Indiana football hung with No. 10 Penn State for much of the afternoon, but couldn’t seal the deal.
The Hoosiers tied the game at 24 with just under three minutes to play in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard field goal by Chris Freeman, after Josh Sanguinetti came up with Drew Allar’s first career interception. But Penn State answered back quickly, as Allar hit KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 57-yard touchdown to take a 31-24 lead.
Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) sealed it one play later. IU quarterback Brendan Sorsby fumbled at the 25 yard line, and it bounced all the way back out of the end zone for a safety. PSU ran out the clock from there for a 33-24 win.
Indiana (2-6, 0-5) made a notable decision after the interception by calling three straight running plays, essentially playing for the field goal instead of taking a shot for the end zone. IU head coach Tom Allen said he and offensive coordinator Rod Carey agreed they couldn’t risk a turnover in that position.
“We had actually done that to kind of set some things up. We were running the ball really well. But when we got to third down, we talked real quick and said, ‘We’re in field goal range, don’t risk a takeaway.’ They’re really good at taking the ball away, they’re a great pressure team on third and six,” Allen said. “And we felt, we’re already in field goal range, we thought it was the smart thing to do, to not put ourselves in position to give away those points and lose the game that way.”
Sorsby played one of his strongest games to date, going 13 for 19 for 269 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. Running back Josh Henderson returned after a four-game absence and picked up 57 yards on 12 attempts.
Indiana got off to a promising start with a couple defensive stops, and then a long touchdown pass from Sorsby to Dequece Carter. The 90-yard score tied for the third-longest passing play in program history, and gave Indiana a 7-0 lead. Carter finished with three receptions for 104 yards.
The defense responded with a three and out, but Camden Jordan muffed the punt and Penn State recovered, gifting the Nittany Lions a second chance with much better field position. And they converted that into a nine-yard game-tying touchdown strike from Drew Allar to Khalil Dinkins, who slipped behind the entire IU defense on a play action pass.
Indiana regained the lead early in the second quarter on another big play PSU ran a cornerback blitz that left Donaven McCulley alone on the left side, the safety didn’t pick him up, and Sorsby hit him for a 69-yard touchdown to make it 14-7. McCulley caught a team-high four passes for 96 yards on the day.
The Nittany Lions tied it up a few possessions later, capping an 11-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run by Nicholas Singleton. Indiana set them up to take the lead at the end of the quarter when Sorsby threw an interception around midfield with 1:01 left until halftime. IU’s defense made a stop in the red zone, forcing an intentional grounding that backed up PSU to the 32 yard line. Alex Felkins drilled the 50-yard field goal as time expired to send Penn State to the locker room with the lead.
Penn State started with possession in the second half and put together its best drive of the game. The Nittany Lions drove 75 yards in 12 plays, over 6:21 of game time, and extended the lead on a 16-yard pass from Allar to tight end Theo Johnson.
IU answered back in the fourth quarter with its own best drive of the game: 80 yards in 12 plays, over 5:20. And the Hoosiers capped it with a 26-yard pass to Omar Cooper Jr., who made a nifty move to juke PSU defensive back Daequan Hardy to get to the end zone, cutting the deficit to 24-21.
Allen lamented some mistakes his team made that may have swung the game, but was ultimately proud of the way his team battled.
“I feel like we definitely hurt ourselves, without question,” Allen said. “Just a couple of the self-inflicted wounds early, I thought, hurt us, put us behind the chains a little bit. There’s no question, we played good enough to win the game. Just didn’t finish, the last three minutes. It’s down to three minutes, tied 24 all. Just makes it even harder, makes it hurt more, tougher. Played a really good team like this on the road, and our kids, they battled, they fought. Proud of them. Proud of those guys in the locker room. They hung together, they stayed together, and they came here to win the game.”
Indiana returns home next week to host Wisconsin.