Last season, Penn State lost to Indiana on opening day and never recovered en route to a disappointing 4-5 campaign. The fourth-ranked Nittany Lions appear to be a much better team this year, and they’ll be out for revenge Saturday when they host the Hoosiers in a Big Ten clash at University Park, Pa.
In last year’s matchup, a wild conclusion to the fourth quarter set the stage for an exciting overtime, when Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. stretched for the winning two-point conversion to stun the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions 36-35.
Penn State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) once again is a top-10 team, thanks mainly to wins over No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 22 Auburn. Last week’s victory — a 38-17 triumph over Villanova — wasn’t quite as impressive, at least as far as coach James Franklin was concerned.
“I feel like our guys, a little bit, were enjoying people patting them on the back,” Franklin said in his postgame press conference. “We talked about it all week long, and I don’t know if we had the same edge today that we’ve had the previous three weeks, but we found a way to win.”
Sean Clifford passed for a career-high 401 yards and four touchdowns, including a pair of scores to Parker Washington (five catches, 148 yards). Jahan Dotson (seven catches, 117 yards) has caught a touchdown pass in every contest this season.
This could be a potential trap game for Penn State, which visits No. 5 Iowa in a Big Ten showdown next weekend. The Nittany Lions also play at No. 11 Ohio State (Oct. 30), No. 14 Michigan at home (Nov. 13) and at No. 17 Michigan State (Nov. 27) later in the season.
But first they must focus on the Hoosiers, who rode the momentum from last season’s win over Penn State into an impressive 6-1 Big Ten record. Indiana coach Tom Allen loved defeating Penn State at home, but now he wants to see his squad pull out a major upset on the road.
“Now the next step is to get one of those big road wins, where you do beat a top-10 team or ranked team on the road,” Allen said. “It’s just building a program, step-by-step, day-by-day. It’s building belief and it’s building expectation, then when you experience it, it elevates those things and you just keep growing and building.”
Indiana (2-2, 0-1) has defeated a pair of unranked foes, Idaho and Western Kentucky, while losing to No. 18 Iowa and No. 8 Cincinnati by a combined 42 points. Penix passed for 373 yards in last week’s win over Western Kentucky, while Stephen Carr ran for 109 yards and two scores.
Penix has thrown three interceptions in each of his team’s defeats and now will encounter a Penn State defense that did not allow a passing touchdown in the first 15 quarters of the season, allowing two to Villanova only after the Nittany Lions had built a 38-3 lead. The Nittany Lions have not given up more than 20 points in any of their four games.
Ty Fryfogle leads the Hoosiers in receptions (21) and receiving yards (224) and posted season highs in both categories (10 for 98) against Western Kentucky.
Penn State leads the all-time series 22-2. The Nittany Lions had won six straight meetings with the Hoosiers prior to last year’s defeat.
–Field Level Media
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