4 THINGS WE LEARNED: Penn State 34, Indiana 27

Ramsey can produce vs. an elite defense.

One of the things that has made it hard to truly rate aspects of the Hoosiers’ season — and, in particular, Ramsey’s — has been the strength of the teams across from them.

During a four-game conference winning streak, Ramsey had a big day versus a struggling Nebraska defense. On the other hand, he struggled in his first showing in relief of Michael Penix Jr. versus mighty Ohio State.

It’s impossible to know what Penix may have produced against the Buckeyes, just as it’s not knowable if the Hoosiers’ six-game streak of 30-plus points could have been extended at Penn State.

But Ramsey leading IU to a 27-point effort versus the Nittany Lions, a team that allows 13.5 points per game, isn’t easily discredited.

Sure, Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan sliced up PSU for 339 yards the week before, but he’s the No. 1 passer in the Big Ten for a reason. Ramsey put up 371 yards, and aside from a near-pick-six early, he didn’t look out of his element.

Ramsey’s ability to limit mistakes is his biggest area of growth. In 17 games from 2017-18, starting with his last visit to PSU, Ramsey through 18 interceptions. He threw an interception in all but two games in 2018. This season, he has three picks in eight appearances.

The redshirt junior ran for two scores and threw for another — and he could have had a fourth touchdown if Donavan Hale doesn’t drop one in the end zone.

Ramsey’s play bodes well for the Hoosier offense as they head into what may be an even stiffer test versus Michigan, ranked third in the Big Ten in total defense. If Ramsey remains steady, IU has another shot at winning.

The Hoosiers’ defense is growing.

Yes, the Hoosiers gave up 34 points, but the defense was put in some bad spots.

IU forced a three-and-out on Penn State’s first possession, getting behind the line for a three-yard loss by Journey Brown and two incompletions for Sean Clifford.

A muffed punt gave the ball right back to Penn State at the IU 27. It took an 11-yard pass from Clifford to K.J. Hamler on third-and-7, beating freshman Tiawan Mullen on an out route, to keep a touchdown drive going.

A fake punt (that wasn’t meant to be) gave the Nittany Lions the ball at the IU 40 at the start of the second half. That’s another batch of points off of a short field.

The final score obscured some of the Hoosiers’ better defensive moments, like how IU bent but didn’t break on PSU’s second drive of the first quarter. Or how redshirt freshman James Miller nearly got the ball back on the third drive, stripping the ball from tight end Pat Freiermuth.

In the end, not containing a mobile quarterback — not an uncommon issue for the Hoosiers — came back to bite them. Right after Miller’s near-recovery, Clifford ran 38 yards for a touchdown. On PSU’s fourth-quarter drive to ice it, which went 18 plays, Clifford and backup Will Levis rushed to convert a quartet of third- and fourth-down tries.

IU has to finish, and the defense takes part of the blame here. But it doesn’t feel like that side of the ball deserves the lion’s share this time. They offered enough resistance to give the Hoosiers a chance to pull ahead.

The slot remains key, with or without Whop.

The production of freshman David Ellis doesn’t at all take away from what junior Whop Philyor has been able to produce as a slot receiver this season.

Before going into concussion protocol in the second quarter, Philyor produced a 42-yard reception to key a go-ahead score. He has a play of 20-plus yards in every game but one (Maryland) this season.

But the production of Ellis does show the Hoosiers will stick to their game plan with another player in that role. And that plan includes throwing early and often to the slot.

Ellis was targeted nine times Saturday, more than any Hoosier receiver. Tight end Peyton Hendershot, another staple of Kalen DeBoer’s offense, received eight targets. Ty Fryfogle, the junior receiver, had six.

IU has faith in Ellis, a 6-foot, 207-pound athlete from Michigan. He rewarded that trust with a 39-yard scamper on a wide receiver screen in the fourth quarter, which keyed a touchdown drive to cut the IU deficit to 27-24.

The Hoosiers hope to have Philyor back soon, but, if he’s out, expect Ellis to be fairly active in his stead.

Close isn’t good enough.

This is unsurprising because it was stated before the Hoosiers left for Happy Valley.

Tom Allen said if anyone didn’t believe the Hoosiers could win at Penn State, they shouldn’t get on the bus. After a defeat, IU’s coach reiterated his team didn’t come to Beaver Stadium to play the Nittany Lions close.

Those are the words of a leader who senses his program is building and ready for more. IU has separated itself from the bottom tier of the Big Ten. The next step is closing the gap with the Penn States and Ohio States of the world.

Against the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers were nowhere close. Versus the Lions, they were all too close but couldn’t finish.

Saturday was disappointing, but there is no question of where IU’s expectations are and where they should be.

What’s next?

Michigan, 3:30 p.m. Saturday, at Memorial Stadium

At times, the Wolverines (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) have appeared more than vulnerable.

They just slipped by Army in Week 2. Wisconsin crushed them, and Penn State pulled out a 28-21 win a month ago.

But Michigan seems to be trending upward. In consecutive games, the Wolverines have pummeled Notre Dame, Maryland, and Michigan State by a score of 127-31.

IU will need to be at its best to slow Shea Patterson and the Michigan offense. Patterson just threw for 384 yards and four touchdowns on the Spartans.

4 comments

  1. Michigan will be a very good battle for IU but their resurgence isn’t known yet based on who they are playing. IU showed our offense could score on PSU and MSU. Both MSU and Maryland are train wrecks right now and not good teams.

    Ramsey has done a great job in PSU game, my biggest complaint about him was bailing out of the pocket and it is clear coach DeBoer has gotten him to step up instead of bailing out. Ramsey made several completions in the middle of the field while stepping up due to the rush of the defense. Ellis showed there will be little drop off with the passing game as he replaces Whop for now. Coach DeBoer is calling plays that let Ramsey shine and Ramsey studies enough and understands the offense well enough to excel.

  2. Not too confident in Penn State’s defense looking “elite” this Saturday…

    And would they be elite against the top teams from the SEC?

    Giving up 31 points to Minnesota and 27 to Indiana (and without the bungled plays and dropped end zone pass, likely many more points) makes it appear their elite defense is fading.

    There could be an argument that there is only one elite team in the BigTen conference this year.

    Probably be a good crowd at Memorial this Saturday, but can you guys imagine the crowd if we would have won last Saturday? We would have been in a position to move into a second place tie with PSU in the East after their probable upcoming loss at OSU. A few less bungled plays @ PSU and we’re playing Michigan for 2nd place in the division. Crazy.

  3. H4H, the things that IUFB missed out on this season stokes me up for 2020. The stadium would be on fire if IU had beaten PSU. Now add in a win against MSU we should have had and IU would be 9-1 heading into the UM game. 9-1 would have us second in the B1G East and IU nation going crazy. I hope this team can finish strong this season but come in 2020 tearing up all but an elite team in the B1G. With the defense improving and the offense scoring against every defense since OSU, IU could go into the bowl game 9-3 but definitely 8-4.

    IU needs Ramsey to keep up the pace he has against Nebraska and PSU for IU to have a shot at winning the next two games. The OL was driving the PSU DL off the ball down on the goal line that shows promise for the running game.

  4. You da man. You’re right about the goal line qb sneaks…It was impressive how IU”s line was pushing PSU’s defensive front backward.

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