4 Things We Learned: Indiana 34, Maryland 28

The Hoosiers won’t just fold

There were moments of familiar fright for Indiana fans throughout the victory.

A quick scoring drive to start the game was followed by a defensive series where Maryland gained three of its six first downs via penalty and tied it back up at 7-all.

A drive down to the Maryland 10, which could have put the Hoosiers up two touchdowns early in the second quarter, went poof because a Michael Penix Jr. pass was bobbled and picked.

And in the fourth quarter, clinging to a three-point lead, IU’s offense had two consecutive three-and-outs — only the second came deep in Maryland territory, after a strip and a fumble recovery by Juwan Burgess put the Hoosiers on the doorstep for a field goal.

The mistakes and shortcomings of this performance were all too reminiscent of moments where IU football has faltered in the past, allowing a winnable game to slip away.

Only this time, the Hoosiers didn’t let it happen.

IU definitely has things to clean up. The 11 penalties for 105 yards would be a good place to start. But not dropping a game like this, especially after some late-game disappointments at Michigan State a few weeks ago, is a step forward.

IU hasn’t had five wins at this point in a season since 2007.

Ramsey is still a tough guy

A fourth-quarter scramble ended up not producing any points. But the way Peyton Ramsey threw himself through the line on a third-and-11, blitz coming, absorbing hits on a 15-yard gain, said a lot about the quarterback’s moxie.

He’s not afraid.

Ramsey’s toughness has never been questioned. Other factors, many beyond the redshirt junior’s control, landed him in a backup role after starting all 12 games last season. But there is a mental toughness required to take a demotion and not become a lesser player.

Completing 20-of-27 passing, including a clutch touchdown throw to Nick Westbrook before the half, Ramsey showed he’s not been beaten down mentally by his circumstances. And he’s still not afraid to put his body on the line for the Hoosiers.

Sure, the Hoosiers will want Penix to return to full strength, again, as soon as possible. But they can take solace in the fact that, in today’s college football, it’s a rare gift to have a talented starter and a capable backup.

Nick Westbrook has a good set of hands.

After the game, Ramsey was still amazed that Westbrook hauled in a 26-yard pass to the corner of the end zone, just as time started to run out in the second quarter.

The catch came on a dive, the ball sticking to the very tips of Westbrook’s fingers.

It was awe-inspiring, but it’s also the exact kind of big play Hoosier fans have been waiting to see out of the fifth-year senior.

Ever since Westbrook’s 75-yard runaway touchdown versus Ball State in the opener, it’s been somewhat of a quiet season for the 6-foot-3 target. He caught 12 passes for 116 yards in the five games between the opener and Saturday’s contest at Maryland, and there were more than a couple of occasions during that span where Westbrook failed to come down with contested catches, one-on-one with a DB.

That makes Westbrook’s six-catch, 75-yard outing all the more important. There are going to be days where tight end Peyton Hendershot gets the bulk of the receptions and others where Whop Philyor leads the way from the slot. But if Westbrook can more consistently make big plays on the outside, IU’s offense becomes all the more dangerous.

The line absorbed another hit.

IU’s offensive line probably can’t sustain another injury without much turmoil, but the unit went on without senior center Hunter Littlejohn and did enough, especially in the second half.

Sophomore running back Stevie Scott went into halftime with 12 yards on seven carries. He barreled for 96 yards on his next 11. Much of that came to the right side, behind redshirt junior Mackenzie Nworah at guard and redshirt sophomore Caleb Jones at tackle.

Junior Harry Crider, formerly the left guard, went to center and senior guard Simon Stepaniak flipped to the left side to give a veteran companion to freshman left tackle Matthew Bedford (Coy Cronk’s replacement).

Littlejohn was dressed, which means he was probably available in some kind of emergency capacity. But if he can’t go for another week, the Hoosiers have shown they can hold things together without two of the three senior starters they went into the season with. Given the line’s overall lack of depth, that’s encouraging.

What’s next?

Nebraska, Oct. 26, 3:30 p.m., in Lincoln, Neb.

One win short of a bowl bid, the Hoosiers can make quite a statement if they are up to the task versus the Cornhuskers.

IU hasn’t beaten Nebraska since 1959. Granted, there have only been five games played since, and IU’s 27-22 loss in 2016 was the first meeting between the schools since ‘78.

There are questions about what the Huskers will look like this Saturday, given they are coming off of a bye week and sophomore quarterback Adrian Martinez sat out a 34-7 loss to Minnesota with an apparent knee injury.

But what’s guaranteed is Nebraska will present a tough road environment in a Memorial Stadium that holds 85,000-plus. The Huskers (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) are 3-1 at home this season.

9 comments

  1. Big road win for Indiana football team, but we all know that Maryland is heading in the wrong direction since they lost their starting quarterback and running back, but that is part of the game as Indiana lost its starting quarterback in this game. Indiana has been fortunate lately they have not had to face the starting quarterback for Rutgers and Maryland…if that “luck” is still with Indiana they will not have to face the starting quarterback at Nebraska. But, if Adrian Martinez is the starting quarterback, the whole game situation changes. Many of you fans are considering or thinking of this as a possible “breakthrough” season. Well, before us fans get that far ahead, remember they still have to beat or win some of those games we “most” fans consider winnable. Most fans consider Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue winnable games…but as a true fan I know that all three of those games will be very very tough.

  2. We didn’t learn it, but we were reminded that PR has enormous grit and both mental and physical toughness. But we were also reminded that the difference in arm talent between Penix and PR is substantial.

    We learned that IU’s talented young team still lacks the focus and/or discipline to avoid making costly (and really stupid) penalties. I see that issue as being the biggest threat to IU beating Nebraska and other good teams.

  3. I U need to start getting their 3 and 4 QB’s some practice snaps, with Penix a question injury wise and strength of your remaining schedule, your third or fourth QB may be needed.

  4. Fans can recognize the potential of this team based on what they have done so far. Yes the team needs to win the next two games to have a breakthrough season but it started with MD last week and now goes to Nebraska. Win and the possibilities open up for this season. Johpuntjohn reports that Bill Connelly says the most likely result for the season is 8-4 with 7-5 or 9-3 coming in at 24% and 23% 6 wins is at 99%. It is up to the team to play well enough to meet those expectations. Remember, IU hasn’t had a winning season this decade so winning 7 or more games will be a change in the program. It should also help recruiting for the 2020 class as recruits see the trend for IU. This game against Nebraska is very important for the program but just another game for the team.

    1. I’m as optimistic as any Hoosier fan, but saying the odds of winning six games is 99% is a monster stretch IMO.

    2. If Allen wins the bowl game after Wilson’s firing, we have a “winning season” at 7-6.

  5. I have a bad feeling about the Nebraska game…..Reality will hit hard. We’ve cupcaked our way to five wins. Nothing has been proven. Maybe by Sunday I’ll be proven wrong and we can actually beat a somewhat revived Cornhuskers program on their turf. I’m fearing blowout.

    We should really stop with the low bar mentality of merely getting to “six” via whatever compromise in honest improvement. It’s Hoosier Football…Get to ‘six’ rather than truly get to being competitive with the finer teams of the conference (instead of those terrible additions to the conference from the East).

  6. The next two games are winnable and losable. 50-50. So 1 win and 1 loss = 6 and 3 record? = average/mediocrity. However, good would = 2 wins and 0 losses. = 7 and 3 record = good.

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