Penn State Ends Losing Streak Against Indiana

posted November 9, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

Trailing 7-0 late in the first half and staring at a potential five-game losing streak, the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-4 B1G) came out to start a drive on their own eight-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Bill Belton took the shotgun handoff from Christian Hackenberg and darted 92 yards for the tying score with 3:27 to go in the first half.

Sam Ficken would tack on two field goals in the second half, and the Penn State defense forced two Zander Diamont interceptions en route to a 13-7 win over the Indiana Hoosiers (3-6, 0-5 B1G) Saturday afternoon in Bloomington.

After a combined nine punts in the first quarter that saw the Nittany Lions tally negative-4 rushing yards, the Hoosiers got on the board first with four minutes to go in the half.

Coming on a blitz from his safety position, Mark Murphy jumped Hackenberg’s screen attempt to Geno Lewis and housed a 53-yard interception to give Indiana a 7-0 lead.

Grant Haley managed just eight yards on the ensuing kickoff return to set up Belton’s 92-yard scamper. The senior’s career long accounted for the longest rush of the season thus far in the Big Ten and tied a program record for longest play from scrimmage.

Belton finished the day with 137 yards on 16 carries, however, excluding the long touchdown run, the Nittany Lions rushed for only 70 yards on 36 carries.

Penn State had a chance to take an early lead in the first quarter, but three consecutive negative rushes lead to a Ficken field goal attempt that was ultimately blocked. On the year now, the Lou Groza Award semi-finalist is 19-22 on field goal attempts with all three misses coming on blocks.

The Nittany Lions’ top-ranked rush defense was once again on display, limiting Hoosier running back Tevin Coleman to 71 yards on 20 touches. Coleman had rushed for north of 100 yards five times on the season and was averaging eight yards per carry on the year.

Diamont, making his third career start because of a flurry of injuries, threw for just 68 yards in addition to the two interceptions. He added 58 yards on the ground, but the Nittany Lion defense held the Hoosier offense scoreless on the afternoon. Indiana failed to advance past the Penn State 30-yard line with their lone scoring opportunity coming on a missed 50-yard field goal from Griffin Oakes.

Junior Donovan Smith failed to make the trip because of an injury sustained against Ohio State, so for the second straight week Andrew Nelson got the start at left tackle and Wendy Laurent started at center. For the first time since tearing his ACL in spring practice, fifth-year senior Miles Dieffenbach was in uniform for the Nittany Lions and saw one series at left guard. Dieffenbach will look to continue to see more time as the season progresses.

Hackenberg completed 12-29 pass attempts for 168 yards and two interceptions. After throwing just ten interceptions all of last season, the sophomore has already tossed 12 picks this year. Hackenberg was also sacked five more times yesterday, pushing the offensive line’s total to 35 sacks surrendered for the season.

Penn State now sits at 5-4 on the year, needing just one more win to secure a bowl bid. The Nittany Lions have been kept out of the postseason the past two seasons and haven’t been to a bowl since falling to Houston 30-14 in the 2012 TicketCity Bowl.

The Nittany Lions look to become bowl eligible next Saturday when they return to Happy Valley to host Temple. It will be Military Appreciation Day at Beaver Stadium as the two in-state programs meet for the 43rd time. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. with ComRadio’s complete coverage beginning at 9 a.m. with the Tailgate Show live from outside the All Sports Museum.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo/PennLive.com, Joe Hermitt)

Matt Lawrence is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact him, email mdl030293@gmail.com.