got its third takeout, the one Allen said the Hoosiers needed to win the game.

“We talk a lot about being fourth-quarter warriors and being at our best at the end,” Wilt said. “And these guys have found a way to be their best in the end.”

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Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Josh Sanguinetti (19) celebrates his second-half interception against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium.

Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Josh Sanguinetti (19) celebrates his second-half interception against the Indiana Hoosiers at Memorial Stadium.

But as Indiana quarterback Connor Bazelak hit wide receiver Cam Camper for a 10-yard gain, Camper lost the ball as he was taken to the ground. Camper’s 156 yards set an Indiana record for most receiving yards in a first game, but his fumble kept the game up for grabs.

Illinois took over near midfield and Indiana’s defense did just enough to get a third save and force Illinois to kick a 48-yard field goal. With just over two minutes to play, the Illini held on to a four-point lead and Camper had to shake off the error.

“Just the next game mindset, the ‘so what? mindset,” Camper said. “You have to move on, there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Bazelak maintained his faith in Camper, as well as wide receiver DJ Matthews, connecting on 7 of 10 passes for 70 yards to his go-to playmakers on the final drive. Shaun Shivers threw a touchdown to give Indiana a 23-20 lead with 23 seconds left.

And just for good measure, the Indiana defense added a Beau Robbins sack and a recovered fumble from Jaylin Williams to stop any Illini plans to force overtime. The season-opening victory will be remembered by Bazelak’s game-winning two-minute drill, but the Hoosiers wouldn’t have been able to win the game without three second-half takeaways by the Hoosiers defense. ‘Indiana who’s returned to his ball-peddling ways. .

“Overall, I would say it was a good start to get us back to where I know we need to be, defensively,” Allen said. “Because if you play great defense, you create takeaways, you give yourself a chance every week.”

Tom Allen

Indiana head coach Tom Allen celebrates with his team and fans after Indiana’s football game against Illinois at Memorial Stadium on Friday, September 2, 2022. Indiana won game 23 -20.

Allen knows it wasn’t Indiana’s perfect performance in Week 1, but he also knows how much momentum a season-opening win can provide. And moving forward, a major area of ​​focus this week, defensively, is tackling.

Indiana 23 missed tackles against Illinois on Friday, and Allen said that was partly because Chase Brown and Isaiah Williams were very talented players. It’s also a product of what usually happens in the first game of any season.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a game where you’re like, ‘Man, we had a brilliant tackle in game one,” Allen said. “I just think it’s hard to do that.”

Due to all the injuries Indiana suffered in 2021, Allen was careful how Indiana practiced this offseason, which meant fewer live tackles. He admitted after the game against Illinois that he was worried about playing 80-90 live tackle snaps because they hadn’t done it before the season.

“We were trying to keep our guys healthy,” Allen said. “We went live for sure and we tackled, but we were just trying to find ways to do it in the spring and fall. We tackled less live than I have ever done in the history of my coaching career during fall camp and spring football.

Allen said Indiana will no longer be making live tackles in practice this week, but there will be additional drills to address those issues. The first-team defense won’t tackle the first-team offense, but Allen said Indiana could tackle running backs on their scout team.

“We take the movie and simulate everything that happened in the game that we didn’t like the response, the outcome, and we recreate it in practice,” Allen said. “So a lot of leg training exercises. We call it ‘Drive for Five’ with our tackling technique and the way we do different things. So we’re going to do more exercises for that and just different things to conclude.

  • HOOSIER ROUNDTABLE PODCAST: During the first episode of the ‘Hoosier Roundtable’ podcast on HoosiersNow.com, we sat down and had a long chat with Indiana linebacker Cam Jones and tight end AJ Barner to break up the 23-20 win for the Hoosiers on Illinois. Here is the entire 33-minute podcast. CLICK HERE
  • MEET THE IDAHO VANDALS: After a 23-20 win over Illinois in the season opener, the Indiana soccer team will host the Idaho Vandals at 8 p.m. ET Saturday at Memorial Stadium. It’s time to meet the Vandals. CLICK HERE
  • RUN GAME STRUGGLES IN THE SEASON OPENER: Indiana knew early in the game that Illinois was committed to stopping the run, and it showed with 26 carries for 32 yards. But in the final moments, Indiana got the boost it desperately needed to win the game. CLICK HERE

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