Before Michael Penix had a chance to dive toward the pylon and win Saturday’s Penn State game with a two-point conversion in overtime, he needed help.
Penix needed Whop Philyor to haul in a pass to start IU’s final drive of regulation. He needed true freshman Javon Swinton to rise to the moment and bring down both of the balls sent Swinton’s way. And he needed Jacolby Hewitt to work a little magic.
With the Hoosiers lined up at the Penn State 20 and trailing by eight in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, Penix dropped back and roped a ball over the middle to Hewitt, who dove to corral it and put Indiana on the door step of the end zone. It was one of the key moments in IU’s game-tying drive, and for Hewitt, it was a long time coming.
“It was a dream come true,” said Hewitt, a redshirt sophomore who missed last year due to an ACL injury. “As a freshman, I thought that I was going to get in and play, but God had other plans for me. So when I got in, I just capitalized off my time.”
Did he ever.
Finding the spotlight took a little while. Sixteen months, in fact. Hewitt never had a chance to haul in balls last fall after injuring his knee during player workouts last June. While working on a double move, Hewitt’s foot planted awkwardly in the turf and gave out. Bam. Season over.
So delivering a clutch moment in Saturday’s triumphant season opener was especially meaningful for Hewitt.
Tom Allen appreciated it, too.
“The catch he made to get us there to the goal line was unbelievable,” Allen said on his weekly radio show. “... The catch was amazing. It was just like, ‘Holy smokes!’”
So, about that crucial fourth-quarter grab: It was the first of Hewitt’s college career. With Penix looking to unload the ball before taking a hit, the IU quarterback saw Hewitt running a post route and fired over the middle — just beyond the reach of Penn State corner Tariq Castro-Fields. Hewitt dove for it, caught it, and carried the Hoosiers to the Nittany Lion 6.
“I just knew I was supposed to cross the safety’s face, and when I crossed his face, I looked at Mike and I saw — I just felt it,” Hewitt said. “You know how it is, just one of those plays. Just felt like it is coming to you, so I just stayed prepared mentally and physically before the ball even snapped, and when it was my time to shine, I shined.”
Credit Hewitt for doing what Indiana needed to be done — and credit Penix for trusting his receiver to be there. Hewitt certainly appreciated his quarterback’s belief, and on Sunday, he visited Penix’s home to let him know how much their connection had meant.
“I had to go over to his house and go kiss him because I was like, ‘Man, you a bad man throwing the ball like that. You a bad man,’” Hewitt said. “I told him he’s the one. He’s Heisman.”
“He made the biggest catch,” Allen said.