I never thought I would see the day when the IU defense would give up just 13 points and still lose. Add in the fact that the defense even scored a touchdown, and the idea becomes even more unfathomable.
However, that was the case on Saturday as Penn State beat the Hoosiers 13-7 in Memorial Stadium.
The defense was incredible the entire afternoon except for one play- PSU running back Bill Belton’s 92-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Senior safety Mark Murphy returned an interception to the house to give the Hoosiers the only points they would score all game long, and the front seven sacked PSU’s golden boy Christian Hackenberg five times. Add in another interception late in the fourth quarter to give the offense good field position, and the defense did all it could to put the team in a position to win.
The IU offense was every bit as determined to give the game back to the Nittany Lions. The offense did not make a single trip inside the red zone— let alone score. Not one of IU’s 68 plays came inside the red zone. Zander Diamont, while throwing for a career high 68 yards on 13-of-27 attempts, still only threw for 68 yards.
Now you still have to give credit to the PSU defense, ranked No. 1 in rush defense and No. 2 in total defense in the entire country— but to not move the ball at all is not acceptable.
IU started off with good field position countless times and squandered it every time. Tevin Coleman struggled, his streak of games with 100 yards rushing ending at 10 after gaining 71 yards on 20 carries. The receiving core made several key drops including one in the fourth quarter by Simmie Cobbs on third down that would have given the Hoosiers a first down. The next play, Griffin Oakes missed a long field goal attempt from 51 yards out.
There was questionable play calling throughout the game, especially when it came to short fourth downs. IU Coach Kevin Wilson elected to punt every time. There were opportunities to go for it and try to get down into an area where the offense could score, but instead punted. With an offense led by Diamont, IU needs to take advantage of the rare chances it has to put points on the board, and on Saturday that didn’t happen. With the defense playing as well as it was, IU could’ve afforded to take a risk or two.
You can see the progress on Diamont over the past few games, but he still doesn’t look like a guy capable of leading a Big Ten team. We didn’t see the wildcat at all. We did see some longer throws being attempted by the Hoosiers, but it is clear that Diamont just doesn’t have the arm to make those throws. The most impressive offensive play was a 24-yard completion to tight end Jordan Fuchs, but it came on a third and 26.
At this point it is time to look ahead to the future, and if the defense can continue to play anywhere near the level it did Saturday, good things will come—eventually. That eventually will just have to wait until next year.
In the meantime, get well soon Nate Sudfeld.
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