Indiana posts first ever win over Penn State, 44-24

WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana routed Penn State 44-24 in front of 42,125 at rain-soaked Memorial Stadium on Saturday, beating the Nittany Lions for the first time in 17 tries and 20 years of the series’ existence. The Hoosiers improved to 3-2 and won their Big Ten opener for the first time since 2000.

WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld completed 23 of 38 passes for 321 yards and two touchdowns while redshirt sophomore quarterback Tre Roberson stepped in in goalline situations for two rushing touchdowns and also converted a key two-point conversion. Junior wide receiver Cody Latimer caught nine passes for 140 yards and also recovered a fumbled kickoff and an on-side kick. Senior wide receiver Kofi Hughes caught four passes for 85 yards, including a thrilling 36-yard touchdown reception that made it 35-17. Sophomore tailback Tevin Coleman rushed for 92 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown jaunt.

Defensively, cornerback Tim Bennett had eight tackles and four pass break-ups. Defensive end John Lahinen recorded a critical sack, defensive tackle Bobby Richardson knocked down a pass on an all-or-nothing 4th-and-3 for Penn State. Safety Mark Murphy also recorded 10 tackles. 

WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Just about everything Indiana wanted to fix over the bye week, it did. That was especially true of the run defense. The Hoosiers allowed just 70 yards on the ground on Penn State’s 38 carries. That’s a greatly skewed total, of course, because Penn State’s bungled snap counts as a team loss for 31 yards and quarterback Christian Hackenberg lost 22 yards on a sack and an intentional grounding penalty. But even if you count only actual running plays, the Nittany Lions still finished with just 123 yards on 33 carries. That number is half the 247.2 yards per game the Hoosiers surrendered in the first four games of the season.

The difference was that Indiana was fundamentally sound but also playing free. They corrected most of the issues with misalignment and miscommunications and failure to hit the correct gaps that plagued them against Missouri in their last game. Powerful Penn State tailback Zach Zwinak still knocked over several Indiana defenders, but the Hoosiers usually at least had someone in place to make a play or slow him down.

Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns and wide receiver Allen Robinson caught 12 passes for 173 yards and two scores, but Indiana’s pass defense was much better than those numbers indicated. With the exception of Robinson’s 46-yard touchdown catch-and-run early, the Hoosiers generally kept Robinson in front of them and didn’t get beat deep. Cornerback Michael Hunter recovered after whiffing badly on that touchdown and Bennett was outstanding on the other end. The Hoosiers also got a steady pass rush and were in Hackenberg’s face even when they didn’t sack him. Solid run defense, a good pass rush and decent coverage are not something the Hoosiers typically have, but they did Saturday.

On offense, the Hoosiers got balance, rushing 41 times for 150 yards and throwing 39 passes for 336 yards. Coleman saw decent holes most of the day. Stephen Houston only carried the ball four times, but had 34 rushing hards, and D’Angelo Roberts carried three times for 27 yards. That opened the passing game and Sudfeld ended up with man-to-man coverage on his receivers in a number of cases and was able to pick the Nittany Lions apart.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN: Everything Indiana wanted in the beginning of the season is suddenly very possible again. In order to get to a bowl game, the Hoosiers had to beat at least one Big Ten team that they were not expected to beat. The Hoosiers managed to do that on their first try.

This game was massive for morale, for fan support, and for everything else that plays into momentum. After a bye week in which they did a lot of self-evaluation and had to make corrections at some of the most basic levels, they returned to the field confident and played sound while also playing aggressive. They go on the road to play Michigan State and Michigan with a sense of belief that they can achieve the sort of things Indiana teams don’t normally achieve. The performance also speaks well for a coaching staff that was starting to catch some heat, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, on whom the blame for the shortcomings of the first four weeks was weighing heavily, said the IU staff needed to coach better and they did. It was a redemptive week for all of them.

It should be noted that this is not a great Penn State team. This won’t be the loss that keeps the Nittany Lions from a national championship run, and that isn’t only true because the Lions are still not eligible for a bowl game. The Lions are flawed and could very easily end up a sub .500 squad, and this win won’t look nearly as impressive in late November as it does now. But that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Hoosiers have defeated a perennial powerhouse that they had never beaten before. With home games against Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue left on the schedule, the Hoosiers don’t need a major upset to make a bowl game, but after this win, they have more reason to believe they can get one.

WHO SAID WHAT: 

Kevin Wilson

“I’m proud of our guys and I’m happy for them. I’m happy for the people who stuck with us and for us to get a good win. We played really well in a lot of phases. We didn’t start great on offense and didn’t particularly run the ball well, but once things started to get in rhythm and we got our passing game set up, we played well.”

On Defense

“I think we were a lot better in our communication,” Wilson said. “The way we practiced and the way we prepared, we wanted to give our kids the chance to line up and be cleaner and more fundamentally sound. We played a lot better team defense with the linemen being where they were supposed to be and the linebackers and safeties fitting appropriately.”

Kofi Hughes

“It was a big game for us just because we’ve been close. The whole game, (quarterbacks/wide receivers coach Kevin Johns) and everyone was saying, ‘Hey, when is this team, when is this program going to turn the corner and really start finishing games?’ I think our team went out and did that tremendously. It was a big, big step for our team.”

Greg Heban

“Coach talked to us this week and the bye week about, even though we have never beaten Penn State in IU history, we can’t hype up this game any more than it needs to be,” safety Greg Heban said. “After the game we were really excited about the win, but we weren’t super shocked about it. We knew we were a good team. We knew they were a good team.”

Nate Sudfeld

“The O-line was playing awesome. Tevin was running and (tailback Stephen Houston) was running really well. (D’Angelo Roberts) came in and ran some really good runs. Our offense clicks when our run game is going. It opens up the pass more and we’re more balanced.”

AUDIO: Kevin Wilson

AUDIO: Greg Heban

AUDIO: Kofi Hughes

AUDIO: Nate Sudfeld

AUDIO: Tim Bennett

AUDIO: Tevin Coleman

AUDIO: Bobby Richardson

18 comments

  1. Congrats to players and coaches alike. That’s a win that they have an opportunity to build on! I was happy to be there but when we passed on the early field goal and failed to make the first down it was frustrating. Many more positives though, and a special shout out to the DBs. They were really hitting out there today. Nice job Hoosiers.

  2. Enjoying the moment. Hoping for more consistency the remainder of the season, but prepared for a slap in the face from reality as well.

  3. Great game! This wasn’t exactly your typical powerhouse Penn St, but you can’t dismiss the fact we beat a good, physical team pretty handily yesterday. That we won going away was even more impressive.

    I still maintain that if we make a few defensive stops each week, we have the talent to compete with just about anybody. We’ll have some lapses and lose some games we probably could (or should) have won– so my expectations are still tempered– but if we continue to play like this a six-or seven-win season (and bowl appearance?) is not out of the question. Go Big Red!

    [Incidentally, anybody watch the OSU-NU game last night. I’m not a big gambler, but I have a buddy who lost a lot of money on that last-second fumble recovery in the end zone. Anybody who bet on Northwestern to cover the spread has to be pretty ticked off how that one turned out…]

  4. The good sign is a young improving defense gets a results oriented reward against a BIG opponent and we find out for sure the offense does have the instinct to stand on the oppositions neck. LB play today was good and also showed adequate cover skills with the rotating front 4 holding their own. The CB’s and safeties are making the front 7’s job easier. Bennett and Hunter are now problems for BIG receivers earning receptions. The D game plan proved today this staff knows what they are doing in the face of the constant maligning posted here in the past. If they can garner a road win next week this team can be lights out concerning the remainder of the season.

  5. As far as a diluted PSU, they are not much different from what they have been in the past. They have only had 1 recruiting class touched by sanctions. There were a couple of transfers and a decommitment but to me they suffer more from lack of confidence like the Hoosiers have shown over the decades. This win was truly not smoke and mirrors.

  6. Thanks for your last, HC! It will be fun to see Penn State beat Michigan next week. PSU will be stoked, and they will be playing at home. Based on PSU’s loss to a “patsey” like IU, Michigan already thinks they’ve won next week’s game in College Station.

    After PSU wins next week, we can put to rest all this talk like our guys didn’t accomplish much because, “This isn’t a regular Penn State team, &c”. Penn State put up some record numbers yesterday, folks…they were no patsies out there. They made some mistakes and got rattled (victims of their own arrogance), but they were no patsies.

    Michigan fans are already licking their chops over the prospect of supping on Kitty Cat Stew next week. I’ve been reading some of their blogs, and they’ve already chalked up a win. After they lose in College Station, they’ll get another big surprise when the Hoosiers show up at the Big House, guns blazing!

    A PSU win over Michigan next week, coupled with an IU defeat over Sparty…I seriously can’t wait until next Saturday! (Somebody needs to slap some sense into me, seriously…but I’m stoked!)

  7. One of the BTN announcers reported that IU had stripped (my interpretation) its defense scheme down to it basics, which is coaching 101 when a plan is not working. IF so, it sure helped. If this continues, Mallory may have saved his job. What I noticed most was that the D-line was really firing off the ball (which is easier to do if the brain isn’t trying to remember which stunts, etc. this or that play calls for). A couple of times I saw #93 really manhandle some PSU lineman. It’s true that IU didn’t get any pressure from its front four, but when IU blitzed that did get pressure on the QB and it worked ’cause the DBs did their jobs. It seemed to me that IU was blitzing substantially more in this game than it has all season; can anybody confirm or deny?

  8. Avenging Archangel of the Defensive Line? #93 is Ralphael (his dad’s name is Ralph) Green, a red-shirt freshman. He’s listed at 6’5″ 307 lbs. Nice to note that the IU bio says he was a Nat’l Merit Scholar in high school. Now all we need are Michael and Gabriel to join him on the defensive line and shift to a 3-4 defense.

  9. davis, I have no other motion about the blitzing except the PSU Freshman QB in film study by the IU staff showed indecision or poor decision making in the face of pressure. Seeing an extra guy or 2 rushing in causes young QB’s confusion. I am not yet convinced we have enough mature LB’s for the 3-4. Also we have and are recruiting more DT’s than necessary for a 3-4. But that is speculating on my part too.

  10. Enjoy Hoosier fans!! A WIN is a WIN, especially a conference W.
    Defensively, the front 4 played with extreme passion and downhill all day…fun to watch. Their pressure and secondary’s excellent coverage made for the D’s best performance of the year. Go IU, beat MSU on the road.

  11. HC- my “suggestion” of using a 3-4 D was meant to be a joking reference to the three archangels of the Old Testament. Let’s just keep doing what we did last Sat.!

  12. HC- I admit that my humor can be pretty lame. I agree that the staff figured blitzing PSU could help, but couldn’t figure out from your post whether you agree that IU blitzed substantially more than it has in past games this year. It’s not a stat one can look up (at least I don’t think it is).

  13. Hell it was good humor, it fooled me easy.
    My eyes saw more with some of it affective. But I see it being affective because the front 4 are energetic with more athletic talent than in past seasons. The next 2 games will tell whether my eyes are correct about the F4. Pursuit is better overall on the D also. Elevating the D at IU is a chore but the staff understands that too.

  14. HC- Our eyes saw the same, the D line was indeed firing out instead of standing up and leaning on people. It may be that the D staff scoped out the PSU offense’s run/pass probabilities well and thus was able to call defensive schemes that let the D line tee off on the running plays. That’s a guess, of course. Maybe they were just psyched up for once.

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