Indiana had just held Cincinnati to a sixth straight first half drive of five plays or less. The Hoosiers were up 14-0 in the second quarter and it could have been much more after they came up empty in the red zone twice.
That sixth Bearcat drive ended with a hit on the quarterback, and after the play the officials announced there would be a review for a potential fumble rather than an incomplete pass. Things could only get better for the Hoosiers, who were in complete control four minutes before halftime.
But the momentum turned in the blink of an eye. During the review the officials found a targeting penalty on IU All-American linebacker Micah McFadden related to the the quarterback hit. The foul was not called on the field, and McFadden appeared to be pushed into the quarterback. Instead of receiving a punt, Indiana’s defense stayed on the field, and everything changed.
“It was massive, it changed everything,” Allen said of the McFadden penalty after the game.
Cincinnati scored a touchdown on that resuscitated sixth drive, and they would score 38 total points over the final 34 minutes of the game to take down IU 38-24 in front of a sold out Memorial Stadium crowd.
Indiana didn’t help its own cause. The Hoosiers committed four turnovers including two in the Cincinnati red zone. In total IU had three trips inside the Bearcat 20 yard line that resulted in no points.
“You can’t be inside the red zone three times and get no points,” Allen said. “So to me that was the game, right there.”
Quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. was just 17-of-40 on the day for 224 yards, with two touchdowns and three interceptions. After the game an Indiana spokesperson said Penix was having x-rays and the program will provide a status on his health on Monday. Allen didn’t rule out a quarterback change irrespective of Penix’s status.
“Nobody’s job is 100 percent safe, I don’t care what position you play on this team.” Allen said. “You better perform and you better play to a high level.”
Cincinnati scored 17 unanswered points after the McFadden targeting call to take a three-point lead with 5:43 left in the third quarter. The teams traded scores as the Hoosiers steadied themselves and took a 24-23 lead after a 14-yard D.J. Matthews touchdown run and a 49-yard Charles Campbell field goal.
But Cincinnati answered with a 9-play, 75 yard touchdown drive to take a 30-24 lead with 12:13 remaining. And then two game-changing turnovers struck. Backup running back Tim Baldwin, who was in for Stephen Carr, fumbled at the Cincinnati four. After forcing a Cincinnati punt, Penix’s third interception set up the Bearcats inside the IU ten yard and led to the clinching score late in the fourth.
With McFadden ejected due to the targeting penalty, Cincinnati amassed 269 of its 328 total yards over the final 34 minutes of the game
The Hoosiers (1-2) will travel to Western Kentucky next Saturday.
See also: Tom Allen post-game
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