Behind a career-day from Michael Penix Jr., Indiana’s undefeated storyline comes to end this Saturday as the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes comfortably handled the Hoosiers 42-35. No. 9 Indiana moved to 4-1 on the season and now they take the second position in the Big Ten East. The Buckeyes, now 4-0, sit alone at the top of the division that ranks based on win percentages.
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There is a lot that can be said about the game on the ground: Indiana was outmaneuvered against a powerful two-RB attack from Ohio State and equally was unable to get any momentum running the ball against a stalwart Buckeye frontline. And there will be truth to the comments: Indiana frankly did not look great on the ground, whether it was on offense or defense.
For comparison, Ohio State tallied 307 yards rushing, where as Indiana could not even net positive yardage given that they finished with -1 yards on the ground.
Instead the Hoosiers leaned on their air game, where they found significantly more success and allowed them to compete against the College Football Playoffs-candidate. Michael Penix Jr. had a career day with 491 yards (second highest in program history, most ever against Ohio State), 5 touchdowns, and just a single interception.
His performance is the highest total yardage output against Ohio State at Ohio Stadium since 1985, and the fourth-highest total against Ohio State.
Head coach Tom Allen praised Penix’s ability to lead this top ten college football team. “There is no question. I think that is part of leadership, Allen said. “It is by your performance, and the way that you exude confidence to your teammates when they know that as long as we have got time on the clock, and snaps to be played then we have got a chance.”
“So, he shows tremendous poise, that is what we talked about for this game knowing we were going to need it, and he does not just talk about having that, he lives it out and he showed it again this game and he brought us back,” Allen said.
Penix discussed how the team turned it around in the second half, despite having an uphill battle in front of them.
“We came out, played hard for each other and that is what we talked about in the locker room during halftime,” Penix said. “We had to go in and execute the small things, play hard for each other, correct the mistakes, and that is what we did and we started to see the results we wanted.”
Defensively, Indiana gave Heisman-contender Justin Fields his first, second, and third interceptions of the season. Coming into the game with a 86.7% completion rate, Fields was bogged down by an aggressive Indiana defense that held him to just 18-of-30 passing (60% completion rate).
The Hoosiers have recorded a takeaway in 34 of their last 36 games.
Indiana’s Jamar Johnson contributed to two of Indiana’s three interceptions.
“We knew in weeks prior that the teams that [Ohio State QB Justin Fields] has been playing have been lining up in the coverage and showing them that same coverage, so it makes it easier on him to know where the holes are at in the defense,” Johnson said.
Combine Indiana’s air attack and their ability to hold Justin Fields to more manageable numbers, and you have a scenario where Indiana had a fighting chance to win the game. Tom Allen’s team had that very real possibility when the Hoosiers, who were down by seven, took over on downs with 4-minutes on the clock.
Allen discussed the position the team was able to put themselves after the contest.
“So disappointed that we fell short but, proud of the heart, the fight, the toughness of this team,” Allen said. “They did not quit and you have got a chance to see that they truly are special, and we have just got to play better. It was a really good football team we played. They are substantially elevated level of play compared to the other teams we have played so far in so many different ways.”
“But for our guys to be able to put ourselves in that position, and obviously give them credit for making plays, but we continued to battle to the very, very end,” Allen said.
Unfortunately for Indiana, not all of the stars could align and their struggles in the second quarter proved to be too much to overcome. But Indiana proved on the biggest stage to-date that they can compete and fight until the very last minute against the nation’s elite. That is not something Indiana has been able to say very often in their program history.
Featured Photo: Indiana University Athletics