As IU’s season has progressed, more players have racked up Big Ten and national recognition. In seven weeks, IU has had seven players earn Big Ten Player of the Week honors.
This week it was grad student punter Haydon Whitehead and junior linebacker Micah McFadden getting recognized as co-Special Teams Player of the Week and Defensive Player of the Week, respectively.
“It’s neat to see guys like that rewarded,” IU head coach Tom Allen said in a Monday Zoom conference. “When your hardest workers are your best players, that’s usually when you have really good football teams.”
These performances have helped create a record-breaking season for IU, tying the program’s record for most Big Ten wins in a season with six. The Hoosiers have also matched a school record with seven straight weeks being ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
“It’s the leadership of our team and the culture we’re creating here,” Allen said. “The ‘don’t blink’ mindset, the ability for our guys to pull together and just play good football.”
In a game that quickly became a battle of field position, Whitehead played a pivotal role.
Four of Whitehead’s five punts were pinned inside the 20-yard line, including a punt that traveled 51 yards to Wisconsin’s 8-yard line before its final drive.
“His versatility with different types of kicks he can do, and the fact that he can kick with both feet … go try that sometime. Go try and punt a football with your non-dominant foot. That’s a tough thing to do,” Allen said. “He’s a skilled, gifted athlete.”
Whitehead is from Melbourne, Australia, and trained under Nathan Chapman, a former Green Bay Packers punter who opened up a kicking school in Melbourne.
On Monday, Whitehead was named a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, given annually to college football’s best punter.
McFadden had six solo tackles against Wisconsin, tied for his third highest total of the year. He helped IU’s defense hold Wisconsin to six points, the lowest total against the program since 1992.
Allen said McFadden has gotten better as his instincts have improved.
“The ability to finish on the ball, and he’s gotten sacks so effectively, he’s just always around the football,” Allen said. “His leadership’s really grown.”
McFadden leads the team in tackles, solo tackles, sacks and tackles for loss. His two interceptions are part of IU’s Football Bowl Series-leading 17 interceptions.
“My speed has been a huge factor that’s, for me, getting to the next level,” McFadden said. “Coming into college my speed was a huge factor that I needed to improve on. That’s definitely helped me make plays on the field, but also just understanding the defense has been the most important thing.”
McFadden was named the Walter Camp Foundation's National Defensive Player of the Week on Sunday. Allen said it’s good he’s getting recognized as one of the best linebackers in the country.
Allen also recognized sophomore cornerback Tiawan Mullen, alongside McFadden, as IU’s defensive player of the game.
“If you say, ‘What’s the similar thing about those two guys?’” Allen said. “Man, their work ethic. The weight room, the film room, the practice effort. I mean, they’re just always at that level.”
Mullen forced a turnover after strip-sacking Wisconsin’s redshirt freshman quarterback Graham Mertz in the first quarter and had two pass breakups, including one in the end zone.
IU’s two other sacks on the day were both from McFadden.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle was given the offensive player of the game honors after throwing two touchdowns in his first career start.