PISCATAWAY, N.J. — After a historic win against No. 8 Penn State, a cause for celebration among all of Hoosier Nation, many of those same fans had one thought gnawing at the back of their mind. Could the Hoosiers, now ranked No. 17, avoid a bad letdown loss at Rutgers?
The answer is yes.
On the shoulders of a strong showing by quarterback Michael Penix, receivers Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle, and tight end Peyton Hendershot, and a takeaway-minded defense, No. 17 Indiana (2-0) overpowered Rutgers (1-1), 37-21. The win means Indiana has started 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1991.
Both teams got off to a choppy start offensively. The Scarlet Knights and the Hoosiers opened up with two punts each, but Rutgers slowly built a field position advantage. After a roughing the passer penalty on Micah McFadden extended the drive, Noah Vedral hit senior WR Bo Melton for a 23-yard touchdown.
Indiana’s offense slowly gathered steam as the half went along. They strung together consecutive 9+ play drives that moved the ball well into Rutgers territory, but some shaky execution limited the Hoosiers to field goals from Charlie Campbell.
Indiana committed the game’s first four penalties in a two-minute stretch, contributing to Rutgers’ early lead. A roughing the passer on Micah McFadden likely was the most critical of the infractions, as it came on an incomplete third down. The Melton TD came on the very next play.
The Hoosier defense clamped down as the second quarter went along. Rutgers recorded a paltry two total yards in the quarter. Jaylin Williams and Jonathan King snagged interceptions, Tiawan Mullen sacked Vedral twice, and Sio Nofoagatoto’a, Cam Jones, Devon Matthews and Jamar Johnson chipped in with nice defensive plays as well.
After halftime, Indiana’s offense picked up in its effectiveness on each successive drive. The Hoosiers went three-and-out, then converted a field goal off following a 60-yard bomb to Philyor, and finally broke through into the end zone on a Penix touchdown pass to Hendershot. Hendershot had two touchdowns on the day after scoring four times last year.
After Indiana built up a 22-point lead, Rutgers notched a touchdown in a comeback effort to trim the score to 37-21. There was an absolutely ridiculous sequence where on a fourth down, late in the game, Rutgers threw something like 10 laterals to spring Melton for a long touchdown. After further review, it was determined that reciever Shameen Jones threw an illegal forward pass to his teammate, nullifying what would’ve been one of the craziest plays in Big Ten history.
Player of the Game: After a difficult outing against a very strong Penn St. defense last week, Michael Penix delivered an impressive performance against the Scarlet Knights. Penix finished 17-of-26 on the night, with four total touchdowns and 258 total yards. There were plenty of “honorable mentions” today, but Penix takes the cake for the Hoosiers’ MVP of the game.
Up next: No. 17 Indiana will move up the rankings, while their opponent next week, No. 13 Michigan, stunningly fell at home to unranked Michigan St. We’ll find out where Michigan is ranked on Sunday. The game kicks off at Noon EST on FS1.
Featured Image: Indiana University Athletics