On Tuesday we all received some terrible, awful, no-good news. In a press release the IU football program announced that redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. will miss not only the remainder of the regular season, but the postseason as well with an injury to his right sternoclavicular joint.
For those of you who may not know what exactly that is I, famously A Doctor (read: a person capable of using Google), can tell you that it’s the joint that attaches the sternum to the clavicle. Really put thought into naming that didn’t they?
Medical lingo aside this turn of events really does put a damper on things not only for the Hoosiers’ season, but for a young career that has limitless potential as well. Penix had compiled 1394 passing yards while completing 110 of 160 passes, thrown 10 touchdowns compared to four interceptions, ran for two more touchdowns while averaging 5.4 yards per carry and won a pair of Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors so far this season to boot. He did all of that despite missing significant portions of IU’s games against Eastern Illinois, Maryland and Northwestern. He also completely missed IU’s games against Ohio State and UConn. If you’re keeping score at home he played in roughly 4.5 games this season.
Considering his production as well as the fact that he’s the most purely talented signal-caller that the Hoosiers have had since at least Nate Sudfeld if not Antwaan Randle El, folks may have felt a bit of despair when it was announced that he had suffered a second season-ending injury in as many years. While it is a big loss, Penix has undergone surgery and he’s on the road back to playing for IU next season.
As a matter of fact, Hoosier head coach Tom Allen seemed pretty optimistic about that. In the press release, he said that Penix will “recover from this and get bigger and stronger this offseason,” and that “Mike has a very bright future with the Hoosiers.”
With that in mind — that the future isn’t in question at the moment — then it could be thought that much of the pessimism is centered on the rest of the current season.
To that I say, frankly, that there’s not really a reason to be worried. Everything is fine.
Why? Because redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey has already proven that he’s capable of leading the Hoosiers to wins. Each time that Penix has gone down this season the Ohio native has answered the call. He played well in early wins over Eastern Illinois and UConn. In between those games the Hoosiers lost to Ohio State and Ramsey was fine at best, but, well, Ohio State might be the national champion this season so I’m personally not holding that game against anybody.
That was just the beginning. Ramsey came on to play on the road at Maryland in a game that the Hoosiers needed to win and proceeded to play one of the best games of his career. He went 20-of-27 through the air for 193 yards and one really, really good touchdown.
Peyton Ramsey's number was called after @IndianaFootball QB Michael Penix left the game, and Nick Westbrook helped him out with a phenomenal catch.#BTNStandout x @AutoOwnersIns pic.twitter.com/LAsacQRhNb— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 19, 2019
The next week it was Ramsey again as the Hoosiers traveled to Lincoln looking to clinch a bowl berth. Ramsey proceeded to play the best game of his career, the one that he’ll likely be remembered for. He took big shots and got back up, he ran for a touchdown and he passed for two more while setting a new career-high of 351 yards on 27-of-40 passing.
Can we talk about the Peyton Ramsey @IndianaFootball TD pass? pic.twitter.com/4mKTtxSexF— Indiana On BTN (@IndianaOnBTN) October 26, 2019
All of this is to say that at this point in time there’s little to no reason to not have faith in Ramsey to get the job done for the Hoosiers.
This Blog has a history of not being keen on him, but in all reality the difference between Ramsey’s play under former offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, who was very bad at his job, and new offensive coordinator Kalen Deboer, who is very good at his job, has been significant. Enough so that at least a few of us have eaten crow because of it.
Will the Hoosiers beat Penn State? No, probably not. They probably wouldn’t have with Penix under center either. That doesn’t mean that #9WINDIANA is dead though. IU has seven wins with four games to go including the bowl. Even if you pencil (or sharpie) in a loss to the Nittany Lions the Hoosiers still have winnable games against Michigan at home, Purdue on the road and, depending on the matchup, the bowl game. Win two of the three and it’s party time.
If you want to be a pessimist, do it for the regular reasons. This is IU football after all. The guy under center isn’t a reason to stoke those coals though because he’s solid. With a good performance over the next four games he could very well etch his name into Hoosier folklore as The Quarterback Who Saved #9WINDIANA.