If you've heard it once you've heard it a 1000 times. Indiana had previously gone 0-16 in their match ups with Penn State. The Hoosiers' series with Penn State is actually a pretty good summary of the last 20 years of Indiana football. When IU was 'up' the games were close, but the more often than not when Indiana was down they'd get crushed. Hopefully that means that this past Saturday's performance was the beginning of a new era.
The Indiana offense was back on track this weekend after appearing toothless against a pretty meh Missouri defense two weeks prior. The Hoosiers came out and faced a better Penn State defense and were able to solve several riddles beyond the first half. Nate Sudfeld threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns on the Penn State defense and Tevin Coleman was able to wrack up 92 yards on the ground in 20 carries. More importantly, Tre Roberson touched the ball three times when the game was still up for grabs and produced 3 trips to the end zone (2 touchdowns and 1 conversion).
It appears that the Indiana offense is starting to figure out how best to use the abilities of Tre Roberson without interfering with the flow of the offense. Of course, he's not going to be flawless in the short yardage stuff he was used in on Saturday, but perhaps there is more to the wrinkle of Roberson than just put out to extend plays with his legs.
Credit also needs to go to Cody Latimer who was an absolute monster against the Lions. There was no one that was going to stop him and with his size, strength and speed, we may be able to make the statement that no corner in the conference can match up with him 1 on 1. We'll know for certain next weekend about that when Latimer takes MSU's Darqueze Dennard. It may be a showdown of the Big Ten's best CB and WR in East Lansing. Should be fun. Hopefully we can get another 9 reception 140 yard day from him like we did this week.
On the other side of the ball, Indiana deserves a ton of credit for corralling a very talented Christian Hackeberg and dangerous running game. Penn State came into the game with the idea that scrambling would be the best way to beat Indiana and they would be right. However, the Hoosiers found something in themselves to shut that talk down. Penn State ran the ball 36 times. So you can't say that Penn State didn't try to run the football. They certainly did put a focus on beating the Hoosiers on the ground. It just wasn't working. Indiana was able to hold Penn State to a total of ~3 yards per carry. (Side note: This whole box score thing where a botched FG counts for -31 rushing yards is dumb. If you just looked at the raw stats you would think IU was the greatest rush D ever by holding them to 1.8 per carry on 38 carries. Sacks and botched special teams fudge those numbers though)
Also deserving praise are three players that have been standing out quite a bit in previous games. True freshman TJ Simmons at the linebacking spot has certainly had his share of growing pains at times this year, but yesterday he was pretty lights out. You could find him all over the field making big tackles or at the least slowing guys down until help could get there. You get a helmet sticker for yesterday big fella.
Another helmet sticker goes to Tim Bennett. Bennett is starting to look like a player with some real pro potential. He currently leads the nation in passes defended at 14. That is two more than anyone else in the nation and .5 more per game average than the next closest player. Bennett is getting his hands on everything and it has helped IU shore up what has traditionally been a leaky secondary. Helmet sticker.
Finally Mark Murphy gets the final helmet sticker for containing a majority of Penn State's big play potential. Murphy did an excellent job at safety of keeping the top on the defense. He finished the game with 10 total tackles, 7 of which were solo. There were a few very key stops he was able to make in the open field when he was the last defender and for that he also gets a mythical helmet sticker that no one is actually keeping track of.
With the combination of the rest of the defense and those three players the Hoosiers were able to keep the game well within reach while the offense had time to figure out the opposition. Then it was off to the races. Overall be encouraged. The Hoosiers are back within bowl contention and six wins looks very plausible at this point. If they can go up to East Lansing and take out a susceptible Michigan State team on their first road trip of the season you might even be able to get excited about the possibility of making some noise in the division. As of now, lets be happy with a big victory. We're in the drivers seat for a top 3 finish in the division and could find ourselves playing after Thanksgiving for the first time in 6 years.