Philyor-Penix connection only growing

With his second straight game of double-digit receptions, it’s become obvious that junior Whop Philyor has a special connection with redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

But when the 5-foot-11 receiver talks about the reps he’s taking with his signal caller, he’s not just talking about throws in practice.

He’s talking about rounds of Fortnite and NBA2K, too.

“We watch film while we’re playing the game,” Philyor said. “We just talk about little things we can do to get us going. We trust each other, basically.”

When asked if the key to success was truly film mixed with video games, Philyor smiled.

“Don’t quote me on that.”

However the two Tampa, Fla., natives are getting it done, it works.

Philyor has logged 24 of his 41 catches and 324 of his 553 yards in his last two games. With Saturday’s 10-catch, 182-yard effort, he’s the first receiver in IU football history to post back-to-back games with 10-plus receptions. The performance also increased his school-record career total of double-digit games to four.

Six of Philyor’s receptions versus Rutgers were modest gains between two and five yards. But his other four were chunk plays of 18, 31, 54 and 56 yards.

“He’s getting open,” Penix said. “I trust he’s going to do his job to get open and the offensive line is holding up. (Offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer is) putting us in great situations. We knew it was going to be a big week for him because of practice.”

It’s been a breakout campaign for Philyor, who was slowed by injuries as a freshman and sophomore. He had 23 catches for 235 yards last season after hauling in 33 for 335 as a freshman in 2017.

Philyor even appeared to play through some pain Saturday, coming off the field at one point holding his back. But the Hoosiers’ slot receiver missed minimal time and didn’t skip a beat.

“I’m not really ever surprised with Whop,” IU coach Tom Allen said. “Last year it was just hard because he got injured, and I knew he was a special player. He just brings so much energy, and he doesn’t need a lot of space.

“He makes those contested catches, he creates a little separation and then he puts his foot in the ground and gets vertical, and Mike has such good velocity on the football that he was able to get it to him right as he breaks.”

Running attack on track

Coming in, Rutgers’ defense ranked last in the Big Ten in rush defense, allowing 199 yards per game, while IU was the second-worst rushing offense at just 110.4 yards per game.

Indiana improved its standing — and only further reinforced the Scarlet Knights’ — with a season-high 260 yards on the ground on 38 attempts, the second-most of the season.

The rushing attack was led by Stevie Scott’s 12 carries for 164 yards (13.7 per carry), also a season-high. It was the sophomore’s seventh 100-yard rushing game of his career, highlighted by a 57-yard jaunt in the third quarter, as well as another eight-yard run in which he simply flattened a Rutgers defender.

“Stevie, just to me, needs to continue to run the football,” Allen said. “He had that one run, and they have some really good players on defense, and he just ran right over one of them, and it was just a grown-man run that I thought was awesome, just a confident run and just a strong run and just an attitude run.”

Doing it with defense

Saturday’s game was one for the record books defensively.

Indiana held Rutgers to 5-for-13 passing for one yard. That is the most completions for the fewest yards in any college football game since 2000 and the lowest output for an FBS team this season.

The one passing yard is the fewest allowed in a game by the Hoosiers since holding Minnesota to zero yards passing on Oct. 19, 1985. The school record is minus-2 yards passing by Purdue on Nov. 24, 1945.

It also marked the second straight time IU has shut out Rutgers at Memorial Stadium. The last time Indiana shut out an opponent in back-to-back home games was Michigan State in 1991 and 1993.

Overall, the Hoosier defense yielded just 75 total yards, the fewest dating back to 1966.

In the process, Indiana accumulated 14 tackles for loss, the most since a school-record 16 against Penn State on Nov. 12, 2016.

Rutgers failed to convert on 11 third-down attempts, marking the first time Indiana has not allowed a single third-down conversion to an opposing offense.

Harris done

Allen said Thursday he wasn’t sure of defensive tackle Juan Harris’ status coming into the Rutgers game.

He had a definitive answer Saturday.

“Unique situation: He’s chosen to no longer play football,” Allen said. “Informed us of that, and wasn’t what I expected, but wish him nothing but the best. But really proud of the other guys that have stepped up.

“It’s a decision he came to on his own, and so we wish him well.”

This was Harris’ second stint with the Hoosiers. After initially starting his college career at IU, the 350-pound tackle played the 2018 season in the junior college ranks with Independence C.C. He returned to the Hoosiers in the spring.

IU did hit on one of its junior college commits, sophomore Demarcus Elliott, who has nailed down one starting spot at defensive tackle. With Harris out of the mix, Elliott, redshirt junior Jerome Johnson, redshirt freshman Shamar Jones, and freshman Sio Nofoagatoto’a should handle the bulk of the reps at tackle.

Elliott had another strong performance Saturday with three tackles for loss. He also forced the fumble that led to Reakwon Jones’ touchdown to start the game.

“We work all week on takeaways, takeaways, takeaways,” Elliott said. “So coming in first play of the game to get a takeaway and a score off of that, it’s an amazing feeling.”

14 comments

  1. It will be fun watching the Penix to Whop connection over the rest of this season and incoming seasons. Scott ran much better this game and we should see the rushing offense improve in the coming games. Scott was running with more authority and being more physical when making contact with a tackler.

    Defensively the Hoosiers played much better but will face challenges over the rest of the season. We need to see steady improvement as the season progress. IU is in a good position to having a winning season and Maryland will give us a clue if that is a realistic goal or not.

  2. Rutgers may be the worst Big Ten team ever. Their offensive line was terrible. They’ve played 4 Big Ten teams and have been outscored 165 to 7. I don’t think they could beat UCONN. But IU did what they were supposed to do- dominate a bad team. So IU has beaten 3 really bad teams- Eastern Illinois, UCONN and Rutgers, beaten an ok team in Ball State, lost to a slightly better than average team in Michigan State and got dominated by a great team in Ohio State. I don’t know what all that means. I think the next 3 games- Maryland, Nebraska, and Northwestern, will determine the season. Maryland should be the easiest to win.

  3. The Maryland game is the game I U must win for the season to be successful, Maryland’s game with Purdue their backup QB played most of the game and threw 3 passes that were picked off by the Purdue defense. I wouldn’t count any of the remaining games in the easy win column for I U, better win before the team gets into Penn State and Michigan games, Nebraska, Northwestern have some tradition to uphold and Purdue game is always tough at Ross-Ade,

    1. Everybody IUFB plays on the rest of the schedule has a tradition to uphold- that of beating IU. Except for Nebraska, which is all time 8-9-3 v. IU. So IU has some tradition to hold!!!!!

  4. I’m optimistic that IU’s young players are learning at a faster rate than a more mature team would. I think the loss to MSU really stung a few of those guys, and many of them had to know, after watching the film, that their mistakes cost their team a W. They had some time off, came out and got a shutout win, and may now be ready to produce a higher and more consistent level of performance against better competition. They certainly won’t face a better team than OSU the remainder of the season. Getting six this year is very doable.

  5. MSU loss was bad. Coming close and MSU not that good.
    Rutgers only counts as win because Rutgers is below level big ten competition. 6 sacks for IU vs 10 sacks for Maryland vs Rutgers. Several teams have several young players playing and always do. Remember, Cam Cameron stating after IU losing to North Carolina when NC was ranked under Mac Brown: IU strives to have a program like them and our young guys are going to get better and better. I agree that young players improve but the talent ability has to be there to improve. It only goes so far.
    Which teams show up Maryland vs IU?

    1. A random stat doesn’t mean anything. They also had 163 years passing against Maryland vs. 2 against IU.

      That’s way more important than 4 more sacks.

  6. Ideally, Maryland QB Josh Jackson will still be on the shelf Sat. If not, I think it’ll be a shootout. A very winnable shootout but a shootout either way. The defense looked a lot better against New Jersey U but that’s not saying much. It does look like IU has found their right personnel on defense now. Should be an interesting game this weekend. GO HOOSIERS!

  7. I think it is a good thing for him to play if he is there original starting QB. IU needs to win for IU, regardless.

  8. “We work all week on takeaways, takeaways, takeaways,” Elliott said. How ’bout working on tackling, tackling, tackling. Going for the ball is a sure way to miss a tackle. First man hits w/head in front of the ball carrier’s torso, wraps both arms, and drives through hard. Second man can go for the ball.

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