No. 17 IU improves to 2-0 with 37-21 win at Rutgers

Late in their Halloween soiree, Rutgers made things frightfully interesting for No. 17 Indiana.

After recovering an onsides kick, down 37-21 late in the fourth quarter, the Scarlet Knights lined up for a fourth-and-32 and started throwing laterals, one after another.

After another. After another. After another.

At one point, offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal, held on to from behind by IU corner Jaylin Williams, just threw the ball over his head, about 15 yards backward to wide receiver Shameen Jones.

“It’s not a very good feeling when it’s happening to you,” IU coach Tom Allen said, “because you think the game is over, and you think you’ve got him down, and you got him, and all of a sudden you don’t.”

Dicey, it was. But no one expected it to be easy as the Hoosiers went to SHI Stadium and faced a Rutgers squad that downed Michigan State the week before. It wasn’t going to be easy for the Hoosiers to improve to 2-0 after a heart-stopping win over then-No. 8 Penn State last week.

Jones lateralled to quarterback Noah Vedral, who lateralled to Bo Melton, who ended up in the end zone. But when it was all through, and reveiwed, the referee came over to Allen and offered reassuring news.

“He said ‘Coach, we think one of the laterals was forward,” Allen said, laughing. “Thank you, Jesus.”

Rutgers made it interesting. Frightfully so. But in the end, the Hoosiers (2-0, 2-0 Big Ten) did not fall in Piscataway. The pass by Jones was a forward one, sealing a 37-21 win for IU.

What ended up winning the day were the passes thrown by IU quarterback Michael Penix Jr., who hit for 238 yards and three touchdowns. What may have been even more crucial were three interceptions by the Hoosier defense, which continues to set the tone for the Big Ten East’s frontrunner.

IU is now 2-0 in Big Ten play for the first time since 1991.

“The saying is ‘Offense wins games, but defense wins championships,” IU cornerback Reese Taylor said. “Defense is always going to have the offense’s back, whether they come fast, slow. If they are not going so good, we are always going to back the offense up.”

IU needed those turnovers, as a myriad of errors muddied the Hoosiers’ start. IU’s first two offensive drives were three-and-outs, marred by drops and missed protections.

A roughing-the-passer penalty on Hoosier linebacker Micah McFadden — on what would have been a fourth-down stop – set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Vedral to Melton.

The Hoosiers followed that with a 5-minute, 39-second drive, sparked by a 25-yard run by Penix on third-and-8. A 22-yard rush by Stevie Scott got IU into the red zone, but a snap over Penix’s head on first-and-goal took the Hoosiers from the 8 to the 23.

Charles Campbell hit a 42-yard field goal to at least get the Hoosiers on the board.

“Like I said last week, we just kept a 1-0 mindset,” Penix said. “Obviously, the past is real, but coach says it can’t predict the future. We gotta make things happen.”

IU’s next drive stalled at the Rutgers 10, forcing a 28-yarder from Campbell to cut it to one. But after the teams traded three-and-outs, a blitz from IU linebacker Cam Jones disrupted a Vedral throw on third-and-5. The ball popped into the air, falling into defensive lineman Jonathan King’s hands.

“We see it every day in practice. Defense, they work extremely hard,” Penix said. “Just the maturity they have on that side of the ball, just guys stepping up, just taking that leadership role, just taking it to that next step.”

Starting six yards from the goal line, Penix was able to score on a sneak to retake the lead, giving IU its first lead, 13-7, with just under five minutes remaining in the half.

The very next drive, IU defensive tackle Sio Nofoagatoto’a pushed his way into the backfield and forced another errant throw from Vedral. Williams came up with the pick, his second of the season.

IU was 28 yards from the goal line, and Penix picked up most of it on a 15-yard touchdown strike to Ty Fryfogle on second-and-9.  In the second quarter, IU allowed just two yards defensively. The Hoosiers outgained the Knights, 140-60, in the first half.

“Protected the football, which I thought was huge,” Allen said. “They created seven takeaways last week against Michigan State, and we had zero today on our offense, turning it over.”

The offense has taken time to gain its footing in games, and Penix completed just three of his first 10 throws. Penix completed 14 of his final 16 passes, though, to finish 17-of-26 on the day.

Allen believes some rust in the passing game was inevitable given the nature of this past offseason.

“It takes time, I don’t care what you say. We had zero 7-on-7 throws this summer. Weren’t allowed to,” Allen said. “That hurts you. It just does. You can say what you want … but I knew it was going to take some time.

“What you saw at the end of last week and the majority of today, we’ll just keep getting better. I feel like our offensive line protected him better, too.”

IU’s first offensive drive of the second half was a three-and-out, as well, and Rutgers’ first possession started at its 48. But it didn’t matter, because Vedral was rushed again and ended up throwing a third interception, this time to McFadden.

A bomb from Penix to Philyor picked up 63 yards, down to the Rutgers 5, though an attempt at a stiff arm by Philyor backed the Hoosiers up to the 20 on a facemask penalty. IU settled for a third Campbell field goal, increasing the lead to 23-7.

Rutgers didn’t just wither away, though. The Knights (1-1) pieced together an 80-yard drive, including a 37-yard touchdown rush by Kay’Ron Adams on third-and-5. A two-point conversion cut the deficit to 23-15 with 5:34 left in the period.

When the Hoosiers needed a drive, the offense responded. Penix tossed 20- and 17-yard gains to Fryfogle and freshman Javon Swinton on consecutive plays. Two pass interference penalties brought IU into the red zone, and an 11-yard reception by Peyton Hendershot on a tight end delay route brought the Hoosiers to the 2. Another pitch and catch from Penix to Hendershot picked up the rest, pushing the lead back to 30-15 heading into the final quarter.

IU had 145 yards in the third period, five more than the Hoosiers had in the entire first half.

“I thought it was an amazing response by our offensive staff and players. To me, that’s what good football teams do,” Allen said. “It’s going to be a battle. … A team Rutgers beat last week just turned around and upset Michigan. It’s going to be this way all year.”

Penix continued to heat up, dropping a 37-yard pass into Philyor’s hands to send the Hoosiers to the Rutgers 15. Runs of five and nine yards by Scott brought the Hoosiers to just short of the goal line, and a toss from Penix to Hendershot on second-and-goal cashed it in to give IU a 37-15 edge.

With 3:21 left in the game, Vedral hit Melton for another touchdown pass to cut it to 37-21. The Scarlet Knights recovered the onside kick and nearly had their lateral fest for a touchdown, but it was called back on an illegal forward pass, and the Hoosiers were able to hold on for a victory.

“It’s hard to win on the road, especially after last week’s massive win,” Allen said. “When you have an historic win like that, our one word was ‘focus,’ and I tried so hard the whole week to get our guys locked in. But I realize it’s hard to do that. But I think we handled it pretty well.”

30 comments

  1. That defense, as it improves over the season, could be one of the best in the Big. Next week will be a big test.

  2. IU avoided a loss following the major win against PSU. Rutgers win versus MSU looks better today with MSU beating Michigan today. Rutgers has players that are much better than what they had last year which created some problems for the Hoosiers.

    The defense rose up and shut down Rutgers most of the game giving the offense a lift that they responded to by moving the ball and scoring points. The defense looked very good at times and well versed on what to expect from Rutgers. Our DL now is B1G level with B1G level defenders behind it.

    When coach Sheridan figured out IU’s strength is the passing game IU’s offense got in gear. Our RBs seem to have disappeared from the passing game for some reason. Penix got hot again today and did a nice job on the deep balls and even took some steam off the short pass to Hendershot in the end zone. IU is still having too many dropped passes as Penix is getting the ball to the receivers consistently.

    I do have to ask why we don’t get James and Tuttle in during the last seven minutes to finish the game. How are ever going to get experienced players to step in when needed. The defense and WR get more players involved; it would be a shame if we needed James or Tuttle and their only experience comes when they are called on to replace Penix and Scott if needed.

    All in all it was a good game for IU especially after a big win and Michigan coming to Bloomington next week. It feels good to have IU sharing, I am guessing OSU wins, the B1G East lead after two conference games. Michigan’s corners look vulnerable for IU to take advantage of when IU is on offense.

    1. V: Yes, the ground game has seemingly disappeared. Unimaginative sets, predictable, no push, no lanes. No pre-snap misdirection with speedy ends. Very surprising and disappointing.

  3. Pinpoint passing by LASER Pen-IX!

    Gotta say…..I’m very impressed with Indiana. Offense starting to show some versatility. Laser Pen-IX is magnificent. Running game shows promise.

    Defense looks hungry and very active. Big improvement since ‘Powder Blue’ took over the DC job.

    HERE WE COME BUCKEYES!

  4. H4H, I am with you about this game but IU needs to focus on Michigan this coming week. I doubt anyone in the B1G is up to stopping OSU although by then IU may be clicking well enough to at least be a challenge to them. We never know how things may turn out this year.

  5. V13, IMO it was a good game for the defense and one good half for the offense. But IU still has a lot of things to clean up.
    1. I counted five dropped passes by IU receivers and backs in the first half. Hendershot and Scott let passes go through their hands, and and a couple IU receivers got alligator arms on a couple of passes.
    2. Maybe Sheridan is a slow learner. It was obvious after the second offensive series that IU’s O-line could not move the center of Rutgers D-line; our O-linemen were going backward. Way too many negative run plays before Sheridan turned the page. If he doesn’t learn to recognize whats going on and make adjustments faster, he’s going to cost IU an otherwise winnable game.
    3. I lost count of how many 15-yard penalties IU committed. A few of those cost us points.
    4. We still haven’t learned how to cover an on-sides kick.

    On the positive side, IU’s defense did a great job tackling, rushing the passer and in pass coverage.
    If IU’s offense even approaches the quality of play that IU’s defense exhibits, this could be a very special FB team.

    1. From watching the past 2 games it seems some of the drops are from Penix putting a lot on those passes… but a B1G receiver has to catch them.

      The penalties frustrated me more than anything. Rutgers scored 2 TD’s after we roughed the passer on 4th downs. Those count as turnovers in my book. Get the stop on 4th, but then give them the 1st down.

      But how about that review on Stevie Scotts lunge for the goal line. They reviewed it to see if the ball broke the plane of the goal line… and then spot it way back on the 1 yard line. It was obvious his knee didn’t touch until the ball was at the goal line (within inches). The jokers they had announcing the game didn’t even seem to notice it.

  6. Too bad Michigan lost today. They’ll be super hot next Saturday in Bloomington. I’d rather them arrive 2-0 after having drubbed MSU.

    1. Gosh, if we defeat a Michigan team coming off a loss to mediocre MSU, it could very well mark the end of Harbaugh’s future with the Wolverines. I could see him coaching Duke’s football program. Maybe somewhere where football is more the afterthought to a basketball school…? Sort of like Georgia basketball being an afterthought to their football school.
      Good money but a lot less pressure. Certain coaches just can’t function under high expectations. They seem to just sort of get lost in themselves….

  7. Simply put, these are the types of games IU would ALWAYS lose back in the days of Bill Lynch, Kevin Wilson, and loyal blogging apologist Hoosier Clarion. Nice to see the tides turning.

  8. Watched the Iowa – NW game. Iowa’s sophomore QB sucked. He’s big, with a strong arm, but he was terrible. Iowa is terrible, and it reinforces my belief that there will be a coaching change after this season. MSU played good FB and beat MI. IL is terrible, again. MN is 0 – 2. Purdue looks as if they’ve rebounded from a bad 2019 season. PSU was outmanned. OSU is, once again, a juggernaut. So IU could, if they start playing better on offense, be the second best team in the Big Ten.

  9. Yes the offense can get better if the older receivers could catch passes better and involves Whop who started catching passes and had a big game. Penix took less hot passes on the goal line to Hendershot so Penix is learning. We need the young WR to play more as they can catch better than the older WRs. Don’t wait until big games to put in the younger receivers.

    Our OL needs to improve a lot so the offense can play better. They did a better on pass blocking but they need to improve on running plays. OC Sheridan needs to learn the passing game is the way for IU to win. Does IU have only two run plays or are they saving plays for ????

    The defense plays hard but need to focus more to avoid penalties especial on 4th downs. Overall the defense played well they just need to play the whole game.

    IU needs to heal up this week and Saturday come out on fire and have more offense against Michigan. Defense need to get ready to tackle a big QB and ready for a couple of fast run backs. Taylor showed on the one tackle in the backfield against Rutgers fast back that he has some speed and good tackling.

    Come on IU, come out and whip Michigan and look like the second best team in the B1G East.

  10. Solid comments from everyone. As to the article’s “frightening finish”,…KW needs to learn from the last 3 finishes with Tenn, PSU now Rutgers. ‘Prevent Defenses’ don’t work, they only allow for reversed momentum. The run game needs to come up with some speed & misdirection. Too predictable. From top to bottom, this is the most balanced the conference has been since going to 14 teams. All things considered, I have IU as the 3rd best team, currently, in the conference. Michigan outcome will determine a lot. IU should come in at around # 12-13 in AP on Monday.

  11. For IU it’s good to see much more team speed especially in defensive secondary. In 3rd or 4th quarter I am not sure about running qb sneak running Penix inside 1 yard line against Rutgers (because of injury risk). Why not just simply hand the ball off to Scott or James. IU did score td on next play with pass completion in end zone.
    Penn State really didn’t give Ohio State a tussle as I thought they would. The OSU 13 point win looked more like a 40 point win.
    Ohio State should go undefeated in big ten. However, that’s why they call them UPSETS.
    If placing a bet do you bet OSU goes undefeated including big ten championship or take the field.

    1. Bill Parcells, when heading up the NY Giants in their mid 80’s heyday had the answer when in short yardage was needed. He loaded up one side with Mark Bavarro and the other TE,..used a big fullback for blocking…and just handed it off to the HB. It never failed. He called it ‘heavy jumbo’. Sheridan needs to go to the old NFL film vault.

      1. I think San Francisco did something similar, except they put an offensive lineman in the backfield with their RB and called him the “Angus Back”

  12. Speaking of vaults, let’s just hope IUFB maintains COVIFD-19 discipline. “Zoom victory parties are so lame! Kegger at McNutt tonight.”

  13. Also one major thing I notice about T.A. coached teams is take aways. It’s been a very very long time that IU defensive secondary can actually catch the ball for pass interceptions. This keeps improving. Past IU defenses could hardly ever actually catch a ball for interceptions let alone making a good return after interception. (at least IU didn’t do it not nearly enPugh)

  14. I woke up this morning with IU ahead of Michigan and PSU in the B1G East; this starts the day off in a great way. Who would have predicted this, except for a few of us rabid fans, that opening with PSU IU would be 2-0 heading into Michigan with a good shot to beat them getting to 3-0. IU needs to improve again this week and get the offense going sooner.

    Penix is one of the top QBs in the country, if you doubt it, just imagine him in OSU’s offense. I think Fields might be better but he doesn’t have to throw under pressure like Penix does and I am not sure he can. The announcers keep bringing up Penix started 3-10 but ignore there were five dropped passes which would have Penix starting off 8-10 to go with finishing 14-16. That would have been a game of 22 of 26 without any drops which shouldn’t happen except rarely.

    1. Penix had a lot of drops early agains PSU also and then settled down. I wonder if he may be too amped up early in games and is putting a little too much zip on his passes early.

      1. Dear Receiving crew,

        Apply more stickum.

        LASER zip….much better than the Pony Express passes delivered by wagon train from Ramsey. Do you really want passes drifting around like a slow dropping fall leaf …..as defensive backs lick their chops to light you up right when the wagon train from 20 yards ago finally delivers the pigskin in Dead on Arrival package?

  15. Sort of get a kick out of the armchair quarterbacking and complete dissections of what this coach…and that coach …and this running back…and that running back…and this secondary….and that secondary…need to do more of …and do less of, etc, etc, etc.

    There is nothing complex here, folks. Thinkaboutit has gone on a posting hiatus (All the political discussions likely ticked him off….Or, maybe he’s in a fortified bunker awaiting the Marxist uprising? Who knows?), but we generally had agreement on the only real pertinent factor which could give Indiana Football some hope in BigTen competitiveness.

    I get it ….It’s a team game. Everyone here enjoys acting like they are PhD’s of the gridiron chalkboards. But you’re doing an autopsy on the minutes by minutes and play by play doesn’t change the precarious peak of a point the entire season will balance. Michael Laser Pen-IX is the balancing point and the imperative in which all IU Football success now rides.

    It’s not that complicated. We don’t win the last two games without Penix. We don’t win going forward without Penix. He is the most dynamic, big arm, laser passer in the history of Indiana Football. Without him, the bandwagon and the party ends. The armchair quarterback ends. Allen getting all of his media attention ends. The rankings ends. The over-the-top nonsense from V-13 acting as if only a handful of Scoopers believed in this spectacular turnaround.

    Thinkaboutit, Harvard the Socialist has got your back.
    Here’s the only score which matters…. LASER Pen-IX : 2 Injuries: 0.

    It’s not brain surgery or rocket science. It doesn’t require the entire autopsy of a football game. We are here because we have a quarterback with moxie, athleticism and a laser arm. We have a Big10 East quarterback rather than one who belongs on Ball State or a mid-major.
    The season will only be as special as his durability. There is no backup plan. Without LASER Pen-IX, we are, essentially, still a mid-major team and a conference bottom-feeder.

    1. oops (end of 4th paragraph)…

      [Without Michael LASER Pen-IX] ….The over-the-top nonsense from V-13 acting as if only a handful of Scoopers believed in this spectacular turnaround ends.

  16. But do enjoy it while it lasts….

    Michael LASER Pen-IX is to IU Football “Rising” what Cody Zeller was to our basketball claims of “We’re Back” during X’s and O’s autopsy years of Tom Crean. Without Penix, Allen might as well be holding up sideline cue cards with scripture quotes.
    Simply put….Talent at a most integral position matters. Once every blue moon we get some where it counts most. No dissection required.

  17. The offense will +up when Ellis and Marshall are back. Ellis is the change of pace RB Sheridan’s O needs to add to rushing stats. Also think a little more SJ’s wouldn’t hurt as he finds openings a bit more consistently and has a little wiggle to him. Marshall’s hands and size are always in demand. RT to me is the most improved talent on D. He has certainly honed his talents into B1G skills. I think Sheridan is progressing much like Wommack did last year. He was handicapped even more by the off season circumstances. Mearchicken is going to have to commit scheme and resources to help their pass D. Sheridan and his O staff will gameplan accordingly
    Get ready for 3-0.

  18. Remember when Scoop/HT had that journalist with the salon souffle hair working aside Jeremy? What was his name….? Kartje? I believe he was a big “Meatchicken” fan. Yikes…Didn’t he go to California?
    Always thought it was a conflict of interest to give jobs at HT to Penn State and Meatchicken guys. They always seemed to be quietly snickering on ScoopTalks when their alma maters kicked us around like rag dolls. And then they acted like they were “objective” reporters and that’s why they could never wear Indiana colors on ScoopTalks…? Give me a break. Well, we objectively kicked PSU’s ass. Sorry, Dust-in the-Wind Dopirak and Cutty Sark Korman.
    One down and one “Meatchicken” Kartje to go.

    If we win against Michigan, Mr. Ryan Kartje will be crying into his hand-Kartje-chief for a week…lol.

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