There were so many angles of improbability when it came to Indiana rallying from an eight point deficit with less than two minutes to go on Saturday against Penn State.
Not the least of them was the fact that the game tying drive featured first career catches by not one but two Hoosier wide receivers.
The signs were everywhere during fall camp that true freshman Javon Swinton would see the field in 2020.
But few expected him to emerge with the game on the line against the No. 8 Nittany Lions.
Quarterback Michael Penix struggled all afternoon to find a rhythm, until he completed passes on consecutive plays to Swinton.
The 6-foot-2 Swinton ran what appeared to be the same route each time, making his first two career receptions for 23 yards and pushing the ball to the Penn State 20 yard line.
For the Stafford, Va. product, delivering in such a big moment was a thrill.
“It definitely was like a dream come true, especially just being on that big of a stage,” Swinton said. “I felt like it was a make or break moment, and when I got the chance, I made a play. It was just a dream come true for me honestly.”
Swinton’s pair of receptions set the stage for one of the more dramatic plays of the game.
With a Penn State defender in his face, Penix somehow delivered a side-armed laser to redshirt sophomore Jacolby Hewitt.
Hewitt laid out his body to reach the ball, placed perfectly in a spot where only he could get to it.
A year removed from a season ending ACL injury, the catch was the first of Hewitt’s career, and the game his first since high school in 2017.
Hewitt recalled the play and his mental preparation.
“It was a post,” Hewitt said. “I just knew I was supposed to cross the safety’s face and when I crossed his face, I looked at Mike (Penix) and I saw, I just felt it. You know how it is, just one of those plays, just felt like it is coming to you.”
The incredible pitch and catch set Indiana up at the Penn State six yard line and set the stage for the game tying touchdown and two-point conversion at the end of regulation.
The next day Hewitt went to see his quarterback to thank him for the precision strike.
“The next day I had to go over to his house and go kiss him,” Hewitt said of Penix. “I was like ‘you are a bad man for throwing a ball like that.’ That’s a Heisman man right there.”
Swinton and Hewitt were forced into action against Penn State after starting wideout Miles Marshall suffered what appeared to be a concussion.
With Marshall and key reserve David Ellis both questionable for Saturday, IU’s emerging young receivers could be called upon once again.
And once again, they plan to be ready.
Hewitt acknowledged an unprecedented sense of urgency in the receiver room as they prepare for Rutgers.
“Me and Javon and a couple of the other younger guys, we’ve just been talking each other through every play, every route we’ve got, just making sure we are all on one accord and we are executing the play,” Hewitt said.
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