Tuttle shows toughness in first start as IU’s QB

For a moment in last Saturday’s game, the Hoosiers were prepared to play on without Jack Tuttle.

Their quarterback, who had just taken a shot to the head-and-neck area, ran off to Wisconsin’s visiting locker room to be evaluated. A week after losing starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to a season-ending ACL injury, Indiana’s coaches were readying true freshman Dexter Williams to hop into a tight contest.

“OK, Dex, this is why you came here, buddy,” IU coach Tom Allen told his formerly third-string quarterback.

“It’s your time.”

But that wasn’t the case. As it turned out, this was just another dramatic twist in “Tuttle Time,” as the former four-star recruit, a transfer from Utah who patiently waited for his moment as a starter, made a grand return to IU’s sideline.

In the most cinematic way possible, Tuttle was proving his toughness. IU offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, who already had a play picked out for Williams, smiled as he reminisced Monday about his quarterback’s moxie.

“It was a little bit like a movie, you know?” Sheridan said. “I thought Jack maybe tried to time it up. He was waiting in the tunnel, waiting until we were at about the 90-second mark, and he made the dramatic entrance, running back out.”

Tuttle took some shots in Madison, including the one that sent him to the locker room. But even without that run back to the huddle, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound redshirt sophomore provided IU’s coaches with a new perspective on their quarterback.

For the last year and a half, Tuttle has worn a blue practice jersey for the Hoosiers. He doesn’t get hit.

“It wasn’t necessarily a wake-up call, but it’s the first time I’ve really been hit in a year, year and a half or so,” Tuttle said. “You know, a little bit sore.”

Tuttle’s 13-of-22 passing line, racking up 130 yards and two scores, was certainly encouraging for the No. 8 Hoosiers (6-1) as they head into a rivalry matchup with Purdue. He revealed the arm talent that made him a once-coveted recruit, as well as some elusiveness in the pocket. He is not your average backup quarterback.

At the same time, it was Tuttle’s toughness that stood out the most. In the Big Ten, quarterbacks have to be able to take a hit.

“You’re going to have to be tough. That’s just required,” Sheridan said. “It’s really non-negotiable, and he was great. He did a good job of that. He hung in there, he took some shots, made some good throws, and did enough to help us win on the road.”

Tuttle wasn’t going to miss a snap, if he could help it. Allen admitted postgame Saturday that he sent both hands to the sky once Tuttle returned, screaming, “Yay! He’s back!” No offense to Williams, but he could use some more time to grow before he gets into a game of that magnitude.

While Tuttle hasn’t had the chance to play until these last couple of weeks, Allen can attest to the work that brought Tuttle to this point. A tireless worker, Tuttle never backed off of his responsibilities as a teammate once it was apparent Penix was IU’s starter. Allen was most concerned Tuttle wouldn’t sleep during the week leading into Wisconsin, because he would be watching so much film.

On Saturday, Allen watched Tuttle put his body on the line for his team, just in a very different way.

“That’s what stuck out to me, made some really, really good throws, took some hits, took some shots, and kept coming back,” Allen said. “That’s a great message to your teammates and your opponents, as well.”

Tuttle’s success Saturday also sent another message, more broadly. His is a story of a highly regarded prep player who hasn’t had everything go his way at the college level. He transferred out of Utah immediately following his true freshman season, ending up in a three-way competition at IU in 2019. He wasn’t able to win it, but he didn’t look to jump ship again.

He stuck it out, and Allen feels Tuttle is better for it.

“He really cares about this football team, and I think that showed,” Allen said. “He came at the same time with Michael Penix, man. That, to me, is what makes the story even better, just the fact he’s accepted that role. … He’s at peace with himself. Yeah, he wants to play, and he’s a highly competitive guy. I think it was neat to see him be able to have an opportunity.

“We understand the circumstances that created it. He does, too, and he’s sensitive to that, and Michael’s his No. 1 fan. Mike’s a team guy. I just feel like it’s neat to be able to see him persevere, stay the course, accept his role, and the opportunity presents itself and he seizes it.”

In the locker room postgame, Allen gave the game ball to Tuttle. There wasn’t an actual ball available, though, so Allen just gave his quarterback a 10-second hug, patting him on the back for the duration. When their long embrace ended, Allen handed Tuttle a glove as a substitute.

IU’s players then marked the occasion with a “Tuttle Time” chant.

“Tut-tle Time! Tut-tle Time! Tut-tle Time!”

“It was a really special moment for me and the whole team,” Tuttle said. “It’s a lot of hard work, a lot of hard work, and there’s still a ton more work to be done, a lot more improvement to come here. But it was a really special moment. You gotta enjoy those, so we did, and now we’re moving on to Purdue.”

Purdue is an important game for everyone at IU, including and especially Tuttle. He may have grown up in California, but Tuttle is the son of a former IU kicker, Jay.

He was raised to dislike Purdue. Now, Tuttle gets a chance to beat them.

“Yeah,” Tuttle said, laughing. “My dad’s not a big fan of Purdue, to say the least. Neither am I. But it’s a great, great rivalry game, and we’re really looking forward to it this week, and we’re going to have a great week of practice.”

17 comments

  1. While I appreciate Tuttle’s toughness, I’d prefer he execute his slides and choose to run out of bounds as much as possible. And while I’d love to see Dexter Williams get some playing time, I hope it comes when IU is ahead by 21 points or more in the fourth quarter.

  2. Tuttle answered the questions I had about him dealing with the rush and delivering the pass while under pressure. He showed he is ready for the big time and can lead IU to big victories. We will have to see how he does over the next several games but he has gotten off to a great start.

  3. Tuttle threw som beautiful passes and is mobile. He is really good physically, mentally (cool head), and ability. California kid that Kinda reminds me of Qbs that have played for USC or UCLA in the past. Not necessarily a particular one but they always seemed to be mobile and good passers in Rose Bowl games.

  4. Can’t complain about his toughness and the result of his first start. Thought the throw to Whop for the TD in the corner was a beauty – the trajectory, the touch, the timing. Hoping the big W propels him on to even better performances in the coming weeks.

  5. Purdue isn’t playing up to its talent. That said, IU’s D is premier while the O is ready to break out, especially on a terrible pass defense. Again, Vegas is totally is waaaay off! This week IU is a ‘consented 9.5 favorite’. (Covid and injuries aside)…Ty and Whop have career days. IU 48 Purdue 17.

  6. Brad it would be nice for IU to win that big against PU, I think they can, but bucket games have produced some odd results. I think this year is one of the years the teams play like they have been and IU wins in a big way.

    IU looks better at most of the positions with PU having an edge that isn’t much of an edge at all. IU’s receivers as a group match well with PU’s but PU’s talent may be a bit better at WR. Tuttle should have a bigger game this week and I hope our receivers have a big day as well.

    Defensively, Purdue hasn’t played one like IU and I think IU’s defense will give them fits. If PU doesn’t protect their QB any better IU will get him flustered and continue their INT streak.

    1. Man – I gotta disagree with you (and don’t often). Moore is fantastic, but Mullen will lock him down. TyFry and Whop are both better than any PU receiver – including Moore.

      I was very impressed with Tuttle’s arm. That TD with Whop was a perfect ball and from a ways out. The dropped pass was almost perfect – Marshall was just trying to run before he caught the ball – he smelled the TD and got excited. He is young – doubt that will happen again. I was also impressed at how calmly he went through progressions and found the open man. Didn’t force anything at all.

      While the D gave up some yards in chunks on the ground, it stiffened when it needed to against an elite OL that did a whole lot of holding that never got called (and some illegal blockers down field too).

  7. This is a game that IU should when big. Looking for big game in both, run and pass game. Excellent passes that J.T. threw are highlighted in his high school highlights film. He did that often to receivers like Olave of OSU. So seeing him as a really really good QBs is no surprise. Plus not to overlook that really good quarterbacks often play on really good teams meaning players around them including both, offensive and defensive players that really help really good quarterbacks to be really really good quarterbacks.

  8. Yes, odd things happen in rivalry games like bucket and OSU vs Michigan (not this year nor recent years but past years). Purdue best chance to win is to get IU to play sloppy down to Purdue level and turn Bell or Moore loose. IU best chance is not to let that happen and play up to IU level. Then, IU wins; probably fairly big.

  9. IU defense cannot allow Purdue RB Horvath to get going. Lord, he’s a load! Purdue could make their season by wrecking IU’s. That is what has me anxious. Really hope IU defense can force their QB into mistakes. Go IU! What a football team!!!

    1. Horvath is a load, but this D has held better RBs in check. PU hasn’t played a D like IUs all season – I think we punch them in the face hard early and then they fold like a cheap suit. If the game happens at all…..

  10. Do any of you folks from Indy remember a kid named Julius Brents. He was a 3-star DB who played at Warren Central HS in Indy. He was recruited by IU, Cinci and other schools but decided to play for Iowa. Yesterday he entered the transfer portal, and I’m wondering if he wants to play the remaining two years of his eligibility a little closer to home?

    My question is, although Brents has gotten some playing time at Iowa, I don’t think he’s been a starter, and I’m wondering if he’s good enough to have an impact on IU’s defense? Anybody got any thoughts on that?

    BTW, Iowa has a bunch of players in the Transfer Portal right now.

    1. They may be forced to.

      Also – since Michigan can’t play I think the BIG is gonna screw us. If the BIG was honorable, they would allow the BIG championship to be between the two best teams in the BIG – which is clearly IU and OSU, and by orders of magnitude. IU handled Wiscy better than the score. IU made 3 big mistakes against OSU and the game was STILL decided on the last play.

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