4 things we learned from IU’s loss to Penn State

1. Indiana seems no closer to winning these games
Saturday brought more of the same from an IU football program familiar with letdowns on a big stage.

Against a ranked, albeit beatable opponent, Indiana couldn’t get out of its own way. In failing to do so, Saturday felt like so many recent occasions when the Hoosiers had a chance to achieve the meaningful victory they crave, but ultimately fell victim to their own shortcomings.

The margins for error are always incredibly thin in these situations, yet Indiana has seldom proven that it’s able to rise to the moment and author the clean and convincing winning effort that it’s going to take to finally take the next step.

The latest instance on Saturday proved especially painful, given IU’s statistical advantage over Penn State and what happened just up the road in West Lafayette, where Purdue upset No. 2 Ohio State. Not only did the Boilermakers get the win, they ran away with it.

Indiana has flirted with such results, but that’s about it. Now, the Hoosiers will have to be especially locked in to go on the road Friday night at Minnesota and claim a much-needed win on a short week.

It’s going to take maturity, discipline and focus, qualities this team and this program have lacked when needed the most.

2. Special teams units were a major letdown
It starts with kickoff coverage, where Indiana has been terrible in recent weeks. The Hoosiers are last in the Big Ten, having allowed 591 yards across 22 opponent kick returns through eight games. Not only are they last in the Big Ten, but they rank 126th out of 130 teams nationally.

Go back to last week’s loss to Iowa, where three IU players whiffed while trying to bring down Hawkeyes return man Ihmir Smith-Marsette, who sprinted 60 yards and set up a quick and easy scoring drive.

Penn State’s KJ Hamler took the opening kickoff 58 yards to position the Nittany Lions for a quick and clinical scoring drive in the first two minutes of Saturday’s game. Then, after Stevie Scott pushed IU to a 21-20 advantage with four minutes left in the third quarter, the Hoosiers turned around and gave the lead back after a 94-yard kickoff return set up an easy five-yard score for Trace McSorley.

The kickoff coverage was so poor, it may have overshadowed a bumbling sequence early in the fourth quarter when IU had to burn a valuable timeout because it only had 10 men on the field to field a punt.

Coming out of the timeout, J-Shun Harris’ fumble on the ensuing return effectively ended the game.

3. It’s hard to justify going a month with Michael Penix on the bench
Tom Allen’s desire to redshirt his heralded freshman quarterback is understandable. He’d like to gain an extra year of eligibility, while creating two years of separation between Penix and starter Peyton Ramsey. On its face, that strategy makes sense.

Then, you watch Penix play and it’s abundantly clear that it doesn’t do this team any good to keep him on the bench. On Saturday, he was ready and able to contribute.

Although the final stat line for Penix wasn’t altogether impressive, it doesn’t tell the full story. He finished 9-for-19 for 94 yards and zero touchdowns, a victim of a few costly drops and at least one series-killing penalty that was out of his control.

At the same time, there was an unmistakable jolt that Penix brought to the offense, both with his arm and his legs. At a program like Indiana, the best players need to play.

Whether Penix, whose previous appearance came on Sept. 15, plays again this fall remains to be seen. He suffered a “lower-leg injury” at the end of a 13-yard first-down run early in the second half and did not return to action. Additional information on the severity of Penix’s injury could come Monday.

4. IU’s run game resurfaced
Stevie Scott entered the weekend with a total of 169 rushing yards and one touchdown across the first four Big Ten games. Against Penn State alone, Scott scored twice and totaled 138 yards.

For Scott, it was the first time since the Ball State win on Sept. 15 that he had rushed for more than 100 yards, while his total yardage and 26 attempts both stood as the most for the freshman since Sept. 8 vs. Virginia.

Ronnie Walker also showed his burst, running for a 30-yard touchdown to give IU a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter. It was another big moment for the well-regarded freshman, though his fumble in the red zone on the opening series of the second half was another example of IU making critical mistakes at all the wrong times.

Penalties aside, the offensive line performed well in this regard.

WHAT’S NEXT: At Minnesota, Friday, 8 p.m., TCF Bank Stadium, FS1.

The Gophers lost 53-28 at Nebraska on Saturday, giving the Cornhuskers their first win under new coach Scott Frost. Minnesota allowed 659 total yards to Nebraska, along with a whopping 9.0 yards per play. The Gophers also saw starting quarterback Zack Annexstad head to the hospital after suffering an internal injury during Saturday’s first half. Backup Tanner Morgan competed 11 of his 16 passes for 214 yards with no touchdowns and one pick. IU hasn’t played in Minneapolis since 2008.

54 comments

  1. Call out the fan base. IU doesn’t deserve a good football team. Our fans and student section are a freaking joke. Everyone clamoring about “we deserve a good team”, “hire a real coach” blah blah blah. What coach is going to want to come to IU and have absolutely zero support, zero home field advantage and listen to a bunch of cry baby fans that for the most part clueless when it comes to what a football team should look like. If you left early you are a joke. You are a fair weather fan. You are not a true IU fan. You suck. You are weak. Stay at home. PASSOUTS MUST END NOW!!!!!!!

  2. “Fair weather Fan”, “Jump on the band wagon” and all those other sayings meant to bash fans that do not support losing teams is the biggest CON of all time. Name another instance where consumers are demanded to buy an inferior product such as Indiana football.

  3. I’m with Juan.
    I fully expect a much better crowd against Maryland when we don’t have 50 mph winds and temps dropping like a rock.
    I am a season ticket holder and a believer in Tom Allen and this team. It takes TIME to turn around a program with a history like IU’s. Give Coach Allen some time.
    GO IU!

  4. What losing team are you referring to? You just use “losing team” as an excuse to bail. “Inferior product”… Another excuse to leave early. This team is young, the coach is in his second year and we have won every game we were favored in. Could we be better? Yes. But there is a lot of football to be played. As a fan you need to be there for the kids. For the incoming recruits that are on official visits. For the team that had a chance to win in the final minute. If you need to leave early or you need a Pass Out then you aren’t there for a football game. Seriously, just stay home. We will be lucky to get any decent recruits with fans like this. Those walking out early don’t deserve a good football team. Purdue was 0-3 and selling out their stadium. So go ahead, lay on another crap excuse to defend bailing on the team.

    1. Juan- sounds like you are cry baby. Maybe you deserve the losing team you accept? Yes 1-4 in the Big 10 is a losing team. Clearly, IU’s administration has not supported the team. The lowest paid coaching staff in the Big 10 has performed like the lowest paid coaching staff in the Big 10. Expecting fans to make-up the shortfall is silly and misguided. Fans leaving early is not the problem but the result of many other problems including a lack of institutional support.

  5. Juan, I would agree with you if we saw a trend in the right direction. I think PU fan base is stronger but they have had much better success in recent memory. Plus Brohm has turned around whereas TA just had to keep moving forward from Wilson. I just don’t think he has done that. It is a sad optic on tv, especially at the end of games or after halftime. I will give you that.

  6. 123, thanks for proving my point. Crappy, entitled fan base. Our empty stadium is becoming a national joke. The current players are taking notice and you can bet any potential recruits are as well. The administration is not supporting the team?? Am I thinking of another school that just enclosed its end zones and sunk millions into its football program only to see fans walk out? Everyone wants to field a good product but they don’t want to support it when its needed the most. I’m supporting the team by buying tickets and staying to the end. Even if it is bitter. You’re whining about an inferior product and calling me the cry baby? Sounds like you need to grow up.

    1. Exactly the brain-dead answer I’d expect. So what happens when you stop the passouts? People will leave and not return. What then? Padlock the exits after the opening kickoff? Idiotic. But you never think do you Juan?
      You’re too busy being the all self-important IU superfan. IU can’t win without you! So get out of your Mom’s basement, hitchhike to Minneapolis and camp outside the stadium. If we lose Friday, it won’t be because of a lack of talent, poor coaching or poor execution. No, it’s because IU superfan, Juan Blanco, didn’t cheer loud enough and long enough! You’re our only hope!

  7. Jeff, we just saw a trend in the right direction on Saturday. Every phase except special teams looked better. Yes, there was some bad decisions by the staff but I think Tom Allen recognizes this. Corrections can be made. I’m a firm believer that the coaching staff will improve. The fact is, Coach Allen has another level of recruits coming to IU and we obviously aren’t going to pay a big time coach to come in. So, where is the benefit of bashing the current staff and walking out on the players? Who knows what could happen with a true home field advantage. Unfortunately, we will never have one.

    1. I wouldn’t say never. The fans will come when/if they turn into a winner. I think Tom Allen can be Indiana’s version of Barry Alvarez. Call me optimistic or maybe even crazy but I do believe it can happen.

  8. Juan – watch what you wish for?? Indiana football is not the worst power 5 football school in history because of the fan base. An “Pass-Out” is not whats keeping the fans from coming back into the game. Example: Purdue fan base was starting to erode under Darrell Hazell, but they hire and exciting new coach (Jeff Brohm) that put some excitement into the football (offense and defense) team and into the fan base. Most of the fans on this blog are loyal Indiana fans, are we wouldn’t be here. If the fans left at halftime of an Indiana basketball game, the Indiana administration would panic (a new coach and a new product would be put on the court). The difference is that Indiana administration does not give the football program as much attention….An they only do now because of the money coming in from the Big Ten Network. Don’t panic Tom Allen will be the Indiana football coach for the next 4-6 years. Why? Fred Glass and the IU administration got exactly what they wanted in Tom Allen (a coach with Indiana ties, reduce salary, no head coaching experience – very minimal disruption/demands).

  9. Juan is totally right about the fact that IU has the worst fan base in football. It hasn’t always been this way. When I was a student from 1963-67, the team sucked but we students still went to the games and stuck around till the end. There wasn’t this big tail gate mentality and culture that has developed over the last 30 years or so. People showed up in Bloomington to go to a football game, not to tailgate. Now, it’s all about drinking and partying.

    The game was still totally in doubt at halftime, and half the fans left, never to return, even with the prospect of Penix leading the team to victory in the second half. There is absolutely no excuse for any IU “fan” to leave at half and not return in such a close game, bad weather or not. For crying out loud, the team fought hard and had the ball and a chance to win with a hail Mary at the end. Sure, they couldn’t pull it off, and I doubt they ever will in front of 3000 fans at the end.

    A few weeks ago I remarked on this site the fact Purdue was still drawing good crowds when they were 0-3 and that IU fans should have been ashamed. The response from some on this board was “there isn’t anything else to do in Lafayette”. Tell me what the IU students and fans do when they bail out early besides drink and party?

    I am not aware of any program that allows pass outs and I agree with Juan that these should end.

  10. Stop the pass outs. Let the people that show up for games know their behavior is unacceptable to IU athletics! You purchased tickets and if you leave early you are not welcome to come back into our stadium until next game! That’s just swell.

  11. For people to say the fans will show up when the team wins is the very definition of a “fair weather fan”. That is unacceptable.
    Some of you are acting like we lost to Rutger or Eastern Michigan! We lost to 4 of the best teams in the conference! Were all of you actually expecting to win those games? If so, the IU fan base is even more ignorant than I thought!
    You can tell by the comments here who leaves early. “we need our pass outs to go drink at our awesome tailgate at halftime”.. Joke..
    If you can’t go an entire game without slipping out to the parking lot to drink booze you probably have a problem.
    Can any of you super football fans name a successful program that does pass outs? It is a game day atmosphere killer!
    If you leave early, you suck….. Go Hoosiers!!!!!!

  12. 2018 I U Football game attendance, the big problem for 2018 is the neither Ohio State or Michigan are on the I U home game schedule( their fans travel and follow their teams). Maybe, I U needs to hold a large cash drawing at the conclusion of the game and the winner must be present to claim the prize.
    I U’s Football revenue is near the bottom of the league, with Purdue’s improvement Purdue will make a climb upward above I U. With the new South end zone, and 2019 addition of a new player’s locker room football facilities at I U won’t be lacking. The I U administration and athletic department will need to come up with an answer for lack of football fan support and how to correct the problem. The future I U Football schedule has added some tougher teams and the magic six game winning season will be a tougher goal. Note our family is a long term season ticketholder for football but Saturday’s game was a tough loss for us. Maybe our kick off team can kick the ball out of bounds, so at least the opposing team would start at the 35 yard line.

  13. Idea: if you want a pass out we stamp the back of your hand with a black PO. We then station ushers at all restrooms and if they see a PO stamp, they prevent you from using the facilities. Also impacts people who go out for drinks and comes back in. Working on a phase 2 plan involving fences. Welcome to the hotel Indiana.

  14. I was the last of my group to head out…was in for kickoff and left midway through the 4th quarter. The family behind me traveled to watch their son play and they asked me why so many fans leave. I answered that they leave at the half to drink and the rest leave when the game seems put away. I explained that we who have packed our family and friends and have come for years are as over it as we’ve ever been. That is the consensus in the stands by EVERYONE around me with season tickets. I was a huge supporter of Allen until last weekend. The team just did not play hard…almost from the start and the sideline penalties…what are they trying to prove? After yesterday I wonder what the heck is going on…Penix should have played from the start or at the least started vs Iowa. The team seemed to play harder with him in…it was fascinating to watch vs Penn St. Team meetings by players at the high school, college and NFL level are called when there is dysfunction. With all of that said…I have been going since I was a kid and a 20 year season ticket holder so I will always be there, but I cannot fault fans for leaving. If they buy a ticket and go into the game, they certainly want to be there. It will take a signature win like Purdue this weekend and we have had many chances over the last 20 plus years to get it or an electric coach that will be paid handsomely and energize/unite the fan base. We need someone to believe in!!! Paying your O coordinator more than the head coach is never a good thing.

    1. Particularly when the OC doesn’t come anywhere close to earning it and should backup with his hand out behind him on paydays. Fire him and turn the keys to the offense over to Sheridan and/or Heard. How could the results be any worse.

  15. IU within 7 in the 4th of MSU game. Needed a big stop on defense. Where were the fans? Gone…. IU has a chance to win the game against PSU in the last minute. Fans? Gone… People are clamoring for a signature win but they won’t even be there to see it when it happens. Insanity I say!
    Nebraska is 0-6 and selling out. They have a much better history than IU but haven’t been good for 20 damn years. I’m fed up with losing too. But if you say the fans don’t have to do their part to have a winning program I wholeheartedly disagree with you. We need to do better.. Imagine being an 18 year old kid with IU in your top 5. Then, coming to the PSU game and watching the crowd walk out. That has a massive impact on a young kid. Oh, and the only reason we are getting better recruits is because of Tom Allen. Yet, we turn our backs on him, the current players and the recruits. We as a fan base should be embarrassed.. Even ashamed!

  16. No on Pass Outs, Yes on Black Outs! We not only should not give pass outs but we should demand the Big Ten Network enforce a black out rule of all IU games within a 100 mile radius of Bloomington for home games! Punish the people staying home to watch!

  17. Every year I watch IU Football, I feel like I bought the same clunker from a different used car salesman. I’m always a sucker for the new shiny sell job. By mid-season, it’s just another odometer in losing turned back…Breakthrough is soon breakdown. Time to call for a tow again.
    Basketball around the corner brings hope of a new set of wheels….courtesy of an unexpected inheritance.

  18. I also think the lack of fan support is negatively impacting the level of play in Knothole Park as well. Some of them are future IU recruits and don’t you think for a minute they won’t remember being yanked from the field of play because Mommy was cold!

  19. I have followed Indiana football since 1976. That is 42 years of crap with a few years of moderate success mixed in. It is to the point where I question my judgement to continually get my hopes up for another let down like Saturday. It is the administration, not the kids. The administration has strung us along for all these years and now i am tired of it. If you want an exercise in frustration – be an Indiana football fan.

  20. I agree with Juan on this. IU fans absolutely do not support the football team. I read post after post on here stating that the IU administration does nothing for the football program and those post are right, they don’t. However, the fans are just as guilty for non-support. This past Saturday was just sad. IU was playing well (minus a few plays by the special teams) and was hanging with PSU. They even had a chance to pull out a win at the end and there were like 12 people left in the stands!! The players never gave up, it’s sad that the “fans” did!!

  21. There is much blame to go around as far as fans in the stands. Ticket $, poor game day experience, etc. The football team winning big games will make some difference but I doubt it solves all the issues. It is a shame with the Business School and Arts dept the IU AD dept can’t come up with a top notch game day experience that will attract younger fans and make Memorial Stadium the place to be.

  22. Might be worth an assessment of our band and cheerleaders as well. They could be contributing to IUFB problems.

  23. Juan is speaking the truth. He’s absolutely right. The Hoosier Nation is made up of terrible football fans, and we deserve what we get. If we want a better team, we should demand a new AD and a new coach. But for decades we’ve allowed the clowns that run our University to tolerate failure.

    But IU is not going to break the cycle we’ve been stuck in by hiring Inexperienced Defensive Coordinators who need a few years to learn how to be a head coach. Fred Glass has had two chances to hire a proven head coach, and he’s gotten it wrong both times. No other Power-five conference school’s AD could keep his job after his Football Program produced 11 consecutive losing seasons and the unclaimed revenue from football resulting from low attendance. How does Glass still have a job?

    1. I think we all agree that weekends hoping for things to get better has become “maddening and exasperating”. Glass has done well with the basketball and baseball hires,…football—eh, well I actually belive it’s cursed beyond recovery. 676 losses since 1887, most of any football program in the country. IU is not in the conference’s hockey or lacrosse leagues. They do however play division 2 hockey in ACHA while maintaining conference membership. I feel it is realistic to consider just chucking football altogether. 131 years of exasperation is more than enough.

    2. How does Glass still have a job?

      Why weren’t you asking that question after so many years of turnover laden dysfunctional basketball?

      I guess that’s the problem with giving the powers of hiring an AD to a committee room headed up by Tom Crean. There should have been outrage that the president of IU did not name the new AD. The new AD should have then been in charge of the basketball coach selection.

      Now that the love affair with the used car salesman selling Christianity more than quality basketball is over, you want Fred’s head on a platter. Geez, what a surprise.

  24. What would be the impact if we went independent in football only? Schedule our own games? Kicked out of the B10?

    1. Boy the longer this string goes on the sillier it gets.
      I expect IU to win in Gopher country. Then everyone on here will be clamoring for Maryland. The horse is on. I think there is a better chance IU at6-5 Just as it should be.

  25. Yeah, a day after Christmas bowl game in Detroit. Who cares? More importantly, the College Cup is in Santa Barbara this year. IU has the team to make it again, and just a 3 hour drive for me! I like it!

  26. I agree with the author- “Indiana seems no closer to winning these games”. Hopefully they can beat Minnesota and Maryland because Michigan and Purdue now seem like long shots. If they split the next 2, IU can still tell recruits they are just a couple of difference-making players away. If they lose out,Tom Allen will look like Bill Lynch or Cam Cameron- coordinators that couldn’t make the jump to head coach. Big Ten East is a tough place for on the job training.

  27. After watching the game last weekend, I’ve lost confidence in this team and do not expect them to win another game this season. Hope I’m wrong, but I think IU will be 4 – 8 this year. If we beat either MN or MD, I’ll be delighted. But I don’t expect this young team to beat MN on the road, and as we’ve seen, IU does not have any home field advantage. If we win two more games, it will be a miracle.

  28. Do you ever consider how many sentences you’ve started on Scoop with “Hope I’m wrong”….?

    Of course, when you sell something that much, who the hell is buying it?

  29. Minnesota hasn’t won a Big Ten game. Their QB is hurt and may not play. IU should win. I’m not confident against Maryland or the other 2. Like everyone, I don’t want to see them lose but hard to see this team winning when they so often beat themselves.

  30. Brain dump here –

    Long time reader here for several years. Finally registered today, after seeing some of these comments.. As an avid IUFB fan, I do agree that our fanbase is one of the worst amongst the Power 5 schools. Do we have “bandwagon fans?” Absolutely. Do people go to Btown, just to tailgate? Of course. This hurts our effort on the field, and most importantly recruiting. I do believe if we start filling the stadium, we will start turning around this program. I, for one, went to 90% of IU’s home games during my 4 years at IU (2008-2012), and witnessed some embarrassingly low attendance seasons. Was it frustrating to watch games from a 1/2 filled stadium? Absolutely, and I do see the frustration from other ‘die-hards’.

    That being said, I don’t think eliminating ‘pass-outs’ is going to solve anything. In fact, that will keep fans from buying tickets in the first place. We just need to stay realistic, as it’s fairly difficult to change an entire fanbase that’s used to losing.

    Why isn’t anyone talking about how the IU Athletics are OVER CHARGING for tickets? Maybe we should start offering tickets at a more reasonable price, or lower. Sacrifice ticket profits for a few seasons, and see if attendance goes up. I’m sure the Indiana alums from other parts of the state would be more inclined to take their families to games, and enjoy the atmosphere. Watch the attendance increase, results begin to improve, highly touted recruits start to show up. Once that happens, we can then increase those ticket prices. They need to think long-term, as the athletics dept is a bit short-sighted on this issue.

    I know IU is a dry campus and all, but why not start selling alcohol at the the stadium concessions?Other collegiate teams do. Charge stadium prices (~$8-$10/ beer), it sounds high, but people WILL pay and WILL stay, which would eliminate the “pass-out” issue. The IU administration should just make an exception for IU Football, as they will realize the additional revenue it would pull for it. If they really want to, make it a IUFB-only thing. Make them unique, and separate them further from any other sport in the department. Don’t get IUBB involved.

    That’s a start.

  31. Welcome IUBBFB. It’s good to have some new participants offering comments on this site. Good first post!

  32. I covered the selling booze in Memorial months ago (posted a link showing Purdue’s change in allowing beer sales inside their stadium). I believe Minnesota allows it as well. None of these are new arguments.

    The attendance would have been better if Allen had started Penix from early on in the season. You can’t expect fans to come with such a conservative, dunk and dink, offense limited in offering a full array of threat potential.

    Beer sales would certainly help. I would sell at Assembly Hall as well. I’m sure they’re drinking in those exclusive sky boxes. Give less elite peasantry the same opportunity.

  33. Good post IUBBFB. IU already sells alcohol at the Spring games, and used to have a free keg when Wilson was just getting started. I didn’t see it causing any problems. But I’m here to defend the fans that stay home or leave early. IU has great fans. We set records for basketball, we travel for the soccer team and support other sports. And the fans of football are absolutely STARVED for a wining team. But in my days as an alumni, I’ve seen IU hire 2 good head coaches- Hep and Mallory. Both had long track records as head coaches with winning systems already in place. Everyone else except for Dinardo, was a coordinator that IU got cheap and was hoping would grow into the job. The problem is they never do. And I mean they NEVER do. Our current coaching staff will make the 14th highest income in the Big 10. Is anything that is 14th out of 10 any good, ever? So stop with the circular firing squads. Put the blame where the blame lies- the administration that will not spend the money to get proven coaches. Especially with the BTN contract, there’s no excuse for not paying enough for proven talent. TA may buck the trend and eventually grow into a solid head coach, but don’t blame fans that don’t feel obligated to have to watch the growing pains. PS I did my grad school work at Texas A&M- the most profitable college football program in the country. No one would ever blame a fan for not going to the game or leaving early. They would only feel sorry for them because they probably missed something special. IU Football fans do not know or understand that feeling and that is truly a shame.

  34. Wilson, I believe, was a good hire. He may have peaked when he left, maybe not, but he left the program in much, much better shape than he found it. Hiring a proven-winner head coach is not a guarantee of anything (see: Fleck, P. J.) Pat Fitzgerald wasn’t even the DC when NU promoted him to HC; he was the linebackers coach.

    1. Hell if HCing experience is the ingredient needed then Butch Jones should be given a call. He’s available and got lots of experience to fill the bill so no OJT. I’ll bet that taste is different depending on who’s mouth it is in.

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