Penix returns versus No. 25 Michigan State

Ten minutes after redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey took a stroll on the field, redshirt freshman Michael Penix Jr. emerged from the locker room with a white hoodie covering his head.

He held his arms out like a “T” as he paced, stretching his shoulders with tight circular motions. After a conversation with offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer, he set up at the 10 yard line as if he were behind center, knees bent, smacking his hands to signal the snap.

A ball was underhand tossed to him, and Penix threw his first pregame, warmup pass to a receiver in three weeks. Even though he didn’t practice every day of the week leading into Saturday’s game versus No. 25 Michigan State, Penix was ready.

“I didn’t practice every day, but pregame, I felt pretty good. Coach (Tom Allen) made the decision to let me play,” Penix said. “I prepared, keeping my head in the game, just making sure I knew all the plays, knew all the reads.

“All the times I wasn’t in practice, I was mentally prepared and making sure I was always on top of the game.”

After sitting out a lopsided loss and a lopsided win over Ohio State and UConn, respectively, Penix didn’t seem to have any rust.
He threw three touchdowns to no picks. He had more than 300 yards passing until the last desperation play of the game went backward and into the end zone, leaving him with 286.

Heading into a bye week, the Hoosiers have more evidence of what Penix can provide behind center, when healthy.

Penix was putting extra work into getting loose during pregame warmups. Between every throw, Penix kept testing his shoulders, whipping his arms around in circles, or keeping his elbows locked at a 90-degree angle, fanning the air with his hands.

His body felt good enough to play. And the quarterback was good enough to nearly get his team a win in hostile territory.

“To me the biggest thing is to be able to do what he did in this environment, with really just a couple games under his belt, really nothing similar in regards to the opponent,” Allen said, recalling that Penix did play against Penn State last year, but that was at home and not a start.

The last two weeks, Penix was a game-time decision, but each week, he came out for pregame warmups and stood beside Ramsey, handing him balls as he threw to receivers.

This week, Penix ramped up his throwing at practice, though he still took days off. Allen admitted he wasn’t sure Penix would play the entire game versus the Spartans.

“He didn’t practice every day, but he practiced enough to where we felt comfortable playing him, starting him,” Allen said. “Really didn’t know if he was going to be able to go the whole game to be real honest with you. Had Peyton ready to do that. You just go through and you evaluate with our medical staff.

“They did a phenomenal job of helping him rehab and getting to the point where he can play.”

Penix did take a couple of hits Saturday, which was inevitable versus a Michigan State defense that features last year’s Big Ten defensive lineman of the year, Kenny Willekes. The Spartans had 15 sacks coming into the weekend but managed to get Penix just once.

Penix’s blindside was protected by redshirt sophomore Caleb Jones, who stayed at right tackle in the wake of senior Coy Cronk’s injury at left tackle. True freshman Matthew Bedford anchored the left side all afternoon.

The 19-year-old quarterback came out of the MSU loss feeling good physically. Asked if he was 100 percent, Penix said he yes.

“We didn’t get the win, but (left tackle) Matt Bedford, he had to step up, true freshman, he did real good,” Penix said. “The offensive line, they helped him and they all communicated with each other. Coaches put us in the right situations to make sure we were in the right spots at the right time.”

Bedford steps up

Matt Bedford, the freshman tackle, has big shoes to fill as the replacement for Coy Cronk.
Cronk, a fourth-year starter, went down versus UConn with a season-ending ankle injury. Bedford hadn’t played a college snap until last weekend’s game.

Allen reminded questioners that Bedford hadn’t played much offensive line until his senior year of high school.

“A guy like Matt, gosh, I’m telling you, that’s a tough task for him to be thrust into, because he’s not even a seasoned offensive tackle. He played D-tackle in high school most of the time,” Allen said. “He has a very limited rep base at that position. He’s as good as he wants to be.”

Bedford, a 6-foot-6, 307-pounder, has the physical tools to be a great player. He just needs to make strides mentally.

“His biggest fault is he takes things too personal and gets too hard on himself,” Allen said. “We are trying to work on him, ‘Hey, play the next play,’ not dwell on the last play, or the last two or three plays. He tends to do that.

“But Coach (Darren) Hiller, I think he’s an amazing O-line coach. He does a great job teaching, and I believe in him, that’s why I brought him here. He’s going to get those guys ready. It’s their job, every week, to help us run the football and go score points.”

IU scored 31 points on Michigan State, quite the feat versus a unit that came into the contest giving up an average of 11. The Hoosiers also picked up 70 rushing yards, about 18 yards above the Spartans’ average, though it was on 2.5 yards a carry.

“There were some times in practice the last couple of weeks where if you had told me he was going to start against Michigan State, I would have been like ‘Ooo,’” Allen said. “But he responded. When you lose a guy like Coy, I think you just pull together. I’m telling yah.

“I hate that we lost him, and it hurts moving forward, but other guys have to step up.”


    1. Not so sure, PO. The amount of confidence and support expressed toward a coach by his superiors is often in inverse proportion to actual job security. How many times have you heard the AD say that he is 100% behind his beleaguered HC, only to fire him after the next beating?

  1. At least OL protected MP fairly well. IU just needs to continue to improve run game. That may come with improved pass game and it should show in some weaker big ten games as development in all areas take place. I am impressed with MP attitude, leadership when interviewing with Don Fisher (2 times I have heard him).
    The question for IU is will they follow thru and beat solidly weaker big ten competition and not take backward steps by continuing to move forward? Some wins are there for the taking if IU can get defense and offense to play a good game in the same game and at key times in game. Historically, when offense plays well the defense plays bad and when defense plays well the offense plays bad, or both play bad.
    Beyond 6 wins are there this year capped off with win over Purdue if MP can stay in line up and team develops throughout season.
    A positive to me is durability of MP in MSU game and IU physicality is getting a little better.

  2. PO, it doesn’t seem like it based on his comments and if we are only talking about teaching pass pro but the job is more than that. His background is good but we need to see young players developed and recruiting to pick up for the OL.

    IU has some very good young players and the future looks bright with those players. We need to see the defense improve with the very good young players IU has. I hope Wommack learns some lessons from this game and adjusst alignments to give our players a better shot at making plays.

    As the season goes on, more is learned about each team. OSU is showing IU wasn’t so bad as it looked against them. Martinez had a terrible game against them and Nebraska fell to earth in that game. NW looks bad on offense and Johnson may have lost his starting job this week. PU looks bad on defense but are still dangerous. Rutgers is so far down they can’t see any light. Maryland is still a mystery as they aren’t as good as they seemed and I am guessing not as bad as they now look. PSU seems to have life after McSorely and are rolling along. UM is wondering if they will win 9 games this year. Iowa is Iowa and will probably win ten this year. Illinois still looks bad and I doubt they will match last year’s 4 win season. Minnesota is a wild card in the West with Wisconsin looking like they will win the West this year. IU could win another 4 or 5 games especially if the defense tightens up.

    1. If you know any coaches, Greg Frey and Kevin Wilson were largely responsible for IU’s stellar offensive line play in the past few years. Hiller isn’t cut from the same cloth, and it shows. Will be interesting to see if he moves on after this season. Defensively, there are some issues with how things are being run and how they’re practicing and preparing. I’ll leave it at that. There’s definitely the feeling that they let one get away, and the inexperience of a few coaches is starting to stand out.

  3. I can’t get a fix in Minny. I have watched Purdue’s games this year and they were legitimately terrible before yesterday. Their first three opponents lost their next games after Purdue not only going 0-3 but giving up 181 points in the process. You read that right. The Boils went 1-2 against that sorry bunch. They haven’t been able to get out of their own way all season. The comeback by the Boils’ freshman quarterback might indicate that is an upgrade but they were already pretty awful.

    Moore can’t be replaced. I wish he had played in 5 games already.

    I just don’t think Minnesota is very good. Not necessarily bad but they haven’t even played a good team yet.
    They have been barely squeezing past some pretty weak teams. That being said, other than PSU, Iowa, and maybe Nebraska, they have an amazingly weak schedule ahead of them.

    I don’t think the Boils dropped off much losing an already shaky quarterback but they will be lucky to win another game this year if Moore is done. Purdue-Maryland is shaping up to be a barn burner.

  4. Comments from the MSU paper, The Lansing Journal: “Indiana, led by the poised and gifted arm of Michael Penix Jr., had possession for more than 34 minutes, compiling 26 first downs and 311 passing yards. Penix completed 32 of 41 throws and passed for three touchdowns, leaving MSU on its heels…”
    “Penix looks like an emerging star. If not for Penix just out-throwing receiver Whop Philyor wide open deep ball in the fourth quarter, MSU would be 3-2. Not every team has the weapons and offense to slice up MSU this way.”

  5. Penix was, no doubt, fantastic. Will he play another game as good as this one again this season? I hope several times, but I’ll take being in the ball park. The real issue is will there be enough help defensively, making must-have plays (overthrow of Philyor on sure deep TD, dropped pick 6 in 1st qtr), and elimination of untimely penalties to win assuming Penix does keep it up? You can suggest the MSU performance indicates we should handle some of the traditional “winnable” games on the schedule. We’ve used that same reasoning throughout Allen’s tenure. As much as I’m excited by Penix and the passing game, I will (elatedly) believe it translates into 6 wins (or any B1G wins) when I see it.

  6. I agree with D-Bone. Couple of over throws, if Bryant Fitzgerald secures that ball he has a pick 6. The penalties kill IU momentum. Team has to fix that issue. This was s winnable game. With a bye week hopefully they accomplish eliminating stupid penalties. I realize IU has a new OC, that they no longer have Brandon Knight at RT, but I am perplexed at IUs inability to run the ball consistently. Last year the excuse was opponents loaded the box; and yet, IU could spring Scott for long gains. MSU has a very good defense and IU was able to run a few times. So I wonder if the run inconsistency is due to personnel, offensive schemes or whatever? With Penix at QB IU has a chance to make some big strides in improving their record. I hope they figure that out this bye week. Go Hoosiers!!

    1. “Couple of over throws”….? What malarkey! Talk to Chet the Jet. Penix has more game than Patrick Mahomes!

      I actually didn’t see a lot of the game…(caught a bit on radio too). I did hear Don Fischer talking about over throws….but radio personalities have a tendency to exaggerate.

      Certainly and upgrade in arm over Ramsey….The short game works because the ball gets there so much quicker(one second can be an eternity in short game football). Sure, the long ball helps…but it’s the zing in the 10-25 yard stuff that is really notiicable to me….

  7. Is it going to be be same old same old?
    Almost every game on schedule is very to just ordinary reasonably winnable on remainder of schedule if MP is able to quarterback.
    The question is does IU beat Rutgers like they are suppose to? Maryland? Like they should, both games? That would equal 5 wins. Then, how many can they win thereafter? Or is MSU reaching the peak for IU and do they tank? It looks like 7 or 8 + wins are reasonably attainable for IU. However, this is a traditional dance seen many times only to have a 5 win season.

  8. Why is Hiller so awful? He’s coached NFL lineman (a rarity), so he must be doing something right. Like the rest of the team, the line overall is young. And it can take the better part of a season for a line to gel. I’ll reserve judgment on all of the IU coaches until late in the season or at its end.

  9. Wasn’t the pass game protected? Maybe, it is bringing the run game into the mix by making a couple adjustments. For IU getting the passing game to open up run game and getting defenses to respect that. If this can happen it should better gel together except against OSU.

  10. Our family attended the Purdue’s game with Minnesota we were guests of Purdue University. As I U Football Season ticketholders we had a chance to compare the two programs. What was apparent to us Purdue has a football tradition and with 50,000 fans in attendance and this may not be their year this season but the fans showed up for the game. I wouldn’t take any joy watching a player from any team get injured, Moore is from our area of the state(New Albany) we attended the game hoping to see him play. After traveling to the game and driving through Indy , Lafayette( has an I U Hospital) and with the new I U Hospital in Bloomington it looks like I U is in the hospital business. The Purdue University people showed us respect, even knowing about our I U connections.

    1. IU has always been in the hospital business.

      I don’t know where they fall now but, back in the 70s and 80s, the IU Medical Center in Indy was the largest university hospital complex in the country.

  11. I teams like the current OSU team has injuries. However, not only do they have depth but the physical and talent level (high 4 star and 5 star)?they display makes so much less chance of injury. It really stands out when compared to lesser talented teams.

  12. Gonna give some credit where credit is due.

    thinkaboutit was spot-on about Penix….He never wavered on just how much Penix’s abilities would elevate the overall product. I don’t understand why we ran Penix more than needed against Eastern Illinois…It would have been interesting to see how the OSU game transpired with a far more dynamic qb.
    Maybe MSU was undervaluing and underestimating Indiana based on a belief that Penix wasn’t such a massive upgrade to change much…? It’s sort of a shame we couldn’t steal that one in East Lansing…Seems like everyone (other than thinkaboutit) was rather shocked just how much more competitive Penix could make us.
    I honestly don’t know what to expect going forward….Maybe there is a chance to have that “breakthrough” win somewhere. Penix probably still had a little rust …and there’s likely more on the table in his game.
    His level of poise is the most dramatic aspect in his game I did not expect….Considering he’s barely wet behind the ears, it finally rejuvenates a bit of interest in IU Football.
    The only caveat in this upswing is in hoping he can hold up when we get the more physical “big boys”….

    Anyway…thinkaboutit was right. I was too skeptical about it….I think.

    1. H4H,
      I appreciate the acknowledgement. I don’t blame you or anyone else for being skeptical, we’ve been sold a bill of goods by IUFB for way too many years to not be wary. However, what drew my attention to Penix was who was recruiting him besides IU and the caliber of training he received in Florida. Whether or not he can continue at this level remains to be seen. I also acknowledge your rightful concerns over his durability. What I hope is that we can keep him on the field and find out what he really can do. If he is anywhere close to what we all hope for, it could be a very fun ride.

    2. H4H-

      You hit the nail on the head. It’s not his rocket arm or accuracy that’s the most impressive about MP, it’s the poise. For all the supposed ‘leadership’ skills of Ramsey, no one took off running faster or dumped the ball off quicker. Penix has the ability to stand tall in the pocket, go to the second or even 3rd receiver and hit him in stride. And he may not be jumping up and down on the sidelines, but you know who his teammates want leading the offense. I said 2 years ago that whoever pulled his scholarship offer at Tennessee will be selling aluminium siding in a couple of years. You gotta think someone is asking that coach the question of why Penix wasn’t worth a scholarship. He’s a once in a generation talent for a school like IU.

      1. It was pretty impressive how he stood in the pocket and laid down strikes just as the rush got to him.

        If Saturday was representative, and he stays healthy, this could be fun.

  13. Yup…The short game under Penix doesn’t look like the same dunk and dink. It looks more like thunk and think….e.g. “Not there….Yes, there. Not open there. O.K. Knew he would be open over there. ” His field awareness is akin to having that very heady point guard in the backcourt..willing to be just patient enough before striking like a cobra.
    The thought process is natural rather than easily telegraphed…The passes have zing and crispness. I think the 6-3″ frame also makes his surprisingly mature field awareness(especially considering his very limited time on a college stage) all the more dangerous. Not too tall to be awkward…but just tall enough to scan the the field for a receiver like Arnold the Terminator searching for Sarah Connor.

  14. H4H, very good description of the poise and decision making of Penix. I also like the way he moves in the pocket to avoid a pressure or deliver the pass – my biggest criticism of Ramsey was his bailing out to early and destroying blocks of the OL. Penix just has a sense of where the pressure is coming from and I really like his ability to get the ball off on target when getting hit in the chest at nearly the same time as release of the ball.

    Will future seasons bring prose of the legend of Michael Penix from H4H? I have the feeling Penix will create a legend at IU. We are seeing signs of better players at IU ie Mullen, Bedford, Jones, and others which indicates another two seasons and IU may have players of their caliber all over the roster. Is it possible IU can break into the top four in the conference or will the curse of the Oaken Bucket prevail?

  15. I once knew a man from Nantucket….
    Worked the lighthouse with a friend
    His friend being a cat
    Upon a foggy evening astonished they sat
    as a tattered sailboat pounded its way ashore
    Inside only dust of time where sun and waves
    can tell the tale of its spooky old mast
    Inside the captains quarters was
    the skeleton of a man…His hands frozen
    to the rim of an old oaken bucket.

    Is there a dream to dream again
    too late for a wild ocean but
    with billowed sails still
    living in the old oaken bucket this
    sorry old salt found me and my cat
    in Nantucket?

    Destiny ..or dream, my cat is
    happy it seems. I put a soft pillow
    in the old bucket and now he sleeps
    to the crashing of the waves ..cozy and
    at rest once again with his captain.

    I once knew a cat from Nantucket.

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