STATE COLLEGE, PA – Last year’s week one matchup between Penn State and Indiana came down to a controversial 2-point conversion. IU’s quarterback Michael Penix Jr. dove for the pylon to give the Hoosiers their second win ever against the Nittany Lions.
Whether Penix Jr. actually hit the pylon or not it has been talked about for over a year here in State College and tonight PSU got their revenge, 24-0.
Sean Clifford came back down to earth tonight after back-to-back impressive games against Auburn and Villanova. After punting on their first possession, Clifford and the Lions’ offense marched 80 yards down the field in a 13 play drive that resulted in a 10-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Brenton Strange.
While the Nittany Lions got off to a strong start, the same could not be said for the Hoosiers. Penix Jr. started his game by going 1-9 for 35 yards across his first (3) drives, all of which resulted in punts.
Indiana defensive back Raheem Layne picked off Clifford and took the ball deep into Penn State’s territory. The interception marked only the third time that Clifford has been picked off this season, an improvement from the 2020 season that saw Clifford throw nine interceptions.
The IU’s offense decided to play aggressive after the change of possession. Facing 4th-and-1 from the Penn State 4-yard line, Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen made the call to go for it on the crucial down. Penix Jr. handed the ball off to running back Stephen Carr who got stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
With the ball on their own 4-yard line, Clifford commanded his offense on a 96-yard touchdown drive. On second and goal from the 10-yard line, Clifford found Jahan Dotson in the back of the end zone for his fifth touchdown catch in as many games as they played.
Penix Jr. rose into the national prominence last season after throwing for over 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns in six games. It’s safe to say that Penix Jr’s 2021 campaign has not gotten off to the start that he had hoped for after throwing six interceptions in four games so far this season.
The Hoosier signal caller got off to a rough start tonight, completing only one pass in the first quarter. Indiana offense started to show some signs of life in the second quarter by moving the ball and keeping the Lions defense at bay.
From their own 15-yard line, Penix Jr. moved the ball down to Penn State’s 33-yard line in only two plays, completions of 18 and 34 yards to wide receivers Peyton Hendershot and Miles Marshall. It was Indiana best drive of the day that would come to an end after Joey Porter Jr. intercepted Penix jr. at the PSU 12-yard line.
The Nittany Lions made some adjustments in their run game during the week. The offense more than doubled their rushing yard total from last week with a total of 209 rushing yards.
Running back Keyvon Lee led the rushing attack for PSU with 74 rushing yards. Lee gained most of his yards on a single carry, a 44-yard rush to Indiana’s 44-yard line.
Penix Jr. left the game early in the third quarter with an injury, backup quarterback Jack Tuttle stepped into the game facing a 14 point deficit. Tuttle was sacked for a 7-yard loss on his first play of action and Indiana was forced to punt.
On 4th-and-4 from the Hoosiers’ 30-yard line, Penn State head coach James Franklin made the call to go for it on 4th down, a decision that had already paid off for the Nittany Lions earlier in the game. The decision resulted in Clifford’s third touchdown pass of the game.
The 30-yard touchdown pass to Dotson set a record for the most touchdowns between a quarterback and wide receiver in Penn State history. A record that was bound to be broken at some point this season.
“The bond we’ve created these past 2-3 years…We’ve just been growing together every single day,” Dotson said when asked why he works so well with Clifford.
Tuttle did have some success in the Indiana offense. With Penn State up by 21, Tuttle orchestrated a 62-yard drive down the field and into PSU territory. Facing 4th down, The Hoosiers attempted a 30-yard field goal but it never stood a chance after Brandon Smith got his hands on it. The blocked field goal was the second from Penn State this season.
PSU safety Ja’yir Brown continued to have an impressive season. With just under six minutes left in the game, Brown came down with his third interception on the season. He also finished the game with two solo tackles.
“We’re playing really good complimentary defensive football…we’re getting timely turnovers,” Franklin said about the defensive performance from his team.
Clifford finished his night with 178 passing yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Clifford’s touchdown total on the year stands at 11.
Both Penix Jr. and Tuttle combined for 195 passing yards and an interception.
The Nittany Lions face a tough test next Saturday, a clash with #5 Iowa in Iowa City.
Indiana will return home to face #17 Michigan State on October 16th.