Something bothered him about the way his defense was practicing in preparation for a road game at Rutgers, and he let his group know about it.
“There’s been very little projection with this group, but last Wednesday we needed just a little bit of a wake-up call to make sure we did things the right way,” Brown said. “You know the deal. Don’t wait until Sunday. That could be a bad deal if you wait until Sunday.”
In other words, it could result in a loss. That wasn’t likely against 1-8 Rutgers, but Brown wasn’t willing to take any chances … nor will he this week against a 5-5 Indiana team Brown called “pretty damn good.”
“So we’d better be engaged,” he said. “The Rutgers game, I was more concerned not about the opponent, but about us. I don’t worry … I think our guys are really good at digesting the game plan, giving every opponent their respect and then going and playing. It really was more about I watched us practice really, really well. I complimented them publicly, and then one day they didn’t practice as well, and I reminded them of that.”
They’ve responded well and seem primed for the stretch run with the Hoosiers, Ohio State and — if all goes well — possibly a Big Ten title game with Northwestern.
Targeting Has Quieted Down
Brown admitted he was losing sleep wondering how to combat the targeting issues that seemed to have taken over the game. He’s been pleased it seems to have subsided.
“Did you notice the targeting thing has kind of quieted down?” he said. “The one thing that’s really happened is players are conscious of it. Coaches are conscious of it. We’ve kind of found that happy medium where it’ kind of like it was a year ago. It was there, but was not frequent. It’s kind of gone that way where we’ve all kind of found common ground to make sure we keep players on the field.”
He’s not certain what changed, but he cringed recently when someone suggested a rule be put into effect about defensive players landing on quarterbacks with their entire body weight.
“I kind of get that a little bit, but there it is though, another subjective deal. I think that could be difficult,” he said. “That’s all I’m saying.
“[Targeting rules] had me laying awake at night trying to figure out ways to combat it. The reality is you just kind of stay true to your values, which you know you’re teaching the right way in terms of the tackling piece. Just make the guys conscious all the time. Head out of the game. It’s out. You can’t utilize it. I think we’ve found common ground.”
Brown Credits Rutgers for Big Play
Rutgers scored on an 80-yard touchdown run, its longest rush since joining the Big Ten. Brown credited the Scarlet Knights with a good call.
“It was a wake up for me,” he said. “A well thought out play. They lined up three backs in the backfield, motioned one of them out, we made the adjustment nicely, they brought that guy back and faked the reverse with him, we lost one of our edges and the safety who in man to man was adjusting to him.
“… It was spinning for the alley supporter. I thought he was a little slow getting there. We would have liked to see that play get on the ground after 10 to 12 yards, but it is what it is.”
Plays like that have been few and far between, however.
“That’s obviously an infrequent deal for us this year,” Brown said. “We haven’t had many plays like that for quite a while. We’ve been really stingy with giving up explosive plays, so that was a little out of character.”
They were ready for it when Rutgers tried it again.
“I thought the response was excellent,” he said. “We made the adjustment on the sideline and went to a little different front and just made sure we had both edges covered … we were able to put that specific call against that personnel group in, and guys played it well.”
Brown said junior cornerback Lavert Hil (possible concussion) hadn’t practiced, but he was hopeful to get him and junior safety Josh Metellus (soft tissue injury) back for Saturday.
“I’m not a doctor, but we’ve got a heck of a shot to have them, I think,” he said. “We’ll see. Both of them are day to day. Yesterday was Tuesday, today is Wednesday. Obviously we’ll have a better idea after today. Tuesday and Wednesday are the real heavy work days. You’ve got to get some work in on Wednesday, for sure.”