Can they live up to the national ranking? Can they stay focused after a big win?
Yes and yes.
The No. 17/19 Hoosiers took care of business on the road against an improved Rutgers program. The victory marks the first Hoosier win as a ranked team since a triumph over Purdue in 1993.
IU is now 10-5 over its last 15 games, with 12 of the 15 coming against power five opponents.
Here are our grades from the win as the Hoosiers moved to 2-0 in the Big Ten for the first time since 1991.
Michael Penix’s day was even better than it appeared.
A run of early drops made the redshirt sophomore’s 17-of-26 performance look less efficient. But Penix was sharp, especially in the second half. He threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns, matching a career-best scoring output.
Penix added 20 yards rushing, including a career-long rush of 25 yards, on six carries, and his second touchdown in as many weeks. He used his feet much better this week not only to run, but to create space and escape the pocket when needed.
RUNNING BACKS (B-)
Stevie Scott and Sampson James combined for 28 carries for 114 yards (4.1 ypc).
Scott had some early pass drops but also picked up a few key blocks in pass protection.
The run game was effective at times, but nothing spectacular. And that might be the story throughout the season, especially with an offensive line that isn’t dominant by any stretch.
James perhaps looked better at times with a bit more shiftiness, but neither back is providing breakaway speed.
WIDE RECEIVERS / TIGHT ENDS (B+)
#Indiana WR Whop Philyor. That's it, that's the tweet.
In all seriousness, I see late day 2 intrigue, but certainly Day 3. Has return skills and ability to separate in the slot. pic.twitter.com/zTchgP9Fea
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) October 31, 2020
The absence of starter Miles Marshall (concussion) made it easier for Rutgers to focus on Whop Philyor and Ty Fryfogle, but the duo was still effective.
Philyor made several big plays and averaged a gaudy 27.4 yards per catch (5 catches, 137 yards), while Fryfogle found the end zone.
True freshman Javon Swinton was the only other wideout that caught a pass (1 catch, 17 yards).
Tight end Peyton Hendershot delivered a big day with 6 receptions and 2 touchdowns.
The Hoosiers should get Marshall and David Ellis back for Michigan, giving Penix more weapons to work with.
OFFENSIVE LINE (C+)
Penix had more time to throw and the running lanes were at least at times a bit wider — but Rutgers is obviously not Penn State.
The group is still allowing Penix to take too many shots — a recipe for disaster.
The good news — a second half stretch that saw IU pull away was the in large part due to Penix having a clean pocket.
Did this unit turn a corner? We’ll find out soon enough. They will face a stiff test against Michigan next weekend.
DEFENSIVE LINE (B+)
The 4-2-5 scheme isn’t necessarily designed for the front four to produce stats, but their ability to get penetration often makes or breaks the system.
Sio Nofoagatoto’a got to the quarterback and caused one of Indiana’s interceptions, while Jonathan King was in the right place to corral one as well.
That IU was able to get 3 takeaways and 4 sacks while allowing just 248 yards highlights the play of the guys up front, who occupied blockers and created lanes for the splash plays.
Jerome Johnson added 4 tackles, including 2 solo.
The linebackers didn’t produce a high tackle volume, but they still made several high impact plays.
Cam Jones’ penetration on a blitz created IU’s first interception, while Micah McFadden hauled in the final pick during the second and third quarter stretch that turned the game. Jones also delivered a sack.
McFadden was flagged for a questionable roughing the passer call that immediately led to a Rutgers score.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (A)
— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) November 1, 2020
This group made big plays all over the field throughout the game.
Tiawan Mullen delivered 2.5 sacks, while Jamar Johnson, Reese Taylor and Jaylin Williams all made high impact tackles for losses.
Mullen (7), Devon Matthews (6) and Johnson (6) led IU in tackles.
Williams delivered his second interception in as many weeks.
Mullen appeared to lose his man on a Rutgers fourth quarter score.
SPECIAL TEAMS (B-)
Kicker Charles Campbell is now 7-of-7 for his career kicking field goals after delivering three more on Saturday.
The kickoff coverage team allowed an onside kick to be recovered and a 55 yard return on another kickoff.
Tom Allen had a major challenge this week keeping his team focused and ready to play after a big win over Penn State. While there were some early penalties, the Hoosiers brought energy, made big plays, and never looked flat.
Under offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan Indiana is 11-of-11 scoring in the red zone for the season. The offense seems to be finding a rhythm and would have looked much better if not for five or six early dropped passes. IU hit the 30-point threshold for the 11th time since the beginning of the 2019 season and the second time in as many outings to start the 2020 season. The 11 games rank second in the Big Ten during the span, trailing only Ohio State (13).
It was a second straight strong day for the defense under Kane Wommack, who designed several creative blitzes using the secondary that got home. Just like last weekend, the aggressive play of the defense turned the game in IU’s favor, and they were able to sustain high level play for most of the day.
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