Hoosiers have strong showing
UNIVERSITY PARK – While most experts didn’t project Indiana (7-3, 4-3 Big Ten) to be bowl eligible so early in the season, the Hoosiers have been not only a surprise, but good competition for its conference opponents.
The Hoosiers, despite losing star quarterback Michael Penix Jr. for the season last week, put on a strong performance on both sides of the ball, namely by second-string redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey under center. Ramsey was 31-for-41 on the day with 371 yards and a touchdown.
This was the fifth time this season that the Hoosiers eclipsed the 300-plus yard total mark through the air, but it was also their fourth game with one or fewer passing touchdowns.
Already on their backup quarterback, the Hoosiers took another loss in the second quarter when wide receiver Whop Philyor left the game with an unknown injury.
While he has generally been Indiana’s most successful target this season, he had a muffed punt and a fumble Saturday, both recovered by Penn State.
“First, you saw we had that one mistake right to start the half with twelve guys and that was David (Ellis) just not used to being in there as much,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said about the first play of the second half.
Indiana had several moments where it did not look confident. Like Allen said, it was a case of unfamiliarity for the Hoosiers. Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh did something similar where he called a timeout on the first play of the game against Penn State a few weeks before.
Also, Indiana ran a fake punt that turned disasterous, leading to a fourth-down turnover. It lined up five guys on the right side, leaving exposed Indiana players in the middle of the field. The play was snuffed out by three Penn State players.
“Peyton (Ramsey) was surprised to get the ball; he wasn’t supposed to. So it’s just a mistake,” Allen said.
Indiana outgained Penn State through the air, but the Nittany Lions’ running game was dominant, more than doubling up the Hoosiers’ 92 yards with 192 yards of their own. Indiana owned the total offensive yardage, though, with 462 to the Nittany Lions’ 371.
With Hamler out, others step up
When KJ Hamler left the game in the second quarter with an undisclosed injury, the Penn State offense felt unbalanced. The lack of a top receiver threw a wrench into the receiving plans, but the offense was still able to pick up 127 yards on 11 receptions without him.
“Every week, win or loss, we’re always looking to correct whatever we’ve done wrong,” Lions sophomore Jahan Dotson said. “I feel like we do a great job of that and (we emphasize) third downs a lot, and scoring in the red zone.”
With Hamler out, other receivers stepped in to keep the passing game fresh. Tight end Pat Friermuth has looked strong the past few weeks, and continued into today with 32 yards on two catches.
Mac Hippenhammer, the baseball-football player that was flourishing with potential last season, finally made his first catch of the season today for 15 yards.
“It’s next-man mentality,” quarterback Sean Clifford said. “Mac (Hippenhammer) did a great job today, and all the receivers that came in and played his position did a great job.”
Hamler, who’s responsible for 791 receiving yards and eight touchdowns this year, has been the receiving corps’ No. 1 guy from the beginning of the season. His teammates know that he’d do anything to step back onto the field.
“Of course he was happy just because we came out with the ‘W’,” Dotson said. “He was a little sad because he wasn’t out there to be with us, but he knows he’s going to bounce back and do whatever he has to do to get back out there.”
It is uncertain whether or not Hamler will be cleared to play in next week’s game at Ohio State, but it would certainly make a world of difference if he was to be kept off the field.
RB rotation shortened
The usual four-man running back rotation was not implemented into Saturday’s game. Journey Brown took most of the workload, carrying 21 times for 100 yards and a touchdown. Devyn Ford saw the field later in the game, picking up 55 yards of his own on the ground.
The team also attempted to utilize backup quarterback Will Levis in the game, but with little success. The redshirt freshman took three snaps for five yards, but converted a huge fourth down late in the game to keep Penn State’s clock killing nine-minute drive alive.
It appears as if Penn State’s running game is fresh, whether they feature the rotation or not. Even in a game relying heavily on one running back, the Nittany Lions were able to pick up big yardage when they needed it, but also crucial yardage in pressured, short situations.
That’s more than 11
In his press conference, James Franklin talked about how important it was to the program that they implement some “12 personnel” in its package.
“We think we got two really good tight ends and, also, guys behind,” Franklin said. “We’re starting to develop that position to be a position of power. It’s essentially a fullback.”
It will be interesting to see what Franklin decides to do with that position this week against a quick Ohio State defense.
Additionally, Noah Cain still appears to be hurt after missing last week’s game against Minnesota. Cain had been consistent and a huge part of the rotation’s success before falling to injury.
On the road again
Penn State will face its biggest test of the year on the road this week in Columbus when it takes on No. 2 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes embarrassed Rutgers Saturday like they’ve done to their opponents all season long.
The team has yet to score fewer than 34 points in a game this year, meaning Penn State’s defense will need a nearly flawless game if they expect to come away with the victory.
In their last two games, opposing quarterbacks are 49-for-61 with 710 yards and zero interceptions against the Nittany Lions. Buckeye quarterback Justin Fields is considered one of the best passers in the country, so Penn State will need to win every defensive battle possible.
The teams will kick off at noon on the Fox Network from Ohio Stadium.
Compiled by Max Jordan