COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Indiana now is just one more step away from bowl game eligibility with a road victory against Maryland, despite losing star freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to injury. Led by redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey’s 193 yards and Stevie Scott’s two touchdowns, the Hoosiers advance to 5-2 (2-2 B1G) on the season. Here’s what we learned about the Hoosiers from their litmus test victory against the Terrapins.
1. Indiana’s sustainability finally shows up
On the season, the Hoosiers have won games they were supposed to win and they have lost the ones that many believed that they would lose. While IU still came into today’s game as a narrow favorite, Indiana finally had an opportunity to prove themselves. In a critical game that had implications on bowl eligibility as well as the authenticity of this team’s production, the Hoosiers showed that they belong in the middle tier of the Big Ten.
Indiana took Maryland to the wire without the services of its star quarterback after the first quarter. While Maryland is in a slump, they handily beat a ranked Syracuse team, and they average some of the highest offensive numbers in the Big Ten.
How did Indiana hold off the pesky Terps? A combination of an impressive day for the offensive line, critical defensive plays, and the ability to overcome injuries helped them across the finish line.
2. Peyton Ramsey isn’t Penix under DeBoer, but still delivered
On the ground and through the air, Peyton Ramsey held his own after starting QB Michael Penix Jr. came out of the game, due to what looked like a back injury. While Indiana fans expressed disappointment and frustration on social media, Ramsey played very well considering the circumstances. In the post game, head coach Tom Allen had tremendous praise for Ramsey.
(Ramsey) worked his whole life to come here and be the guy. (After IU started Penix) He chose to stay for this football team. He made a choice not just to stay but to be prepared every week, and he prepared this week to be the starter even though he may not even play a snap. That’s hard to do. That takes a lot of discipline and maturity. It takes a special person.”IU Head Coach Tom Allen on Ramsey
Of course, Ramsey did not come in with the same skill set as Penix. No one expected Ramsey to be the same type of gunslinger. OC Kalen DeBoer shifted to a more conservative plan of attack for the Hoosiers and many of the short passes returned benefits for IU. Ramsey finished the game completing 20 of his 27 passes for 193 yards – an average of 7.1 yards per attempt. For comparison, he averaged 6.1 YPA in 2017 and 6.4 YPA last season.
Ramsey differentiated himself through his ability to run the field. When his receivers did not give him the space Ramsey needed, he found a way to make plays on the ground. Ramsey finished with 45 rush yards, with the longest run coming from a critical 15-yard run for a first down conversion.
Ramsey’s most critical play might have been his touchdown throw to Nick Westbrook (who deserves credit from making the incredible catch as well) right before halftime. In recent history, Indiana seems to rarely have the momentum going into the intermission. In fact, Michigan State scored a touchdown with seconds ticking down before the break in IU’s last conference road trip.
3. Iron-tough Stevie Scott and the offensive line did not bend
As the momentum began to shift to Maryland in the third quarter, the Hoosiers executed a 62-yard drive, where Stevie Scott carried 50 of those yards. Scott scored a momentum-shifting touchdown, his second of the afternoon, to put the Hoosiers up by two possessions, 31-21.
The storyline for Indiana’s offensive line involves an injury-riddled group that still holds week after week. Indiana struggled to open up gaps in the first half, but at the very least, the Hoosiers, once again, limited the total number of sacks. In fact, IU came into today’s game as the Big Ten leader in sacks allowed, even with all of the injuries on the line. Today, Indiana only conceded one sack, because of a quarterback scramble by Ramsey that did not quite reach the line of scrimmage.
Stevie Scott finished the day with 108 yards on 18 carries. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry to finish the evening.
4. Cleaning up the in-game defensive coaching
Indiana’s defense may still be adjusting under new defensive play-caller and co-DC Kane Wommack. On a number of defensive rotations, the Hoosiers showed confusion on who was supposed to stay on field and who was supposed to exit. The result was a number of players looking and yelling at the sideline for clarification.
After sorting out personnel, the Hoosiers who had to run full sprint to get in position became gassed. On Dontay Demus’ 15 yard touchdown reception from QB Tyrrell Pigrome in the second quarter, he was covered by CB Andre Brown Jr. Prior to the play, confusion between Brown and the coaching staff forced Brown to reach his spot seconds before the snap of the ball.
In the postgame press conference, Tom Allen mentioned that Maryland showed a number of offensive schemes and sets that did not show up on the film. As a result, Indiana tried out a number of coverages that they have not used all season.
The second half game plan was simplicity. “Pick two or three things that you like and stick to them,” said Allen, quoting himself from halftime. Rather than reacting to Maryland, the Hoosiers stuck with a more controlled and comfortable defensive scheme which helped reduce the amount of miscommunication between sideline and the personnel on the field.
5. Indiana’s defense stepped up when it mattered the most
In the end, the Hoosiers secured win #5 thanks to the defense stepping up on two critical plays to end the game. First, the Hoosiers come up with a big strip inside the Maryland 20-yard line. The play by DB Juwan Burgess ended a potential game-winning drive for Maryland. Instead, IU had the ball in the red zone and eventually scored a field goal.
On the next drive by Maryland. Indiana CB Reese Taylor sealed the deal with an interception on a Pigrome pass with time dwindling. Allen later mentioned that this play was possible due to a new coverage that they ran for the first time today.
Reactions from Tom Allen and Players
Featured Photo: IndianaHQ