Penn State Holds Off Feisty Indiana, Gets Ninth Win of Season
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions defeated the Indiana Hoosiers in a game filled with sloppy mistakes and big plays by a score of 34-27.
For the Nittany Lions, it was a grind-it-out win.
“The game was a battle,” head coach James Franklin said. “That’s a good football team. You can see they’ve gotten better each year.”
The game got off to a slow start, as it took Penn State six plays to gain positive yardage. However, the Nittany Lions got a huge break when Indiana receiver Whop Philyor muffed a punt deep in Indiana territory, which the Nittany Lions were able to recover. This would be the first of many sloppy plays that would cost the Hoosiers dearly.
A few plays later, quarterback Sean Clifford found tight end Nick Bowers on an RPO from 12 yards out to make it a 7-0 Penn State lead.
For as many mistakes as Indiana made in the game, it also made plenty of big plays in the passing game.
On the following drive, quarterback Peyton Ramsey found Ty Fryfogle on two deep balls, including a 38-yard touchdown on busted coverage, which left Fryfogle wide open. This tied the game up at 7-7.
But, once again, an Indiana mistake aided Penn State. On the next Nittany Lions drive, Clifford threw an incompletion directed toward tight end Pat Freiermuth on third-and-7. However, Indiana was flagged for defensive pass interference, giving Penn State a fresh set of downs, after which the Nittany Lions eventually tacked on a field goal. Both teams added touchdowns on rushing attempts from their quarterbacks, which made it a 17-14 Penn State lead after the first quarter.
The theme of big plays and costly mistakes continued into the second quarter. After Indiana forced a fumble and recovered the ball in good field position, the Hoosiers fumbled it right back a few plays later. Philyor took a screen pass upfield before getting whacked by Penn State defensive back Marquis Wilson, who forced and recovered the fumble, killing any momentum that Indiana had built.
Penn State added on another field goal later in the quarter, and both teams headed into the locker room with the score 20-14 in favor of Penn State.
In the third quarter, the Hoosiers made two more costly mistakes. First, after calling a timeout on fourth down, they decided to go for a very questionable fake punt that Penn State snuffed out easily. This led to a long Journey Brown touchdown run just a few plays later.
Second, on third-and-goal, Ramsey did a great job of extending the play while under pressure, finding wide receiver Donavan Hale open in the back of the end zone. But Hale dropped the would-be touchdown, and Indiana had to settle for a field goal. Those two mistakes resulted in a possible 11-point swing away from the Hoosiers.
The dagger for the Hoosiers came in the fourth quarter. After Ramsey added his second rushing touchdown of the day to reduce the deficit to three, Penn State went on an impressive drive: 18 plays, 75 yards and 9:01 of clock wasted, concluding with Clifford bulldozing his way into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Penn State a 34-24 lead.
“That was huge,” senior safety Garrett Taylor said. “For [the offense], to be able to go down the field, eat that much clock up and score a touchdown, that was huge.”
The Hoosiers would add on a field goal near the end of regulation, but it was too little, too late.
Ultimately, the Nittany Lions’ victory came down to a few key components that Franklin believes in.
“At the end of the day, it came down to what we call critical stats,” Franklin said, “We won the field position battle, the turnover battle, the penalties battle… and explosive plays.”
The win improves Penn State’s record to 9-1 on what has been an impressive season. The loss for the Hoosiers drops them to 7-3: still an impressive mark for a team that was not predicted to have a strong season.
Penn State will head to Columbus, Ohio, next week to take on the undefeated No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 23, at noon.
Mitch Broder is a sophomore majoring in digital/print journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.