If all else fails, man’s best friend, or in this case, Mike’s best friend, will be there, blissfully unaware.
Everyone has an opinion on what is wrong with Indiana quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. Three straight season-ending injuries have caught up with him mentally they say. He is rusty from never having a normal offseason. He is pressing in moments where he shouldn’t.
But when the spotlights are off and Penix gets home, he has one fan, maybe his biggest fan, who is completely oblivious to what transpired on the football field
“When I get home after the game, I have a dog at home and he’s very loyal, and he doesn’t know I threw three interceptions, he doesn’t know we lost, he still comes and shows love all the time wagging his tail,” Penix told reporters on Tuesday.
The Tampa, Fla. product said he also finds comfort in his faith as he tries to make sense of a seemingly unfair wave of injuries and a start to the season no one expected.
“I’m Christian, I pray,” he said. “Understanding that everything happens for a reason, and not to get down on myself.”
Whether it is Penix’s pit bull Guiseppe or his faith, it is important that Penix find ways to steady himself after the difficult start to his redshirt junior season. As the starting quarterback, he carries a different burden than most of his teammates. All eyes are trained on him all of the time. If he shows weakness or doubt, it won’t go unnoticed, and Penix knows that.
“I just make sure I stay positive in every way, because people are going to be looking at me on the team, after games like that people are going to look at me and see how I respond,” he said.
The 6-foot-3 now 21-year-old quarterback has thrown six interceptions through three games, nearly surpassing his eight thrown over his first three campaigns in Bloomington. While he has made mistakes on the move and while under pressure in the pocket, Penix says he doesn’t believe that is the defining issue when it comes to his slow start.
“If you look back at the film, most of my good throws were under duress as well, so I wouldn’t say that’s it,” he said.
Instead, Penix has the same read on his mistakes as his coaches — there are just a few moments where he needs to recognize the situation better and move on to the next play.
“Just knowing when the play is over, not trying to force stuff, just understanding the situation and playing smart football,” Penix said of his diagnosis of what he needs to improve.
Penix had x-rays and an MRI on his non-throwing hand after the 38-24 loss to Cincinnati. The results were negative, and he says he has been “full go” at practice this week. His head coach Tom Allen has already confirmed Penix will be the starting quarterback on Saturday evening at Western Kentucky (8 p.m. Eastern, CBS Sports Network).
Despite the disappointing start, from the starting quarterback down to the walk-ons, Penix sees a team still focused on the big picture.
“I see a lot of people that care and want to be great,” he said. “The two losses early, we definitely didn’t want that, but I feel like we can learn from that.”
And as they continue to look for answers, ready at home with his always upbeat contribution will be Guiseppe.
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