Following the team’s seventh win of the season Saturday, IU football will be on its second bye week in preparation for its final three games before the postseason.
IU head coach Tom Allen met with the media Monday afternoon at Memorial Stadium to talk over the 34-3 win over Northwestern and to look ahead at the remainder of the regular season.
Allen was joined by senior offensive lineman Coy Cronk, who underwent season-ending surgery following an ankle injury suffered Sept. 21 against the University of Connecticut. Cronk said he is undecided between pursuing a medical redshirt and entering the 2020 NFL Draft.
Here are three takeaways.
Stevie Scott III has found rhythm out of backfield during the win streak.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott had a rough going to begin his second campaign in Bloomington. In his first six games this season, Scott scored four times and only recorded one 100-yard game.
A prolific freshman season in which Scott rushed past multiple program records showed how lethal IU’s offense can be with a dominant running back in the picture. One year later, Scott is a focal point for defensive coordinators to plan against when facing the Hoosiers.
“His effectiveness and being able to make it and have to account for him, it changes everything,” Allen said. “Nine games into the season and going on number 10, and they’re still trying to take him away. Now he’s being able to be very effective against good defenses.”
IU has tallied four consecutive wins in Big Ten play, and that’s largely in part to Scott. The sophomore has returned to his brand of football during the win streak, scoring six touchdowns in the last three games alone.
Tiawan Mullen and Matthew Bedford continue to impress as true freshmen.
Amid the program’s historic run, a quiet factor behind this season’s success has been the contributions by the freshman class, especially defensive back Tiawan Mullen and offensive lineman Matthew Bedford.
Mullen is an athlete Allen has been high on since his recruitment. Allen said the plan was for Mullen to be used sparingly in situational, man-to-man scenarios, but he’s now capable of playing a number of roles for the defense.
Saturday against Northwestern, Mullen was involved in two of the first-half fumbles made by the defense. The freshman forced one and recovered the other.
“He just has that knack and ability to just make plays,” Allen said of Mullen. “He's made plays, consistently against our best competition.”
Bedford made his way into the lineup because of Cronk’s injury, and since seeing an increase in reps, he has quickly adjusted to starting on the offensive line. When asked if he could have foreseen relying on Bedford at left tackle this season, Allen put it simply: “No.”
Luckily for Allen, he’s been able to have Cronk, a four-year starter, mentor Bedford as someone that’s been in his current position.
“He’s playing really well for a freshman and not really for a freshman, I think he's just playing well in general,” Cronk said.
Cronk watches Bedford take each rep at practices he can attend when he’s not busy with his rehab. Northwestern’s defense got to Bedford when he commited a few careless false starts Saturday, but that’s just something Cronk will correct in his film critique of the freshman.
“I just think that it’s such a hard position to play,” Allen said. “But (Bedford's) responded and to his credit and Coach Hiller's credit and (Cronk’s) credit to help get him ready.”
Allen provides a brief update on Michael Penix Jr.
For the third time this season, redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is dealing with an undisclosed injury.
IU leads all Big Ten teams in fewest sacks allowed per game, but there’s concern anytime opposing defenses apply pressure on Penix, who tore his ACL as a true freshman.
Allen handed Penix the keys to the offense prior to the 2019 season opener, and that’s still a responsibility he bears when healthy. Junior Peyton Ramsey, a 12-game starter in 2018, has his coach’s trust, but Allen said not knowing who’s at quarterback hinders the offensive game plan.
“I hate not knowing who the quarterback's going to be,” Allen said. “You like to know what you got, know who you’re dealing with and get a plan together. There are some benefits to that on our end, that they don't know.”
Allen said this injury is unrelated to the first two he suffered this season, and he’ll have more clarity on its severity next week.
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