Indiana football suffered another close loss to a ranked opponent, this time falling at the hands of the Penn State Nittany Lions 34 to 27.
Here are our five key takeaways from the game.
Costly Turnovers and Mistakes
This was one of those games where it seemed Indiana beat themselves as much as their opponent.
The Hoosier defense opened the game with a key three-and-out forcing Penn State to punt from their 19-yard line, but the great defense was negated by a muffed punt by Indiana punt returner Whop Philyor, handing the ball to Penn State at the Indiana 27-yard line.
Five plays later Penn State got the first score of the game, taking an early 7-0 lead.
It is debatable whether Philyor touched the ball or not on the punt, but regardless he should not have been anywhere close to the ball when he decided to let it roll.
The next costly mistake came early in the second quarter.
With Penn State driving into Indiana territory, the Hoosier defense came up with a huge takeaway forcing Penn State running back Devyn Ford to fumble, getting the ball at the Indiana 24-yard line.
Two plays later however, Indiana gave the football right back.
Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey found Philyor near the sideline who then took the ball for a 1st down and then some.
But as Philyor was about to go down he was hit simultaneously by two Penn State defenders and fumbled the ball, giving the Nittany Lions the ball back at Indiana’s 38-yardline.
To add insult to injury Philyor took helmet-to-helmet contact from both tacklers, taking him out of the game with what looked to be a concussion related injury.
The third mistake came early in the 3rd quarter.
Indiana got the ball to start the second half but four minutes in the Hoosier offense faced a 4th-and-1 at their 44-yard line.
After burning a time out Indiana looked as if they were going to punt.
Instead the Hoosiers attempted a fake punt as the ball was snapped to tight end Peyton Hendershot.
The Nittany Lion defense easily read the play and tackled Hendershot four yards behind the line of scrimmage, forcing a turnover on downs.
Hendershot did not seem prepared to receive the snap, leading to the assumption of a miscommunication on Indiana’s part.
The fourth mistake came late in the 3rd quarter.
Indiana built a long drive, starting from their own 25-yard line and seven minutes later found themselves in the red zone at the Penn State 7-yard line.
On a third-and-goal, down 27-14, Ramsey made a remarkable play to avoid a sack, scrambling out of the pocket and throwing a pass to wideout Donovan Hale.
Wide open in the end zone and with the ball touching his hands, the senior wide receiver dropped the pass, forcing the Hoosiers to settle for a field goal.
Long Penn State Drive Kills Chance of a Comeback
With 10:45 left in the fourth quarter Indiana scored a touchdown to close the gap, 27-24, bringing the Hoosiers within three.
With Penn State starting their next drive at their 25-yard line line, the Indiana defense was keen to get a stop, giving their offense a chance to tie or take the lead.
Instead the Nittany Lions put together their longest drive of the game.
Penn State went 18 plays for 75 yards, taking over nine minutes off the clock, converting two third down and two fourth down conversions along the way.
The second fourth down conversion resulted in a touchdown as Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford sneaked the ball one yard into the endzone, giving the Nittany Lions a ten-point lead with just 1:31 left in the game.
Indiana drove downfield to get a field goal with 13 seconds left on the clock.
The Hoosiers then attempted an onside kick, but was recovered by Penn State, sealing the victory for the Nittany Lions.
Cincinnati-born Quarterbacks Have Themselves a Game
This wasn’t the first time Peyton Ramsey and Sean Clifford met head-to-head in a football game.
Both quarterbacks hail from Cincinnati, Ohio, and attended rival prep schools, with Ramsey playing for Elder High School and Clifford for St. Xavier.
Speaking of Elder and St. Xavier, the two schools met Friday night in football, with Elder pulling off a close 4-point victory, 28-24.
After having multiple great battles in high school, the two competitors once again found themselves in a close and intense game.
Both quarterbacks each accounted for a touchdown pass, two rushing touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Ramsey finished with 31 of 41 completions for 371 yards compared to Clifford’s 11-23 for 179 yards.
First Win in State College Continues to Elude Hoosiers
Indiana and Penn State first played each other in football on November 6th, 1993 in State College, Pennsylvania where the Nittany Lions pulled off a 38-31 victory over the Hoosiers.
That was the closest Indiana ever came to defeating Penn State on their home turf until today.
The Hoosiers came into today’s game riding a four-game win streak and securing a winning season for the first time since 2007 after their victory of Northwestern two weeks ago.
They also became ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1994.
Penn State meanwhile suffered their first defeat of the season, coming off a close road loss to Minnesota, causing them to drop from fourth to ninth in the College Football Playoff rankings.
The Nittany Lions were a 14-point favorite heading into today’s matchup, but momentum seemed to be on Indiana’s side.
The game ended closer than many assumed it would, but nonetheless Penn State held on, extending their home wining streak over Indiana to 11 games.
Even with Tough Loss, Much Optimism Remains for Indiana
It is easy to feel discouraged after seeing Indiana suffer another close loss to a ranked opponent.
But even in defeat there is still much this Indiana team can look forward to.
With Penn State’s victory today the Nittany Lions remain undefeated at home.
Their last home game also ended in a close seven-point win, defeating the Michigan Wolverines 28-21 three weeks ago.
Speaking of Michigan, the Wolverines happen to be Indiana’s next opponent.
While Indiana almost made history against Penn State by beating them for the first time in State College, this Hoosier team will have another shot at a historic win.
Indiana hasn’t beaten Michigan since 1987, when the Hoosiers pulled off a close 14-10 victory over the Wolverines in Bloomington.
The past three times Indiana and Michigan have played in Bloomington, the Wolverines managed to escape with a seven-point victory.
In 2017, the last time they played at Indiana, Michigan won in overtime, 27 to 20.
The time before that, in 2015, Michigan won in double-overtime, 48 to 41.
With how close the previous matchups have been, and with both teams losing to Penn State by the same margin, one can assume next week’s game could be another close one.
With another chance to make history, in Bloomington, and on Senior Day for the Hoosiers, Indiana can expect to once again fight for an historic victory.
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