For the better part of Indiana’s thrilling 36-35 win over then eighth-ranked Penn State on Saturday, Hoosier quarterback Michael Penix Jr. looked out of sorts. He rushed throws, his footwork was all over the place, and he missed open receivers.
But after Penn State running back Devyn Ford inexplicably scored a touchdown with just under two minutes to play, giving Indiana the ball back and a chance to tie the game, Penix Jr. flipped the switch.
Suddenly, the pinpoint accuracy that we saw last season returned, and despite facing heavy pressure, Penix came through. From the 1:42-minute mark to the end of the game, Penix was 8-of-9 for 71 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing) and two 2-point conversions (both rushing).
Here’s a breakdown of the end of the game for Penix Jr. and the IU offense.
1st & 10 at IU 25
(1:38 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Whop Philyor for 12 yds to the Ind 37 for a 1ST down
The biggest advantage Penix Jr. and IU have on this drive is their tempo. Because it is a two-minute drill and because Penn State can’t afford to give up a big play, they have to be willing to allow shorter completions.
Whop Philyor, whom Penix had been unable to connect with on several big plays earlier in the game, runs a nice out route here and Penix does a nice job of leading him out of bounds.
This relatively easy pitch and catch is an essential part of any successful late drive, and Penix executes it well here.
1st & 10 at PSU 48
(1:28 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass incomplete to Ty Fryfogle
After a huge (and somewhat questionable) face mask call on the Nittany Lions, IU is now in a really good spot having not used its timeout and already being across midfield.
Penix has two routes to his right, and he does a great job of working through his progressions. He scans the right side of the field before working back to Ty Fryfogle, who runs a good ten-yard dig route.
Penix sees Fryfogle make his break, and immediately makes a quick decision to throw the ball – and its a good one – but corner Tariq Castro-Fields makes a great play, knocking the ball away.
2nd & 5 at PSU 43
(1:19 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Javon Swinton for 13 yds to the PnSt 30 for a 1ST down
The Hoosiers get another break, with Penn State jumping offsides the play before. So now there is plenty of time left, and IU needs only 43 yards.
Penn State Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry dials yet another zero blitz on this play. Six defenders blitz Penix here, leaving the corner on the right side of the field with two IU receivers. Penix had seen pressure like this all game, but rarely had he adjusted and made a quick throw.
Here, he does just that, waiting for freshman Javon Swinton to get open on a comeback route, and standing in the pocket and making a tough throw. Penix’s ability to throw with accuracy and ball placement on this drive, despite heavy pressure from the Nittany Lions, was incredibly impressive. He gives Swinton his first career catch here.
1st & 10 at PSU 30
(1:12 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Javon Swinton for 10 yds to the PnSt 20 for a 1ST down
After a Penn State timeout, Penix goes right back to Swinton. Once again Swinton runs a nice comeback route, and once again the true freshman receiver wins a one-on-one matchup to make a tough catch.
Penn State only sends four, but as was the case all game long, this offensive line just couldn’t hold up. Three of the four pass rushers win easily here and get to Penix quickly. But somehow Penix gets this throw off, and incredibly throws a frozen rope to the Swinton on the boundary.
Penix is literally being pulled to the ground as he releases this ball, and it can’t be understated how impressive this ball placement is given the pressure. But this wasn’t even MPJ’s best throw of the drive…
1st & 10 at PSU 20
(0:56 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Jacolby Hewitt for 14 yds to the PnSt 6 for a 1ST down
With just 20 yards to go and over a minute to play with, Penix unleashes his best throw of the night. With Penn State’s Jayson Oweh (28) unblocked, Penix drops a dime into an incredibly tight window.
Hewitt runs a steep slant route as a second option to Whop Philyor’s slot fade route towards the end zone, but because of the pressure, Penix has to go over the middle, he doesn’t have time to look to Philyor on the far boundary.
I’ve watched this play 100 times (seriously) and I still don’t know how Penix even go this throw off, much less with that kind of accuracy. This is the best of Michael Penix Jr.: toughness in the pocket, a rapid-fire release, and tight-window accuracy. What a play.
1st & Goal at PSU 6
(0:42 – 4th) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Peyton Hendershot for 5 yds to the PnSt 1
After the last jaw-dropping throw, Penix fires another strike to tight end Peyton Hendershot for what probably should have been called a touchdown. Its a nice call from OC Nick Sheridan, letting Hendershot run a six-yard curl. He’s able to just cross the goal-line before Penix’s ball is on his hands.
What’s most impressive about this Penix drive is how truly blanketed many of the recipients of his passes were. Here, Hendershot is being mirrored by the defender, and yet Penix still finds a way to get him the ball. That’s ball placement and timing, and its what Penix can do so well.
1st & 10 at PSU 25
(OT) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Stevie Scott III for 9 yds to the PnSt 16
Penix obviously executes both a quarterback sneak and quarterback draw for a touchdown and the game-tying two point conversion, respectively, to perfection after the Hendershot grab, and now it’s overtime.
It’s not flashy, but here’s another example of Penix being in control of the offense. This is a bog spot: Penn State has just put the pressure on IU to score a touchdown in the early part of overtime.
What does Penix do? He makes an easy, no-pressure dump-off to Stevie Scott and Scott rumbles his way for nine yards. It is plays like this that give a quarterback a chance to do what Penix does just three plays later.
3rd & Goal at PSU 9
(OT) Michael Penix Jr. pass complete to Whop Philyor for 9 yds for a TD
After an unsuccessful check down to Scott, IU finds itself in a 3rd and Goal situation with nine yards to pay dirt. Needing a score, Nick Sheridan dials up another slot fade for Whop Philyor out of trips, and this time, it works to perfection.
Penix does a great job with his feet here, stepping up avoid the rush, and delivering a perfect ball to his favorite target Philyor. We talk all the time about putting the ball where only the receiver can get it, and Penix Jr. does just that, lofting the ball over Lamont Wade and into the hands of Whop.
Though fades are often criticized around the goal line, the advantage of a slot fade is twofold: it lets Philyor build up some momentum as he turns the corner, and it makes the defensive back, in this case Wade, have his back to the ball. Great play call, better execution. Touchdown Hoosiers.
The game winning 2-point conversion
A play that requires no explanation.
Just watch on a loop at full speed until you give up trying to figure out how Penix got to the goal line without touching the ground.
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