As Indiana head coach Tom Allen remembers it, there were several moments in last season’s 34-27 loss to Penn State that he’d like to have back.
That’s true of just about any football game, but for his star wide receiver Whop Philyor, the contest was particularly memorable.
Or perhaps to Allen’s way of thinking — particularly forgettable.
“There were several forgettable things in last year’s game, some self-inflicted, some inflicted upon us,” Allen said this week.
One of the more significant self-inflicted moments came less than two minutes into the game, and quickly turned the tide.
After IU forced a PSU three-and-out to open the game, Philyor inexplicably let a bouncing punt hit him in the leg. The Nittany Lions recovered and scored a touchdown five plays later.
A helmet-to-helmet hit inflicted by two Penn State players on Philyor late in the first quarter caused another turnover and ended his day before he could make amends.
NOT TARGETING. pic.twitter.com/PjELXHyJb4
— Punt John Punt (@PuntJohnPunt) November 16, 2019
Despite 70 catches and more than 1,000 yards on the season, Philyor only caught 1 pass for 10 yards against Penn State to go with the two fumbles.
Indiana, which had amassed more than 150 yards and 14 points in the first quarter, struggled to get anything going again until a fourth quarter rally.
With Indiana a bit easier to defend with Philyor off the field, Penn State head coach James Franklin knows he probably dodged a bullet last year.
“He’s a big reason why we and I feel so strongly about Indiana and what coach Allen has built there,” Franklin said this week. “I know he’s motivated for this game.”
Placed in concussion protocol after the hit, Philyor also missed the next game against Michigan — another IU loss where the offense struggled.
So is the Tampa, Fla. product a bit more juiced for this rematch against the Nittany Lions?
With Philyor, you’ll always get a straight, and entertaining, answer.
“It adds a little bit of motivation,” he said. “I tell the boys all the time ‘hey them boys (Penn State) knocked me out so I’m gonna need y’all to bring that dog too cause I’m gonna bring that dog with me.’ I tell them all the time, ‘this game is real personal to me.’ I need you to make it personal with y’all too.’ I always say something small about them (Penn State) so the boys can be on their toes.”
While his senior receiver wears his emotions on his sleeve, Allen took a more measured approach when asked this week about Philyor’s shot at redemption.
“Not a revenge game at all,” Allen said. “Whop and I have never spoken about last year’s incident. (It was) just unfortunate.
“Obviously he wants to play against Penn State, but Whop’s a pretty high energy guy, so I expect him to bring his energy no matter who we play. The bottom line is we need him to play well.”
Philyor’s energy is undeniable, as is his ability to impact games. It’s not often, but sometimes the impact can be felt in a negative way.
It would be fair to attribute his muffed punt at Penn State last year to Philyor perhaps being a little to amped up, trying to do too much.
Allen seemed to want to guard against that on Saturday.
“This is about Indiana playing Penn State in 2020,” Allen said.
Philyor echoed that sentiment.
Of course in his own, a bit more enthusiastic way.
“We’re ready. We ain’t playing. We’re on a mission this year,” Philyor said.
PHILYOR HAS ALWAYS HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE
The Big Ten Network released a quick profile on Philyor this week as they previewed some of the top returning players in the league for 2020.
Philyor was ranked as the No. 199 receiver in the recruiting class of 2017 according to 247Sports.
They were way off. And added fuel to the fire.
Philyor was Indiana’s most valuable offensive player in 2019 and named second team All-Big Ten.
Named to the 2020 Maxwell Award and Biletnikoff Award Watch Lists, Philyor enters 2020 with 126 receptions, 1,572 yards, nine touchdowns, six 100-yard games and five double-digit catch games for his career.
He became the 13th Hoosier to reach 125 receptions and 1,500 yards. Philyor is the program’s leader in double-figure catch games, shares seventh in 100-yard games, is 15th in catches and 20th in yardage.
Video credit – BTN
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