BLOOMINGTON – IU beat a college football top 10 team for the first time in 33 years on Friday, a courageous and heartbreaking 36-35 victory over the Penn State No.7.
Here are three reasons why.
► More:Indiana beat a top 10 team for the first time since 1987. A lot has happened since then.
Penn State sloppy early
The Nittany Lions scored a touchdown in their first practice of the game, and did little for the rest of the half.
This drive was a work of art, 13 pieces to cover 64 meters, surgically moving on the ground. It was the opposite mirror of football that Penn State would play the rest of the first half.
IU forced three turnovers, including two interceptions from Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. The Hoosiers turned the court so often – a touchdown in the second quarter was enough to cover four yards – that Indiana came in at halftime edging 173-87, while leading by 10.
Clifford’s struggles were especially helpful. Ten of UI’s 17 points in the first half followed his two interceptions. Penn State capped the halftime by picking up an untimely Stevie Scott deep in Indiana Territory, only to miss a field goal at the end of the half. IU deserved his lead at the break.
But the IU offense struggles
By the start of the fourth quarter, Penn State had held the ball nearly 30 minutes longer than IU. The Nittany Lions beat Indiana 324-100 in total yards. They had played 63 games against the 31 Hoosiers. two Hoosiers who halt weakly, possibly thinking Clifford would slip.
UI issues struck at the heart of the program’s biggest loss during the offseason – not Kalen DeBoer as the offensive coordinator, but rather the time it takes for Nick Sheridan to get comfortable in the role. Sheridan’s knowledge of the UI roster and his stint with Tom Allen were obvious advantages, even given the pandemic-altered offseason.
But there will always be things that can’t be replicated anywhere except in games. Sheridan – and his starting quarterback Michael Penix – both needed more offseason than they had, and that showed on Saturday.
Penix finished 19 of 36 in the air, making some throws and forcing others. Coupled with Indiana’s inability to establish the run, his performance held up the IU offense for much of the afternoon.
The Hoosiers took advantage of the turnovers to nip ahead of Penn State and grabbed a basket in the second half after a targeting call canceled out a Miles Marshall fumble. But for much of Saturday’s game, the Indiana attack was something less than vintage.
IU wins in a wild finish
But it lit up when it mattered.
Hope looked lost for Indiana after the Hoosiers’ record lost 21-20. But the Hoosiers cleverly allowed Penn State to score after turnover on the downs, and then Penix came to life. He brought his team down onto the pitch, sneaking into touchdown, then cruising through traffic for a 2-point conversion.
A bizarre in-game kick went unpunished as Penn State missed a 57-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter.
Penn State scored to start overtime, before IU responded. After a time out, Allen decided to go for two. Blushing to his left, Penix dove for the pylon and got the touchdown. After a review that took several minutes in real time and several years on the lives of IU football fans everywhere, the appeal was upheld.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.