UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After breaking into the AP Top 25 for the first time since Sept. 1994, Indiana came into Happy Valley with plenty of confidence and high expectations. After four hard-fought quarters at Beaver Stadium, Tom Allen’s #24 Hoosiers fell to the Penn State Nittany Lions, 34-27, in front of 106,323 on Saturday. Below, see what we learned from the Hoosiers’ third loss of the season.
Indiana Made Too Many Mistakes
As a team that has played plenty of games against powerhouse opponents, Indiana should know as much as anyone else to control what it can control. After getting a three-and-out to start the game, Indiana’s defense confidently went to the sideline after its good start. Penn State punter Blake Gillikin hit a low line drive that bounced in front of IU superstar Whop Philyor. Philyor, a junior and experienced returner, neither aggressively pursued the ball nor vacated the area. The indecisiveness resulted in a muffed punt, recovered by PSU’s Jan Johnson in scoring territory. PSU scored less than two minutes later to jump out in front, 7-0.
IU had a long list of self-inflicted wounds this afternoon, mostly from veteran players. Consider the following: freshman LS Sean Wracher fired the ball into Peyton Hendershot‘s midsection on a key 4th and 1 after halftime, leading to an awful-looking and unsuccessful fake punt. PSU RB Journey Brown scored a 40-yard TD on the next play to give PSU a two-possession lead. Senior WR Donavan Hale dropped an obvious touchdown in the end zone in the 3rd quarter, resulting in IU settling for 3.
Indiana also had two illegal substitution (aka 12 men) penalties, including one after halftime. Ultimately, if a top-ten team beats you, you can tip your cap and move on to next week. Indiana made too many mistakes of their own in key moments.
IU’s Defensive Line Could Not Influence Sean Clifford
On a day where IU needed to pressure Penn State redshirt sophomore QB Sean Clifford, the Hoosiers’ front four could not affect the first-year starter. IU did record three sacks, but only one came from a defensive lineman (DE James Head).
As a result, DC Kane Wommack dialed up more blitzes, and when PSU picked them up, they gashed the Hoosiers for 16.7 yards per completion. Going forward, especially next week against Michigan, Indiana will need to get after the QB with its defensive line to avoid having to bring extra rushers.
Peyton Ramsey Will Be Just Fine as Indiana’s QB
Coming into this matchup against Penn State’s 8th-ranked defense (per ESPN SP+), a number of Indiana fans wondered if Ramsey could hold his own. Would Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry devise a devastating scheme to shackle the Hoosiers’ QB like Ohio State did?
Absolutely not. Ramsey fired on all cylinders, going 31-41, with a career-high 371 passing yards and three total TD. With normal starting QB Michael Penix out for the season, Indiana needed its junior quarterback to expose Penn State’s secondary, the most vulnerable unit of its team’s defense. The Hoosiers also lost WR Whop Philyor to injury, but that didn’t hold Ramsey back. He will have to have a similar game against Michigan’s #4 defense next week at Memorial Stadium.
Indiana Is For Real
There are no moral victories any longer with Indiana football. The Hoosiers came to Happy Valley to win, and they played that way, leaving with a 7-point, nail-biting defeat. Indiana’s wins this year have come against incredible weak opposition: Ball State, Eastern Illinois, UConn, Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, and Northwestern have just 17 wins between them this season. Plenty of folks have shown skepticism about the Hoosiers, even though the computers (SP+, Sagarin) like Indiana.
With a close loss in Happy Valley, The Hoosiers should have erased those doubts. Michigan comes to town on Saturday.