Defensive coordinator Tom Allen spiked his headset.
He wasn’t angry, he was ecstatic.
He had good reason to be — the IU defense had finally become something to count on.
Takeaways? The Hoosiers had three of them.
For months, the questions and the doubts lingered. Would the defense under new defensive coordinator Tom Allen finally improve?
Against Florida International Thursday, the changes seemed to work.
There were a few a hiccups, but that was to be expected of a unit replacing a lot in the front seven and learning a new scheme. Add to it the suspensions of starters junior Chase Dutra and senior Ralph Green III before the game, and the defense acquitted themselves very well.
When IU’s offense struggled to finish drives for the first three quarters, the defense picked up the slack and did not allow FIU to ever get going offensively.
That’s what a defense should be — a strong complement to help an offense when it’s struggling.
The biggest positive sign for the defense was their efficiency on getting off the field on third down. FIU went four of 14 on third down, never sustaining their drives.
If that can continue, that would be considered huge progress for the defense.
The run defense was also phenomenal for the Hoosiers as they held the Golden Panthers to three yards-per-carry. With a rebuilt front seven, that’s a great sign.
The defense was more than a complement in the first half as it scored more points than the IU offense did and kept the Hoosiers in the game.
Junior Rashard Fant returned an interception for a touchdown and the defense stuffed the Golden Panthers for a safety.
Those plays are what Allen has preached all offseason.
In the third quarter, IU’s defense continued to do well, only giving up one long pass. The Hoosiers would hold the Golden Panthers to a field goal after that pass.
While getting burned is never good, it is a positive sign to see the defense responding after that and not giving up a touchdown.
The only downside was that Allen’s aggressiveness didn’t work that effectively, as the Hoosiers only had one sack the entire night. The Golden Panthers got past the corners at times, but when the Hoosiers secondary needed to make plays, they did.
The mistakes were minimal.
One game against a Conference USA opponent doesn’t tell us a whole lot, but there were a whole lot of positive signs. Take away a few deep passes by FIU and this defense completely dominated.
Allen’s changes paid off.
It looks like this defense can be a whole lot more than a liability.