Another missed opportunity for IU in loss to Penn State

Tom Allen said the right things, albeit the things he’s said before.

He was proud of the effort, he believes in his guys, the team will keep fighting and, one of these days, Indiana is going to win the kinds of games it hasn’t.

One of these days.

But not Saturday.

It must get old to say. It certainly gets old to watch. IU once again put a scare into a ranked opponent, this time outplaying No. 18 Penn State for the majority of the afternoon.

Ultimately, bad breaks and sloppy play in moments where the Hoosiers could ill afford such things doomed them to a 33-28 loss to the Nittany Lions at windy Memorial Stadium.

“They’re hurting, and yeah, they want to win these close games,” Allen said. “And we will.”

It could’ve happened Saturday, if not for the maddening sequences that have come to define Indiana football. The Hoosiers (4-4, 1-4) outgained the Lions (5-2, 2-2), 554-417. They produced 32 first downs to Penn State’s 20, out-rushed the visitors 224-174 and averaged 5.5 yards per play.

But Indiana also recovered only one of the game’s seven fumbles, committed seven penalties — five of them holding and three of those by left guard Wes Martin — and suffered through a woeful effort from the special teams units.

“Just a gut-wrenching loss for our team today,” Allen said.

There’s no doubt about that, especially on a day when heralded freshman quarterback Michael Penix gave the Hoosiers’ offense a jolt, only to leave with a lower leg injury on the second offensive series of the second half. After the game, Allen said he was unsure of his status.

The Hoosiers also held a pair of leads — 14-7 and 21-20 — and responded by shooting themselves in the foot.

With the Hoosiers up seven early in the second quarter, Penix drove the IU offense toward midfield after a 19-yard pickup by receiver Whop Philyor. But a holding call against right guard Simon Stepaniak wiped the big gain off the books. Indiana punted and Penn State tied the game on a six-play, 83-yard drive, capped by a 23-yard touchdown pass by former IU commit Tommy Stevens. A 27-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar on the Lions’ next possession extended PSU’s lead to 17-14.

Midway through the second quarter, Penix drove the Hoosiers as far as the Penn State 10. From there, on fourth-and-one, IU lined up in an attempt to draw the Lions offsides. For a moment, it appeared it might work.

Outside linebacker Cam Brown jumped into the neutral zone, then quickly stepped back. Center Hunter Littlejohn snapped the ball anyway, surprising Penix, who tossed the ball beyond the reach of Nick Westbrook in the end zone.

“We weren’t supposed to snap the football, so we made a mistake,” Allen said. “It was very clearly stated what we were supposed to do, and somebody made a mistake. That’s why he was surprised that the ball was snapped, because it wasn’t supposed to be. We were supposed to do that, get them to jump offsides, if they don’t, then you kick a field goal.”

IU re-inserted Ramsey as the quarterback to manage the clock on the final drive of the half, but widespread personnel confusion in the waning seconds prevented Indiana from running a final play or attempting a field goal.

“I don’t know if we really had enough time to go get a field goal there,” Ramsey said. “I’m not sure how much time was left on the clock (that final play). We’ll watch it and learn from it. I don’t have a good answer for you there.”

With IU opening the second half on offense, the sloppiness continues. IU drove deep into Penn State territory, but a fumble by Walker gave the Lions the ball at their 23. A 13-play, 63-yard drive ended with a 32-yard field goal by Pinegar to put Penn State ahead 20-14.

The tough breaks continued when Penix left the game after a 13-yard scramble on the second series of the second half. It appeared that Penix took two shots on the play — his right knee got caught underneath the tackle and safety Garrett Taylor was also ejected for what was determined to be targeting upon replay review. Penix didn’t return.

The Hoosiers responded with a 9-play, 81-yard drive capped with a key second-effort play by Stevie Scott, who charged up the middle from three yards out and reached across the goal line for the go-ahead score at 21-20. It was the second touchdown of the game for Scott, who also scored from five yards out early in the first quarter.

The prosperity, however, was short lived.

A 94-yard kickoff return by Johnathan Thomas put the ball at the IU 5, from where Trace McSorley ran it in on the next play. The extra point was blocked, making it a 26-21 Penn State lead that the Lions did not relinquish.

Thomas’ big return was part of IU’s ugly day on special teams.

The Hoosiers also yielded a 58-yard return to KJ Hamler on the opening kick, allowing Penn State a short field for its first touchdown drive.

“To me it’s really, really frustrating to give up those,” Allen said. “To play so well on offense and defense and give up those kind of return yards, it just makes me want to puke.”

IU later had to burn a timeout early in the fourth quarter after lining up with only 10 men on the field for a punt return. After the timeout, J-Shun Harris fumbled the punt at the Indiana 32.

That turned into an easy, five-play scoring drive for Penn State, capped by a four-yard run by quarterback Trace McSorley.

“Special teams really hurt us today,” Allen said. “That was to me the glaring thing that I’m very disappointed in.”

Indiana made it a five-point game when Ramsey connected with Harris for a 21-yard touchdown with 49 seconds remaining. The Hoosiers extended hope by recovering the ensuing onside kick, only to commit another holding penalty and see Ramsey get sacked.

Another close game, another close call, yet more of the same.

“You know, it’s hard,” Ramsey said. “It’s frustrating. But at the same time you see glimpses of a really good football team. It’s frustrating that we struggled to put it all together.”

22 comments

  1. Would the three points that T.A. forfeited in the first half have made a difference?

    Take the points, Coach. This ain’t High School football.

  2. T.A. learned that from K.W. I agree take 3. Penn State would have probably returned kick off for TD to close half. It is IU fb.
    IU defense and kick game made some mistakes as usual.
    However, IU has to play every decent big ten game with handicap at qb. Rudy trying to play qb in big ten (like analogy of comparing PR to Rudy)

  3. IU played hard giving themselves chances to win this game but mistakes bogus holding calls, some not all, and losing Penix sealed the loss. For every poster claiming this past week that coach had lost the team and they weren’t good enough to win another game the team showed they are willing to lay down and quit.

    I didn’t mind the decision to go for it on fourth down but I hated the fade call. Penix rifles the ball in there and giving him a chance at a TE in the middle or one of the WR breaking inside would be a better option. Still getting the ball back with thirty some yards to go it didn’t make sense to go back to Ramsey when sharp quick passes were needed.

    This game is disappointing but IU went up against a team loaded with 4 and 5 star players and gave them everything they wanted with a number of our players only being true freshmen. I see the program on the rise but there are some issues that need to be corrected by next year.

  4. IU has given Penn State (and others) good games in the past. Even before losses of Gest and E trying to go with PR was recipe for it to to catch up. Have receivers digressed and they get punished with PR at qb. Barring injury to MP a downfield passing attack would have opened up run game and how much better would offense be, receivers less punished and more confident and qb more confident/better by now. And how much more inspiring would defense feel? Plus a more effective running game. Maybe a win vs MSU and Penn State (maybe another win). Definitely more competitive.

  5. t, that is what I haven’t understood about this year. I get starting Ramsey the first couple of games and bringing in Penix often to give him needed experience. then after a couple of games start Penix and let the team benefit from his talent making our WR better, RBs better, and OL better. I just didn’t get the total buy in as Ramsey the starter. As the season rolls on Ramsey shows his negatives nearly outweigh is positives.

  6. AD Glass, please! I beg you! The band uniforms need updating to improve the game experience. Help!

  7. Meh, no such thing as moral victories. They may have a wealth of 4/5 stars, but they played a woeful game and were ripe to be upset. They served us up a win on a silver platter and we simply pulled another IU choke job. Yet another great effort without the requisite execution to get a win. Complain about Ramsay all you want – and I agree Penix should have supplanted him already – but a competent football team even with Ramsay doesn’t shoot itself in the foot like we did today and find a way to lose.

  8. It harder to take a loss when you beat yourself. Questions for Coach Vesuvius, why did Ramsey come in to run the last series in the first half, I was at the game and it looked to me that Penix had Penn State defense unsure had to defense him. Also Penix had run the previous series. In the second half I U brought Penix to run a series after Ramsey had run the first series of the second (also the series Penix was hurt, how can either QB have any game flow if he is in and out of the game.? The spearing of Penix looked like a job of head hunting by Penn State.

  9. I Have a good feeling about playing next week on Friday night with the other high school teams. Just seems right.

  10. Any doubt now about which program Purdue or Indiana is moving in the right direction??? Any doubt about which program will win 6 games or more?? WOW!!

  11. Unbelievable scene at Purdue?? Love what Jeff Brohm said at the end of the game….we where aggressive as a team.

  12. IU South it is something I was asking when Ramsey went in. I don’t understand coaches about playing Ramsey over Penix except wanting to red-shirt him which isn’t a good thing. When Penix stayed in the game for so long I was hoping they finally saw what many of us were seeing about the offense. Penix sure helped the team and the players looked more confidence when he was in. He also showed why the offense is a dink and dunk offense when Ramsey is in because Penix aired it out.

    He needs more experience and coaches kept him from getting it until this game. It is a shame he Penix was hurt in the game but I hope it isn’t a serious injury; of course this is IU so all I can do is hope.

  13. Purdue’s blow-out win over OSU should put an end to all the talk about how weak the Big Ten West is. It should put an end to any question which school, IU or Purdue, made the right decision in hiring a new head football coach 20 months ago. IU beat Purdue four years in a row, and within a season and a half, Purdue has blown by IU. How? In a word, leadership. Purdue’s got far superior leadership, from the President, the Board of Trustees, and the A.D. And by the looks of Purdue’s 2019 recruiting class, the program is just going to get stronger. Last night’s victory was HUGE!

    For those of you who are counting on Brohm to get poached away from Purdue by another school, while that could happen, don’t be surprised when Mitch Daniels offers Brohm a contract extension with a big increase in compensation. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, Mitch Daniels is a very smart man and a great leader. He’s not going to let another school poach Brohm away without putting up a serious fight to keep him. And if you’re Brohm, why would you want to leave Purdue after all the work you’ve put in to transform the program? My guess is that the only schools who will be able to out-bid Purdue will be SEC schools. Anybody notice that Purdue’s stadium was filled to the brim last night?

    1. Smartest move Purdue ever made was getting Mich Daniels to be President. Brilliant guy that is transforming the school. Their ratings are skyrocketing, their grad salaries are skyrocketing. They haven’t had a tuition increase since he’s been there and their sports teams doing amazing things too.

    2. I find it hard to believe that Purdue could compete with the likes of an Auburn who is on the verge of letting their coach go and knowing a few Auburn alum are ready to offer some pretty big number to Brohm. Rumor has it, they would make Brohm the second or third highest paid coach in the SEC. Louisville will make a hard run too and may get an alma mater discount on the salary.

  14. Yep, it was a great hire. Daniels is a great University President who has used innovative thinking to rapidly elevate Purdue. He puts IU’s leadership to shame.

  15. Podunker and 123, both of your comments listed above are the reason our family has set an endowment at Purdue University for STEM Scholarships for undergrad students from Southern Indiana.

  16. Smartest move Purdue ever made? Huh….? I thought the smartest move Purdue ever made was to cut the ties with the personal hairdresser doing the extensions for the Keady combover?

    Keady remains known for the second worst extensions in the history of college basketball….First place remains the extensions given to Crean by Fred Glass(Turnover extensions still beat combover extensions when under 5-banner lighting).

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