For a long stretch on Saturday, it felt like not only would Indiana compete with Penn St. in Happy Valley, but also potentially pull off the biggest upset in college football this season.
Then, the final five minutes happened.
The Indiana Hoosiers (2-6, 0-5 B1G) fought hard at Penn State (7-1, 4-1 B1G), but conservative play-calling at the end, along with a couple of early key mistakes on offense and special teams, stopped IU from its most improbable win of the Tom Allen era.
After both teams exchanged punts on each of their first two possessions, the Hoosiers recorded the first points of the game, in highly impressive fashion.
Brendan Sorsby looped a perfect throw down the right sideline to Dequece Carter, who did an excellent job staying in bounds to score a touchdown. It was the Fordham transfer’s first touchdown of the season, as he has continued to progress throughout the middle of the year.
IU’s first mistake of the game came shortly thereafter, as punt returner Cam Jordan muffed a punt deep in his own territory. Jordan may not have seen the ball clearly, as it clanged off his upper body into the grasp of Kevin Winston Jr. PSU QB Drew Allar, who mightily struggled at various points throughout the game, hit a wide-open sophomore TE Khalil Dinkins for PSU’s first score.
Sorsby wouldn’t cower in front of the massive Beaver Stadium crowd, hitting on another explosive play to start the second quarter. This time, Donaven McCulley was the recipient, thanks to a busted coverage.
Sorsby was highly effective all game, emphasizing quality and efficiency on his passes over the quantity of attempts. He broke his career high of 126 passing yards, set last week vs. Rutgers, on the pass to McCulley. Sorsby finished with 269 on the game.
PSU would tie the game on a methodical drive, punctuated by a Nick Singleton TD with 2:17 to go in the half. Then, Sorsby made his only mistake of the game, an ill-advised interception to safety Jaylen Reed. Sorsby essentially played as well as you possibly could against a secondary of this caliber, but that pick resulted in a field goal by Alex Falkins at the first half buzzer, giving PSU a 17-14 lead.
PSU would complete their best stretch of the game on the opening drive of the third quarter, when Allar hit his starting TE, Theo Johnson, for a score to put PSU up 10. It felt like the game would slip away from the Hoosiers, but the players continued fighting for the Cream & Crimson.
Trent Howland chipped away at the PSU defensive front, as he continues to see his role increased in IU’s offense. Even though Chris Freeman ended the drive with a 37-yard missed field goal, the Hoosiers would take advantage of their run game success on the next drive.
After multiple carries by Josh Henderson to get the ball into scoring range, Sorsby ran over CB Johnny Dixon to pick up a first down. Sorsby seemed to have hurt his shoulder on the play, but he stayed in the game. On the very next play, Rod Carey dialed up a perfect pass, which Sorsby executed to perfection, hitting Omar Cooper Jr. for six. That play silenced the partisan home crowd, and upset hopes escalated once again.
A few minutes later, Allar made his worst throw of the game, resulting in his first interception of the season. Josh Sanguinetti read Allar’s eyes, and when Allar made a throw under duress, Sanguinetti ranged over to intercept the pass, falling down at the PSU 23. That was Sanguinetti’s third career pick, and he’s recorded one each of IU’s last three seasons.
Indiana was five minutes away from its first ever win in Happy Valley. Then, in stunning fashion, Carey opted for three straight runs, resulting in four yards and a game-tying Freeman field goal. The kicker responded from his previous miss, booting it home from 35 yards, and the game was tied with 3:02 to go. Hoosier fans took plenty of umbrage to Carey’s approach to the three calls after the pick.
After his worst throw of the game, Allar made his best throw on the next drive, arching a beautiful throw to KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 57-yard connection. Jordan Grier offered solid coverage on the play, but the future NFL wideout adjusted perfectly to the throw.
Indiana had a chance to tie the game late, but Sorsby was sacked on the first play, resulting in a fumble and a safety. PSU recovered the safety onside kick, and would run out the rest of the clock.
Indiana returns home to host Wisconsin out of the Big Ten West. The game will kick at noon on BTN. The Hoosiers knocked off the Badgers 14-6 in the teams’ last meeting in Madison. That ended a streak of 10 straight victories by Wisconsin in the series. Luke Fickell is in his first year as Wisconsin’s head coach, after an extended stretch at Cincinnati as a head coach and Ohio St. as an assistant and interim head coach.
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