Head coach Tom Allen believed in Michael Penix Jr. the moment he arrived at Indiana.
That same belief has led Indiana to accomplishing something they have not since 1987 — defeating the Michigan Wolverines. Penix was as dominant as ever in Indiana’s 38-21 victory over Michigan Saturday afternoon in Bloomington. The redshirt sophomore completed 30-of-50 passes for 342 yards and three touchdowns in the victory that snaps IU’s 24-game losing streak to the Wolverines.
“We knew this was a grinder,” Allen said. “Guys just take it one at a time, which is all you can do. Just proud of our guys and we put all our energy into this game, to try and get a little bit better every single week and I thought we proved this weekend.”
Slow starts offensively have hurt Indiana (3-0) in their first two games against Penn State and Rutgers. However, there was no slow start for Penix and the offense in this one. Taking advantage of the passing attack, Indiana marched down the field on their first drive to strike first. Penix completed seven of his first nine passes on the drive and found Miles Marshall from 13 yards out for the first score.
When Penix was struggling early on in games this season it was because him and his receivers were not connecting. IU receivers had multiple drops in the first two games and some of Penix’s throws were off the mark. All of those inconsistencies were thrown out the door against Michigan. When Penix had the time to set his feet, he was accurate on his throws and putting them to only where his guys could grab it.
“The offensive line blocked their tails off today,” Penix said. “They gave me a lot of time in the pocket, I was able to find those receivers. The receivers made great plays, they got open. They attacked the ball.”
Penix had rhythm all day with his receivers with five Hoosiers hauling in multiple catches.
One of those guys was Ty Fryfogle. The senior wideout native caught seven passes on 10 targets for a team high 142 yards. Fryfogle averaged 20.3 yards per reception and could find the ball wherever Penix threw it. The Lucedale, Miss. native had a one-handed reception in tight coverage and on his touchdown reception, Penix put the ball right over the defender’s shoulders into Fryfogle’s hands.
Of course, Whop Philyor’s 11 catches for 72 yards were important, but the Penix to Fryfogle connection was Indiana’s best on the day.
“It just started earlier in the week with practice,” Fryfogle said about his connection with Penix. “Building our confidence up with throwing the deep balls. We knew we were going to have to throw the deep balls because they play man most of the game. You have to make plays against man. There is no other formula to it.”
Indiana’s offense was rolling on all cylinders during the first half. All three of Penix’s touchdown passes came in the first half as IU cruised to a 24-7 halftime lead. The Hoosiers offense could not be stopped and Indiana’s defense held Michigan (1-2) to just six first downs while also forcing six first half punts.
Both teams traded scores in the third quarter, but Michigan gained momentum with an 80-yard drive in just five plays. Quarterback Joe Milton hooked up with Roman Wilson for a score. Penix and Indiana’s offense would respond with a 10-play 75-yard drive in which Penix completed 4-of-7 passes for 62 yards. His final pass of the drive was a 32-yard strike to Jacolby Hewitt, leading to a one-yard touchdown run by Stevie Scott and a 31-14 Hoosier lead.
Then, early in the fourth quarter Milton found receiver Ronnie Bell from 21 yards out bringing the score to 31-21. Milton and the Wolverines found their passing attack did not go out without a fight.
Although the comeback was close, Indiana’s defense took control with two late takeaways from Jaylin Williams and Devon Matthews.
After the Williams interception, Penix and the offense regained complete control. Scott and Sampson James went to work on the ground and then Scott added another score, making it 38-21. The interception by Matthews then sealed the victory for the Hoosiers.
“Very pleased but it is what I envisioned, expected,” Allen said about his defense’s performance. “We talked about this year about being a top-10 defense, not just being top-25.”
Penix has led the Hoosiers to a 3-0 conference start for the first time since 1988. Indiana has now defeated their second top-25 opponent in Michigan (23) and Penn State (8). Everything is moving in the right direction for this program, with their defense playing well all season, and now the offense finding their stride.
Penix’s career was hurt early on with injuries in his first two seasons. Now with Penix at full strength and with all of his weapons, Indiana looks to be playing their best football in a long time. The Hoosiers now face back-to-back road games against Michigan State and Ohio State, and will need Penix as a leader under center to take this team to even greater heights.
“He is a great quarterback,” Fryfogle said. “He is a great person on and off the field. I am really happy for him and the progression he has made coming off of an injury. Overall, I am just happy for him and excited for the future.”
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