Penn State Football: Indiana Wins 44-24, Beating Penn State For First Time In Program History
Penn State football lost to Indiana for the first time in program history Saturday afternoon 44-24 in front of a damp and rainy Bloomington, Indiana crowd.
For Penn State, the Nittany Lions opened the game with a glimmer of life, driving the ball 12 plays for a total of 52-yards. The drive took up just under five-minutes off of the clock. In the early going it appeared that Penn State would be content to run the ball with running back Zach Zwinak picking 13 yards on the first two plays from scrimmage.
Christian Hackenberg got into the mix though and went 4-of-6 for 28 yards on the drive, including talented receiver Allen Robinson early and often in the game. Penn State would come up short on 4th-and-5 on the Indiana 26 rather than settling for what would have been a 43 yard field goal attempt by Sam Ficken.
Indiana struggled on its opening drive losing 11 yards in total. Penn State responded with a short 8 play 18-yard drive of its own before punting back to Indiana. The Hoosiers were then able to move the ball 35 yards but failed to convert their own fourth down attempt giving Penn State the ball yet again.
In the early going the Nittany Lion attack was balanced. Penn State threw the ball 11 times and ran it 10 times over the course of the first three drives but with no result on the scoreboard.
Indiana finally found its high powered offense on the sixth drive of the game, moving the ball 66-yards in only four plays. The eventual Hoosier touchdown was set up by a Nate Sudfeld pass to Cody Latimer for 33 yards to the Penn State 22.
Penn State responded with two drives that totaled 19 yards over 11 plays. Early in the second quarter though Hackenberg would find Robinson open to his left. Robinson caught the ball and made a beautiful turn to find open field. What looked like a short gain suddenly turned into a game tying 46-yard touchdown catch-and-run.
With the game tied Penn State's defense proceeded to give up a 8 play, 68-yard drive on the ensuing possession that saw the Hoosiers settle for a field goal to break the tie and give Indiana a 10-7 lead.
Penn State bounced back for its second strong drive of the first half moving the ball down the field behind six passes and five runs that got the Nittany Lions within field goal range. Facing a fourth-and-two, coach Bill O'Brien opted to kick the field goal from 42-yards out but it was blocked by Indiana. Penn State's 50 yard drive lasted almost five minutes but came away with nothing.
The Hoosiers drove the ball yet again on an 11 play, 65 yard effort that ended with a field goal to extend the Indiana lead to 13-7 as time expired in the first half.
Indiana opened the second half with the ball but the seven play drive was short lived, largely aided by a sack by Jordan Lucas and Mike Hull. Penn State took its first crack at offense in the second half and drove the ball 80 yards in 13 plays capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass to Allen Robinson, his second on the day. Penn State now leading 14-13 in the third quarter.
The Hooisers responded quickly like they did following the first Penn State score, going 5 plays and 74 yards, quickly celebrating a Tevin Coleman 44-yard touchdown scamper that began a massive Indiana scoring run.
Penn State's Adrian Amos would intercept a deflected pass to give the Nittany Lions the ball back with 6:06 to go in the third quarter. Hackenberg led Penn State 42 yards on the ensuing series but the offense stalled near the endzone making a 30-yard field goal by Ficken the only reward for the forced turnover. With time winding down in the third quarter Penn State trailed 21-17 and was still very much in the game.
Like many times earlier in the that afternoon Indiana responded to a Penn State score. This time in the form of a 11 play, 74 yard drive that ended with a two yard Tre Roberson touchdown run. With the Hoosiers up 28-17, Penn State needed a productive drive to get back within a touchdown. A false start on first down backed the Nittany Lions up and a false start on second down backed them up even farther. Facing an eventual fourth-and-2 on their own 33, the Nittany Lions failed to convert and Indiana scored two plays later on a 36-yard pass to Kofi Hughes.
Geno Lewis fumbled the ensuing kickoff return and Indiana scored a play later to extend the lead to 42-17. In total the Hoosiers scored three touchdowns in the span of 3:40 to take a commanding lead.
Penn State engineered a 8 play, 75-yard drive that ended with a Bill Belton touchdown reception. Down 42-24 with just under 10 minutes to go landed the score very much in the too little, too late department.
The Nittany Lions would not score again, but Indiana would pour one last bit of salt into the wound, forcing a fumble and a safety to secure the final 44-24 victory.
For Penn State the team now falls to 3-2 on the year. Why the Nittany Lions lost is something that will be debated in the coming days. While there is no exact answer to this question there seem to be a few elements to consider.
Indiana had one of the nation's worst rush defenses coming into Saturday's game. The Hooisers gave up an average of 247 yards on the ground per game this season. Even disregarding the lost yards via sacks and a botched field goal (Both which count towards net rushing yards) Penn State racked up only 119 yards on the ground. That mark is just half of what the Hoosiers have given up on average to four very average opponents so far this year.
On the other side of that coin O'Brien opted to throw the ball 55 times in contrast to 32 rushes. While Hackenberg technically threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, a large amount of his efforts came during a point in the game when Penn State was not really within reach. There is little doubt Hackenberg is talented, but consider Allen Robinson's 173 yards receiving and over half of Hackenberg's efforts came at the hands of a single player. Hardly a balanced attack.
From a defensive standpoint John Butler's unit kept the Nittany Lions in the game for as long as they could but Indiana's talented attack wasn't going to go without having big plays. Up 14-13 in the third quarter Penn State had everything it needed to steal the win against an Indiana defense that gives up almost 500 yards of offense per game. But in the end the defense buckled and the offense clicked far too late into the game for the efforts to really matter.
Next week Penn State will take on an equally talented Michigan team in Beaver Stadium. The Wolverines are a beatable team, but if the Nittany Lions continue to struggle on both sides of the ball it could be the second of possibly many losses in the near future.