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Allen left wondering what happened after Hoosiers' losing streak hits six

Indiana coach Tom Allen looks over the field at Memorial Stadium.

(Indiana University Athletics)

With two games remaining in the Indiana football season, head coach Tom Allen is wondering where it all went wrong.

The Hoosiers were coming off their most successful season in more than a half a century, ranked No. 17 in the preseason poll and there was talk of competing for the Big Ten title. That included from Allen.

“I did envision them to be able to be at this time of the year competing for and being in the hunt for Big 10 championship,” Allen said Monday. “That was my vision. That was what I believed. And I don't go back to, man, I missed it on that, you know? So, have we played to that level? No.”

The Hoosiers haven’t really played at that level all season.

In a season-opening matchup with then No. 18 Iowa, Indiana failed to even score a touchdown in a 34-6 loss.

And after going 2-1 in three non-conference games, the Hoosiers lost six straight league games. That includes a 38-3 blowout loss to Rutgers at home on Saturday.

Allen sounded like a broken record Monday.

“Very disappointed with the performance; not happy at all,” he said.

That the Hoosiers find themselves 2-8 overall and 0-7 in the Big Ten is a surprise after last season’s success and the fact the team returned most of its starters from 2020.

Allen wondered if having so many veterans back played a role in the downfall this year.

“That might be something that there just wasn’t quite the same sense of urgency maybe,” he said. “I’m not saying that there was, I’m just trying to look back. And we’re going to look at everything.

“But, man, there is definitely a danger of having a group that’s a whole bunch of guys back and expectations are at a certain place, maybe a situation where they’re not used to that.”

Aside from any psychological effects, one tangible thing Allen can point to is injuries. Indiana has had significant injuries to 30 players this season, including 12 that were season-ending.

Injuries to starting quarterback Michael Penix and backup Jack Tuttle have left the Hoosiers playing true freshman Donaven McCulley behind center.

The running back position has been hard, as well. Last week, the top four on the depth chart heading into the fall were all out. There’s been shuffling along the offensive and defensive lines, at linebacker and in the defensive backfield, where All-American corner Tiawan Mullen has played in just one game.

“We still aren't to the level as a program where we can absorb all those hits depth-wise,” Allen said. “And we're making progress in that area without question. But to handle that many -- I don't know if I've been anywhere yet that's had that much depth to handle that many losses.”

Allen doesn’t regret putting the pressure of challenging for a Big Ten championship in front of his team.

“I was asked the question on Big 10 Media Day, ‘What does greatness look like for this group?’“ Allen said. “I said, without hesitation, ‘Winning the Big 10.’

“And that's the vision. That's -- that, to me, is what greatness is for this program. That's what I came here, to eventually one day win the Big 10 Championship. And that's the goal.”

But he doesn’t think this year’s setback is an indication of where the program is at right now.

“Last year wasn't just, you know, out of nowhere, it was a slow build,” Allen said. “Yeah, we'll lose quite a few guys that have been here for several years. And you've just got to continue. That foundation doesn't change.”

Indiana has two games remaining in the season, this Saturday at home against Minnesota and at Purdue in the season-finale on Nov. 27.

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