4 Things We Learned: Penn State 45, Indiana 14

1. There’s no easy solution to the quarterback dilemma, but IU needs to make a decision.

Too often during Saturday’s first half, Indiana starting quarterback Richard Lagow missed high or wide, and his inconsistency led to more questions than answers about the direction of IU’s passing game. Meanwhile, backup Peyton Ramsey didn’t show enough to prove he can consistently move Indiana’s offense, either. Although Ramsey continues to bring a different dimension through zone read, it’s not clear that he has the arm to threaten a defense downfield. That’s a problem, especially when the strength of IU’s offense is its receivers. Playing the entire second half, Ramsey completed merely four of 13 passes for 33 yards during the final two periods. The two-quarterback approach seldom works and, one month into the season, the Hoosiers are struggling to establish an offensive identity because of it. Neither Lagow nor Ramsey has made a compelling case for their services, but Indiana is nearing a point where it ought to pick one or the other.

2. The offensive line is showing better cohesion.

Considering the caliber of competition, IU’s offensive line gave its most encouraging performance to date Saturday. Although imperfect, this young group did a nice job creating a fairly consistent push against a veteran Penn State defense. Not only did the Hoosier linemen show a better capacity for opening running lanes, at times they created some wide berths, at that. Pass protection was also satisfactory. Indiana was physically up to the challenge in a difficult road environment, performing at a level that bodes well for the teeth of Big Ten play later this month.

3. Injuries are taking a toll.

This is a good week to have Football Championship Subdivision program Charleston Southern on the schedule. Although the upcoming game lacks excitement, Indiana needs a week where it can rest some players and prepare for a homecoming showdown against Michigan in two weeks. The unspecified injury suffered Saturday by punt returner J-Shun Harris is among the latest blows to the Hoosiers’ depth chart after the team recently lost starting corner A’Shon Riggins and hybrid defensive back Marcelino Ball for an indefinite period. Ball’s unspecified injury is particularly concerning. Tony Fields has played well at free safety, but pressed into filling Ball’s role at Husky, Fields was picked on all day by the Nittany Lions. Indiana will also hope that right tackle Brandon Knight, who didn’t play during Saturday’s second half, will be healthy for the next Big Ten contest.

4. It’s back to cleanup mode for IU’s special teams.

Indiana has endured some poor special teams play during the past few seasons, but nothing quite like the across-the-board shortcomings at Penn State. Harris, a back-to-back Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week honoree, committed a costly fumble that led to a score. Indiana also whiffed on the opening kickoff, allowing Saquon Barkley to run untouched to the end zone on a 98-yard score. There was also a roughing the kicker penalty against Jayme Thompson that led to a fresh set of downs and an eventual Penn State touchdown. Punter Haydon Whitehead also had the worst game of his young career, finishing with an average punt distance of 38 yards. Indiana will press on hoping Saturday was merely an aberration.

WHAT’S NEXT: Charleston Southern (2-2), Saturday, 3:30 p.m., Memorial Stadium, BTN.

This is Indiana’s replacement game for the Hurricane Irma-related cancellation by Florida International last month. The Buccaneers have played only one FBS opponent this season, managing only two first downs and 33 yards of total offense in a 49-0 season-opening loss at Mississippi State. This will need to be a get-right game for one or both of Indiana’s quarterbacks with the Michigan game looming on Oct. 14.

11 comments

  1. Very troubling that Tom Allen didnt have this team ready in the first quarter im starting to wonder about him going forward as far as qb evaluation goes

  2. MM, Good analysis. I will add with the OL showing obvious improvement growing the rushing attack to become an asset opens up the passing routes down field. Throwing the long ball is RL’s strength. At least it was under Wilson. I believe only 1 was thrown Saturday. Another questionable coaching decision handicapping the Hoosiers.

  3. I know it has only been four games under Mike Debord offensive, but I remember a few fans on this blog advising that Mike was this great QB developer and Grant Heard would really develop the wide receivers……to put it politely Lagow is Lagow still, an beside the one stud (Simmie Cobbs) wide receivers IU has, there has not been any improvements among the other wide receivers. An to be polite also, we the fan have to realize that IU has lost two games to two ranked teams (Ohio State #2 and Penn State #4). The question we have to asked as fan is or was IU competitive against those two teams?? While playing those teams early in the schedule IU was basically injury free. Now IU players are fairly beat up and we are going into some of the more winnable games, with injuries and question marks at quarterbacks and running backs. Can IU be competitive in the remainder of its games?

  4. Taking over this team the coaches were faced with the offensive roster being a mess. I think Wilson’s reputation was harming recruiting which is one reason he couldn’t get a top QB in after Nate Sudfeld. Our OL was depleted and RB didn’t have quality at the senior or junior level.

    In addition we played two teams that people had ranked #2 and #4 in the country. Even with OSU’s loss they are hovering around the top 5. The OL is slowly getting better and we have a couple good young RBs that aren’t seasoned enough yet to play every down. A change in QB is being made and we will have to see how it changes the offense.

    Anyone that didn’t see the inadequacies in the OL and RB were blind. I was hopeful Lagow could improve but it is clear he hasn’t. It is telling we only have two underclassmen at QB so if you doubt this team put the blame where it belongs. Wilson would have struggled with this group just as he did last year. Having different coaches doesn’t perform a miracle in one year.

  5. I like Tom Allen. I like him a lot. But head coaches, like anyone else new to a major leadership role, go through a learning curve. And while I know Allen takes a lot of pride in the performance and toughness of his defense, I was annoyed by his reaction to IU making an INT in the first half of Saturday’s game. Allen went bonkers, jumping up and down on the sideline, as if IU had just thrown a hail Mary TD pass to win the Rose Bowl. At the time of the INT, I believe the score was 28-7, and IU had already gift-wrapped the game for PSU. A high five and/or a hug to the guy who made the INT would have been appropriate, but Allen was over-the-top in celebrating the “take away.” Given the circumstances, the level to which he celebrated the play looked ridiculous. He needs to remember that he’s the head coach of the entire team, and not just the head coach of the defense.

  6. Excuses. We’ve got a big arm QB and several big WR’s but the OC won’t pull the trigger on the long ball. Also a RB coach who initially couldn’t effectively identify RB talent to leverage the most impact. After 4 games he still only has it half right. 1st year HC at an away game against a top ranked conference opponent with a dynamic ball carrier and gives the ball away after winning the toss. If not for Hiller who has his group getting traction the offensive staff is 1 bad decision following another. The fortunes of this team after Charleston Southern are bleak because DeBord can’t get it done with middling to average talent. To top it off the only thing offered is that it is Wilson’s fault.

  7. The performance of IU’s offensive line Saturday appeared to be much improved. Either that, or PSU’s weakness was exposed. They were opening some huge holes and dominating PSU’s defensive line for several series. Too bad the momentum was halted when Ellison fumbled on IU’s second play of the game. Then the roof came crashing down as a result of mistakes made by special teams.

    Ellison may have the most potential of any back on IU’s team, but he’s still a freshman. He got his “welcome to the Big Ten” on the play in which he fumbled. Hopefully, it was a valuable learning experience for this talented young man.

  8. I doubt if Wilson would have struggle with this group….don’t pass the blame!! you state our OL is depleted than you say that our OL is slowly getting better which is it?? I cannot believe that Coy Cronk, Brandon Knight and Wes Martin are that bad….I think it is a poor blocking scheme..This team and OL has already lost some of if aggressiveness, which they had develop under Kevin Wilson and Greg Frye. It is amazing to me that doing the Deland McCullough era coaching the running backs, that IU could get 3 to 4 (Tevin Coleman, Deving Redding, Jordan Howard and Stephan Husdson), 1000 yards rushers. An now all of sudden the cardboard is bare…Give me a break!!!! Stop making excuses for this staff!! At the present time they are failing!!! But I give them a pass because they where playing Ohio State and Penn State. As i said previous this is the second time around for Tom Allen defense and the league is/has learned something about it. As far as QB are concern Wilson went out and got the best QB (Tre Roberson, Cam Coffman (JC), Richard Lagow, Zander Diamont and Austin King) he could that wanted to attend that “GREAT” football program at IU. Kevin Wilson inherited a “MESS”, Tom Allen and staff inherited a team that was fairly competitive and BIG 10 ready!!! It is also amazing that Richard Lagow under Wilson had very good statistic (yardage, completions) but his INT where horrible. Under this staff Lagow INT are still there, but the other statistic are lousy. Yes, we have a media and fan friendly coaching staff now, but can they produce and recruit enough to stay competitive in the BIG 10 EAST.

  9. IU79, saying the roster is a mess was wrong by me but there have been problems in some areas. The OL has been without Knight for most of the games this year. When he was in against PSU the OL opened up big holes against PSU. As far as Lagows stats being low you forget he through for more than 400 yds versus OSU but through 5 quarters was on track for 27 INTs this year. So far IU has beaten one opponent that is having a better season than people though, UVA. The real question about this staff is your last phrase in your post.

  10. vesuvius13, you are correct there is some concern with the roster in certain areas….we just probably disagree on where the problems are on this roster. Personally, I am trying to give this coaching staff a fair chance (had just gotten use to Kevin Wilson as the head coach). I have to realize this is Tom Allen first time as a head coach and some mistakes are going to be made (growing pains). Do not know if Patrick Ramsey is the answer to the current teams offensive woes, but Ican understand the switch!! Have a real feeling that this seasons and team is still going to need Richard Lagow before the season is over….just hope he still believes in himself when he gets another chance to play.

  11. Lagow has had mobility, accuracy and confidence issues his whole IU career. He probably will make a good coach some day but he’s not wired for quarterback. After the Virginia game, Ramsey was asked about Simmie Cobbs scoring a touchdown. He said” He (Cobbs) made a play for me.” That’s a redshirt freshman who had never started a game saying the best receiver in the B1G made a play not for the team, but FOR HIM. That is a level of confidence you don’t see very often and is why Ramsey will be a very good quarterback. What did Lagow say after the game? “I’d be just as happy if I got in for 1 play to take a knee at the end of the game as I would if I started.” That is the difference in their levels of confidence and leadership. Lagow looks the part but Ramsey is better wired to lead.

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