Tom Allen heard the doubters.
Indiana entered Saturday's matchup with Ohio State with a 4-0 record and ranked as the No. 9 team in the country, but few were giving the Hoosiers much of a chance as they entered the game as three-touchdown underdogs.
"People have their opinions," Allen said. "(They) didn't think we belonged on the same field with Ohio State. I didn't really agree with that, but until you prove it on the field, it doesn't really matter what I think."
“We expected to come in here and win the game. We believed we could We made too many mistakes for that to be a reality. But our kids fought to the very end.”– Tom Allen
Indiana did prove it. The Hoosiers put up 491 passing yards on the Buckeye secondary, forced Justin Fields to throw as many interceptions in the game as he had previously in his college career, and had the ball with a chance to tie or win the game in the closing minutes.
It wasn't enough to get the win, but it was a better showing than Indiana's had against Ohio State in a long time.
"It's a really good football team we played. They substantially elevated the level of play from the other teams we've played so far, in so many different ways," Allen said. "Since I've been here, we've never had a fourth-quarter game with these guys."
In previous years, it's been obvious that Ohio State was simply in a different class than Indiana. They may not have quite been equals on Saturday afternoon, but it's closer than it's been.
"There's no question the (talent) gap has been closed," Allen said. "We're not there yet, they still have a lot of elite players that make it very, very challenging. But we're working hard to continue to close that, and that's part of recruiting and player development."
Proud of our fight!! I love this team. pic.twitter.com/K4PHDkPnmv— Coach Tom Allen (@CoachAllenIU) November 21, 2020
For Allen, even if it wasn't a victory, today's performance shows his program is moving in the right direction.
"I think we're showing that we're a good football team. I think we're a really good football team," Allen said. "It's about continuing to show and prove on the field that we're one of the top programs in the big ten. We haven't been that in the past for a long time, and that's our goal. That's how we want to be. And I believe we're getting closer and closer all the time."
Still, Allen isn't taking too many moral victories away.
"There is no consolation," Allen said. "We came here to win the game and being close isn't good enough.
"We expected to come in here and win the game. We believed we could We made too many mistakes for that to be a reality. But our kids fought to the very end."