Indianapolis, Ind. — It took a team effort for Indiana to withstand the upset minded Ball State Cardinals Saturday afternoon in Indianapolis. Receiving a boost from kicker Logan Justus, the Hoosiers defeated the Cardinals 34-24 for their first victory of the 2019 season.
Justus was perfect throughout the game on his field goal attempts going four-for-four with his longest being a 50-yard attempt that put Indiana up by 10 with 2:15 to go in the game. The Redshirt Senior out of McCordsville, Ind. was reliable the whole game for Indiana (1-0, 0-0) putting up points when the offense would stall on Ball State’s side of the field.
“To me some guys have the ability to come through when it counts when the pressure is on. He was awesome today.”Tom Allen
Offensively, Indiana moved the ball the entire day recording 474 yards in total offense with three scores.
In his first start as a collegiate quarterback, Michael Penix Jr. completed 60 percent of his passes for 326 yards and one touchdown connecting with wide receiver Nick Westbrook on a 75-yard score in the first quarter. Westbrook caught the ball in stride and raced into the end-zone for the early Hoosier lead.
“Not too nervous, no…mostly anxious and ready. The whole team had been preparing in the film room, so we were mentally prepared and ready to go out and execute.”Mike Penix when asked about his nerves
However, even with his yardage and touchdown, Penix threw two interceptions in the first half that kept Ball State (0-1, 0-0) in the game. The first was a miss on the throw from the Redshirt Freshman where it landed into Cardinals’ defender Amechi Uzodinma’s hands. The second one, Penix’s receiver fell down while running the route and the ball was grabbed midair by Junior Antonio Phillips.
“He missed some reads, but those are some of the things we are trying to work on to key at him…He has never been a starter before in college, and they did a good job of disguising some stuff.”Tom Allen
Coming off a stellar freshman season, sophomore running back Stevie Scott was quiet on the day with 19 rushes for 48 yards. However, his two touchdowns in the second half enabled the Hoosiers to put more pressure on the Cardinals.
Defensively, Indiana had trouble dealing with the Cardinals offense moving down the field and keeping the game close. Quarterback Drew Plitt was 26 of 41 throwing the ball with 298 yards and two scores. Running Back Caleb Huntley aided the Cardinal attack, hitting the line hard and finishing with 83 yards on 22 carries with a score.
Indiana’s defensive front was getting bested by the Cardinals’ front line and it was displayed as multiple throws by Plitt were getting out of his hands quickly and to his receivers.
Missed tackles in space were another issue on the defensive side of the ball for the Hoosiers. In the third quarter, Plitt connected with Running Back Walter Fletcher on a play where Indiana tacklers missed Fletcher, creating space for him to run and score from 45 yards out.
“Defensively we did not tackle very well…that really sticks out to me and it was terrible. We will get that fixed. That’s not who we are, but at the same time we got some key stops and a key takeaway at the end that was big.”Tom Allen
With the score 34-24 and just above a minute left, Indiana’s defense was able to keep Ball State from coming back in the game. Sophomore defensive back Jaylin Williams picked off Plitt’s pass for his second career interception, sealing the Cardinals fate.
“It’s always good to get a win. The first one is a tough one.”Tom Allen
Indiana will return home to Bloomington next Saturday for their home opener against Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET.