Penn State humbled by Indiana
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. Humbling doesn’t do it justice. Simply losing to Indiana for the first time ever would have been humbling.
What happened to Penn State on Saturday was, in many ways, humiliating.
Getting blown out, 44-24, in front of a stadium that was about 40 percent full, by a program that hopes to go 6-6 every now and then just so it can be bowl eligible and by a team that already had lost to Navy and badly to Missouri, it was as uninspiring of a performance as the Nittany Lions possibly could have turned in.
“Didn’t play well, didn’t coach well,” PSU coach Bill O’Brien said. “And we’ve got a long way to go.”
A lot longer than just about anyone could have expected prior to Saturday’s beatdown.
There was no shame in the Lions losing 34-31 to a good Central Florida team that gave No. 13 South Carolina a tough battle. But getting hammered by Indiana is a different story.
Penn State rushed for a measly 70 yards against a team that had been allowing 248 per game, and that gave up 467 on the ground to Navy.
The Lions’ offense threw the ball a school-record 55 times and still wasn’t a major threat all day.
The defense failed time and again to come up with stops after the offense had scored to keep the game close.
The special teams, a huge problem last year but much improved this season, even had a lousy afternoon.
“This was a team loss,” guard John Urschel said.
There was plenty of blame to go around, but the most shocking aspect was the Lions’ inability to move the ball on the ground. That seemed like a given with Indiana’s porous defense, but the Hoosiers controlled the line of scrimmage and limited PSU to 1.8 yards per carry.
The offensive line was expected to be a strength for the Lions this season, but that has not been the case.
“If we would have played up to our own expectations, I think we would have been 5-0,” guard Miles Dieffenbach said. “We expect to do great and be great up front, and anything short of that isn’t OK.”
O’Brien is considered an offensive guru, but what Penn State put on display Saturday lacked any semblance of creativity. The runs were basic handoffs up the gut, and the passing game was great when the ball was going to Allen Robinson but poor when it went anywhere else.
“We’ve got to scheme up some better runs,” O’Brien admitted. “We’ve got to be more diverse in the running game.”
Nothing Indiana did on offense should have surprised Penn State’s defense, but the Hoosiers were just flat out better executing their fast tempo. They rolled up 486 yards of offense, 336 through the air – which was to be expected – but also 150 on the ground.
Beating Indiana (3-2, 1-0 Big Ten) isn’t all that difficult if you can make the Hoosiers one-dimensional, but if they run on you the way they ran on Penn State (3-2, 0-1), that’s a bad sign.
“It definitely hurts,” linebacker Mike Hull said of the loss. “We expected to come out here and win, but they have a good team and they made plays.”
The Lions made enough plays to hang around for nearly three full quarters, and they nearly tied the game at 21 when Christian Hackenberg tried to hit Robinson in the back right of the end zone. Robinson came down barely out of bounds, and he remained on the ground after banging his back hard on the surface.
That was on second-and-6 from the 7, and Hackenberg was sacked on the next play. Sam Ficken kicked a 30-yard field goal, and it was still a game at 21-17 with 2:04 left in the third.
The game was essentially over, however, just a few minutes later.
Everything unraveled on Penn State in a hurry, with the Hoosiers scoring three touchdowns in the next 6 minutes and 34 seconds of game action.
Indiana answered PSU’s field goal by marching right down the field for a TD with 14:10 remaining. The Lions then shot themselves in the foot with two false start penalties on a drive that ended with Hackenberg’s fourth-and-2 pass getting tipped.
The Hoosiers took possession and got a 36-yard TD pass from Nate Sudfeld to Kofi Hughes two plays later to make it 35-17.
“I felt like we were in trouble there,” O’Brien said.
Trouble turned into impossible a few seconds later when Geno Lewis fumbled on the ensuing kickoff. Indiana recovered at the 9, and backup quarterback Tre Roberson scored with 10:30 to go for a 42-17 cushion. The Hoosiers added a safety a few minutes later when they got to Hackenberg in the end zone.
“This is a tough day,” O’Brien said. “This is a tough day to come here and lose.”
It had to be even tougher getting blown out.
“They outplayed us, simple as that,” Urschel said.