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No. 8 PSU falls to IU in overtime

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) goes in for a touchdown as he is tackled by Penn State's Lamont Wade (38) during the second half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.–Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. took the snap out of the gun and rolled out to his left. Pursued by Penn State’s Antonio Shelton and Jaquan Brisker, Penix needed to reach the end zone.

Penix rushed to the 3-yard line, fully extended and reached for the pylon as Brisker hit the redshirt-sophomore quarterback. The ball bounced away as the referee signaled a successful 2-point conversion, sending the Hoosiers crowd into an uproar, as Penix’s Herculean effort gave Indiana a 36-35 victory over No. 8 Penn State in overtime — the Hoosiers’ first win over a Top 10 team since Oct. 10, 1987.

Whether Penix actually scored most likely depends on which team you were rooting for, as the ball appeared to graze the out of bounds line before the ball hit the pylon, but after flirting with disaster for years against a scrappy Indiana team, Penn State finally laid the egg it so desperately wanted to avoid.

“We let the quarterback break containment,” Penn State safety Lamont Wade said. “We knew we had to keep him in the box. It looked like the ball was out of bounds before it touched the pylon, but that isn’t how it went.”

“It was one hell of a play,” Penn state corner Joey Porter Jr. said. “He made it for his team. I feel like we called the right play, but he just executed better and made the play.”

The final play loomed large, but it was clear that three missed field goals, three first-half turnovers, and a late TD run by Devyn Ford when the Nittany Lions could have ran out the clock took a toll. Add in 10 penalties for 100 yards — including a targeting penalty on Jesse Luketa that erased a fumble recovery early in the fourth quarter –and it became too much to overcome.

“I know a lot of people will look at [Ford’s TD run], but there were a lot of plays throughout the game that we should have done differently and could have handled better,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “It’s my job as the head coach to make sure that everyone understands those situations and obviously that didn’t happen.”

The Hoosiers let Ford score a 14-yard TD run with 1:42 remaining to make it an eight-point game. Without the score, Indiana would most likely have not gotten the ball back, having just one timeout left.

Franklin said that the plan was to get as much yardage as possible before getting down to run out the clock, but the mistake proved fatal to the Nittany Lions.

“I think Indiana let us score,” Franklin said. “Their chart was telling them to [let us] score, while our chart was telling us not to score. I think that is what happened there. We didn’t play well, really in all three phases.”

Things looked good for the Nittany Lions’ offense early as Sean Clifford found Pat Freiermuth wide open in the end zone on 4th and Goal for an easy 3-yard TD pass on a jump pass, set up by multiple runs by Ford at the goal line. The TD capped off a 13-play, 64-yard drive for the Nittany Lions that ran 7:01 off the clock.

Very little went right from there in the opening half.

The Nittany Lions’ offense sputtered multiple times, as Clifford threw a pair of interceptions, the second of which was returned all the way to the Penn State 4-yard line to set up a 2-yard rushing score by Stevie Scott III. Scott’s second TD of the half gave the Hoosiers a 17-7 lead with 6:36 remaining in the first half.

A red zone fumble by backup quarterback Will Levis and stalled drives haunted Penn State in the second quarter. A 25-yard field goal by Jake Pinegar that clanged off the upright as time expired capped off the miserable half for the Nittany Lions.

“We definitely shot ourselves in the foot today and that starts with me,” Clifford said. “The first half — the two turnovers — we talk about winning the turnover battle all the time. I’ll take the blame on that. It wasn’t the call, it wasn’t anything they did, it was what I did. I just can’t make that mistake.”

It took a while for the Nittany Lions’ offense to wake up in the second half, but Penn State finally came through as Clifford began to make an impact on the ground on designed runs and improvised when he was under duress. Clifford’s biggest play of the evening on the ground came on the final play of the third quarter, as Clifford took off as the pocket broke down, made a few Indiana players miss in the middle of the field and bounced outside, beating the Hoosiers’ secondary to the end zone for a 35-yard TD to make the score 17-14, Indiana.

“I just play the game the way I think I have to play,” Clifford said. “You have to make a play when you need one. I just wish I could have made one or two more.”

With an early injury to Noah Cain, Clifford was Penn State’s leading rusher, carrying the ball 17 times for 119 yards and the score.

Clifford later found a wide open Jahan Dotson for a 60-yard TD pass with 2:30 remaining to take a 21-20 lead.

“It was huge,” Dotson said, who finished with four catches for 94 yards and the score. “I thought we did a good job of executing down the stretch.”

Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney recorded a pair of sacks on the next Indiana possession and the Nittany Lions forced the Hoosiers to turn the ball over on downs inside their own 20. Ford’s TD run came on the next play.

The Hoosiers responded with their best drive of the game, using a 7-play, 75-yard drive, capped off by a Penix 1-yard run to make it 28-26, with 22 seconds left. Penix later converted the 2-point conversion on a run up the middle.

Penn State started the extra session with the ball and scored easily, as Clifford capped off a 4-play drive with a 9-yard TD toss to Parker Washington. Clifford completed 24-of-35 passes for 238 yards, 3 TDs and two interceptions in the loss.

Indiana answered in five plays, as Penix connected with Whop Philyor in the right corner of the end zone. Philyor, a 1,000-yard receiver a season ago, was held to just five catches for 36 yards and the score.

Penix’s heroic 2-point conversion on the ensuing play capped off the upset for Indiana.

The Nittany Lions, who had preseason Big Ten Championship hopes, have to bounce back quickly as things won’t get any easier when they host No. 3 Ohio State Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Beaver Stadium.

“We have to bounce back,” Clifford said. “When your back is against the wall, how do you respond? Our season is still in front of us and one loss won’t define us. We have to go 1-0 next week.”

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