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IU football: Indiana vs. Penn State — The Report Card

It was worth the wait.

Indiana opened the long-awaited 2020 season with one of the more memorable wins in program history.

IU took down No. 8 Penn State 36-35 in overtime on Saturday, earning the program’s first win over a top 10 program since 1987.

Here are our grades from the signature win.

See also:  Tom Allen and James Franklin post-game | Post-game scenes | Game story

QUARTERBACK (B-)

How in the world do you grade this effort?

The first 58 minutes were a disaster, although a year long layoff and lack of a nonconference tune-up schedule no doubt contributed to Michael Penix opening the game 11-of-26 for 99 yards and an interception.

But the final 1:42 plus overtime showed what Penix is capable of, even when under relentless pressure.

Penix closed the game 8-of-10 for 71 yards, adding both a rushing and passing touchdown and 2 two-point conversions.

RUNNING BACKS (C+)

Stevie Scott found the end zone twice but struggled all day to find space.  Much of the issue was on the offensive line, but Scott didn’t have enough shiftiness and burst to help the cause.

David Ellis missed the game with an injury — and it was clear that IU was missing the change of pace that he could have provided.

Scott ran 20 times for 66 yards in a workmanlike effort.  He also caught 3 passes for 11 more yards.  He also fumbled, but that may have been as a result of targeting that wasn’t called.

WIDE RECEIVERS / TIGHT ENDS (B)

With Penix under pressure the receiver group wasn’t able to make many catches on a lot of off target throws.

Lost in the ending of the game was a spectacular catch in the end zone by Whop Philyor that allowed for Penix’s winning two-point conversion.

Miles Marshall made several big plays but was knocked out and is likely in concussion protocol.

Peyton Hendershot likely could have scored a touchdown that could have clinched the game but instead made a drop that appeared to cost IU the game.

Jacolby Hewitt’s first career catch was one for the ages — and IU doesn’t win without it.

OFFENSIVE LINE (D)

This was the unit most were concerned about coming into the season, and that now seems justified.

Stevie Scott averaged just 2.9 yards per carry and Penix was under constant early pressure and took several hits.

Left tackle Caleb Jones was beat several times late in the game, allowing two sacks that seemed to clinch the game for PSU.  And Jones is IU’s top tackle.

It isn’t clear how Penix will survive the season under this kind of pressure.

DEFENSIVE LINE (B+)

Matched up against the strength of Penn State’s offense, this group for the most part held up.  After allowing a score on PSU’s first drive, IU got stops on 5 of the next 6 drives.

And then they were wore down by their own offense’s inability to sustain drives.

Don’t pin Penn State’s time of possession and yardage advantages on the defense.  In fact, only allowing 21 points until the final two minutes of the fourth quarter was admirable when considering how much they were on the field.

The group made several big plays including a couple fourth down stops.

LINEBACKERS (B)

Micah McFadden picked up where he left off last season with a team leading 11 tackles, while Cam Jones added 7.

Much like the defensive line, the linebackers held up reasonably well under the circumstances.

But who do you blame most for Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford’s 122 rushing yards?  Probably this group.

Credit – IU Athletics

DEFENSIVE BACKS (A-)

All three first half Penn State turnovers were created by the DBs.

Jamar Johnson and Jaylin Williams might be the two most underrated players on the team.  Both continue to make big plays going back to last season.  Devon Matthews also had IU’s lone sack.

The group had a breakdown that allowed a 60 yard fourth quarter touchdown pass, but otherwise generally held the Penn State passing attack in check.

SPECIAL TEAMS (A)

Indiana lost games in this series because of special teams each of the last three years.  On Saturday they avoided back-breaking big plays.

Kicker Charles Campbell was clutch with two field goals.

After a botched squib kick at the end of regulation, kickoff man Jared Smolar is feeling more than a little relieved today.

COACHING (A)

Tom Allen’s decision to go for two to win the game will be talked about for decades.  With his defense exhausted and offense finally moving the ball, the decision made sense.  But it took nerves of steel.

The decision to allow Penn State to score had to happen but the coaching staff was on top of it.

The late rally almost ended disastrously after a failed squib kick.  But if Penn State would have pulled off a big return on a deep kick like they did in Bloomington two years ago, that would have been questioned too.

New offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan’s debut as a play-caller was less than memorable, but he did push all the right buttons late, including allowing or encouraging Penix to run.

Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack’s group was much better than the numbers suggest and generated the three first half takeaways that made the final outcome possible.


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