Penn State Edges Indiana to End Two-Game Losing Streak
For the third straight game, No. 18 Penn State entered the fourth quarter holding a lead and unlike the past two games, the Nittany Lions were able to hold on.
It wasn’t always pretty but Penn State defeated Indiana 33-28 in Bloomington to improve to 5-2 on the season.
“We’ve been in this situation before where we lost a couple games and we battled and it hasn’t always been pretty,” coach James Franklin said. “There was one year where it seemed like we were losing every single game at half and we played really well in the second half and battled back and found ways to get wins. At the end of the day that’s what you have to do.”
After losing two straight games, Penn State’s offense did not waste any time scoring a touchdown just two minutes into the game on a one-yard Miles Sanders rush.
And from there the struggles began.
Penn State, with the game tied at seven, decided to fake a punt in its own territory. The Hoosier special teams unit was ready for the fake and took over the ball in Penn State territory.
Indiana took advantage of the field position and scored just four plays later with a 30-yard run by Ronnie Walker Jr. to give Indiana a 14-7 advantage.
The following drive for Penn State, Trace McSorley’s pass was tipped and then intercepted which put the Hoosiers back in business once again.
But this time, the Penn State defense came up with the stop shifting the momentum in the Nittany Lions favor.
In the ensuing drive for Penn State, Tommy Stevens received a direct snap and tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Pat Freiermuth to level the game at 14.
The Nittany Lions continued their offensive momentum into the next drive taking the ball down to the Indiana nine-yard line but were forced to kick a field goal.
In the first drive of the second half, Indiana moved the ball at will down the field against the Penn State defense especially having success on the ground, but then one of the first costly mistakes happened for the Hoosiers. Walker Jr. lost the ball on a three-yard run negating the seven play 52-yard drive Indiana was building.
The Nittany Lions took advantage of the Hoosiers mistake and got the ball to the Indiana 14-yard line but were once again unable to come away with a touchdown and settled for a field goal.
On the following Indiana drive, it appeared as if Penn State shut down the Hoosier offense but two 15-yard penalties, one a targeting call on Garrett Taylor, which resulted in him being ejected from the game and an illegal hands to the face penalty extended the Indiana drive. And the Hoosiers made Penn State pay. Stevie Scott had a 3-yard rushing touchdown to give Indiana its second lead of the game, 21-20.
Penn State was now losing on the road to Indiana with four minutes left in the third quarter was searching for a big play and the Nittany Lions found one from an unlikely source. Johnathan Thomas returned the ensuing kickoff 94-yards to the Indiana five-yard line.
“Johnathan Thomas is a guy who has been an unbelievable teammate here for five years to see him get an opportunity to step in there and make a huge play for us was awesome,” Franklin said.
From there it took McSorley just one play to run the ball into the end zone and regain the lead. The drive was not perfect for Penn State though as the Nittany Lions had the PAT blocked giving them a 26-21 advantage.
“We made some big plays and we created a turnover as well as a huge 94-yard return,” Franklin said on special teams. “So, we did some nice things but obviously there are some things we need to clean up.”
In the fourth quarter, Indiana forced a Penn State punt and it looked like the Hoosiers were gaining momentum but Indiana muffed the punt and Nick Scott recovered for Penn State.
The Nittany Lions once again took advantage of the Indiana mistake as McSorley rushed for yet another touchdown giving Penn State a 33-21 lead.
McSorley finished the game with 327 total yards and two rushing touchdowns, but the senior saw his 34 straight games with a touchdown pass streak come to a close on Saturday.
“I’m going to do whatever I need to do for our team to win,” McSorley said.
Indiana did not roll over though as the Hoosier made it interesting by scoring a touchdown and making it a five-point game with just 49 seconds remaining.
The Hoosier’s recovered the ensuing onside kick but were unable to come up with the miracle play. The Nittany Lions pass rush came alive late in the fourth quarter.
“As a team, we finished today and I think that is something we can look back on and be proud of and look as a positive for us,” McSorley said.
Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium next weekend to take on Iowa.
Ben Ferree is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.