Allen makes coaching debut as Indiana faces Utah Staff

December 28, 2016 at 10:56 am.

Nov 12, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Devine Redding (34) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) during the first half of the game at Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 12, 2016; Bloomington, IN, USA; Indiana Hoosiers running back Devine Redding (34) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Amani Oruwariye (21) during the first half of the game at Memorial Stadium. Photo Credit: Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

If you believe coaching experience plays a significant role in postseason games, then Utah has a decided advantage over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl, to be played in Santa Clara, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 28 (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX TV).

Kyle Whittingham is finishing his 12th full season as the Utes’ head coach, and his 9-1 record in bowl games (including a win in the Fiesta Bowl following the 2004 season when he and departing Urban Meyer were officially co-head coaches) suggests he knows how to prepare his team for postseason games.

On the Indiana side is head coach Tom Allen, who has never been a head coach in any game, let alone a bowl game.

A year ago, Allen was the defensive coordinator at South Florida. He came to Indiana this season to improve the Hoosiers’ weak defense, and he did such a good job that he was named the head coach on Dec. 1, when head coach Kevin Wilson suddenly and surprisingly announced his resignation.

According to multiple reports, Wilson’s treatment of his players led to his departure less than a year after he had been given a six-year, $15.3 million contract for getting the Hoosiers to a bowl game for the first time since 2008.

Allen is not just an interim head coach, being given a six-year contract to lead the Hoosiers (6-6), starting with the game against Utah (8-4).

“At this point you’re trying to get everybody kind of comfortable with what the direction is,” Allen said, according to the Indianapolis Star several days after his promotion. “When something like this happens, there’s just a lot of questions. Questions about the coaches, questions about the future and everything, so I think for me, it was a matter of just kind of calming everybody down, say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing, this is the vision between now and the bowl game.'”

Allen is trying to keep things as normal as possible by continuing to focus on the defense and letting offensive coordinator Kevin Johns deal with the Hoosiers’ offense. But Allen admits it has made for a hectic December.

“It’s been a whirlwind,” Allen said. “It’s been crazy.”

Not only does Allen have to deal with a coaching upheaval, but he has to prepare for a Utah team that had designs on a Rose Bowl berth until the last few games of the season.

Utah was ranked 12th after 10 games, with an 8-2 overall record. Then the Utes lost their last two games, to Oregon and Colorado, dropping them out of Rose Bowl contention and down to No. 19 in the final CFP rankings.

It makes you wonder whether the Utes are fired up to play in the Foster Farms Bowl. Whittingham insists they are.

“There’s a lot of positives attached,” said Whittingham. “It’s a great venue and a great destination for a bowl game. Who wouldn’t want to spend a week in San Francisco? It’s a great city.”

Santa Clara is actually about 40 miles from San Francisco, but you get the idea. At least it is different from Las Vegas, which is where Utah spent its postseason the past two years.

“I’m excited for the new opportunity,” Utes defensive end Hunter Dimick said, according to the Deseret News. “Vegas has been absolutely phenomenal the last two years but everybody was ready for something new and we’re excited for it.”

Dimick was named the Associated Press and ESPN Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He has 14.5 of the team’s 40 sacks, a 3.33 sacks-per-game average that ranks sixth in the country.

That pass rush will challenge Hoosiers quarterback Richard Lagow, who completed 59.9 percent of his throws and tossed 18 touchdown passes.

“He is locked in at practice,” said Indiana wide receiver Nick Westbrook, who has 49 receptions this season for a team-leading 915 yards and five touchdowns. “He understands the offense better, he knows where he wants the ball to go. He has matured a lot over the season.”

However, Lagow has thrown 16 interceptions, including three in the lackluster 26-24 victory over Purdue in the final regular-season game.

The Hoosiers will probably rely heavily on running back Devine Redding, who rushed for 1,050 yards this season. But Redding will play second fiddle in the Foster Farms Bowl to Utah running back Joe Williams, who was a first-team all-Pac-12 selection even though he played only eight games and actually quit football early in the season.

On Sept. 13, three days after Utah beat BYU, Williams retired from football. A month later, Williams came back. He has rushed for 1,185 yards, highlighted by a school-record 332 yards in the victory over UCLA.

Running back Williams is complemented by quarterback Troy Williams, who completed 53.4 percent of his throws with 15 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. And the quarterback may be more of a running threat now that his sprained knee has had a chance to heal.

The Hoosiers will be better equipped to handle Williams and Williams than they would have been a season ago. Indiana ranked 41st in the nation in total defense this season in Allen’s first year as defensive coordinator after ranking 120th of 129 FBS school last season.