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Behind the numbers: No. 4 Penn State 24, Indiana 0

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On Indiana’s offensive struggles, which pertain to both efficiency and player availability

NCAA Football: Indiana at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

As we do here at Crimson Quarry every week, we analyzed the play-by-play data from Indiana’s latest game in order to calculate advanced metrics and help contextualize the Hoosiers’ season as a whole.

Here’s what you need to know from Indiana’s 24-0 loss at No. 4 Penn State in Week 5.

Note: Success rate is defined as gaining at least 50 percent of the yards needed for a first down on first down, at least 70 percent of the necessary yards on second down and 100 percent of the needed yards on third and fourth downs. End-of-half kneels were not included in this analysis.

Indiana gained fewer than 10 yards on half of its possessions

Based on Indiana’s starting field position during each of its possessions on offense, the Hoosiers could’ve gained a max of 986 possible yards on Saturday and they advanced a combined 297 yards on their drives from total offense and penalties, or 30.1 percent, based on where each of their drives finished, not including the distance of any kicks.

On seven of the team’s 14 offensive possessions, Indiana gained fewer than 10 yards, including a first-quarter possession in which the Hoosiers started at Penn State’s 13-yard line following Raheem Layne II’s interception of Sean Clifford. Indiana went just nine yards in four plays, turning the ball over on downs after running back Stephen Carr was stuffed on 4th-and-1 at Penn State’s 4-yard line.

On four of Indiana’s first five drives, the team’s offense gained less than 10 yards.

Ignoring Penn State’s final possession of the first half, the Nittany Lions’ offense gained 44.9 percent of the available yards, including touchdown drives of 96, 80 and 61 yards.

Penn State had a lower offensive success rate than Western Kentucky, Cincinnati and Iowa did against Indiana

One week after Indiana’s defense allowed a season-worst 53.1-percent success rate to Western Kentucky, the Hoosiers actually held the Nittany Lions to a lower success rate (39.5%) than that of Cincinnati (44.1%) and Iowa (41.3%).

Here was Penn State’s success rate by down:

  • 1st down: 31.3%
  • 2nd down: 48.0%
  • 3rd down: 37.5%
  • 4th down: 66.7%
  • Overall: 39.5%

Penn State was particularly effective on second down, with nearly a 50-percent success rate and picking up a first down or scoring a touchdown on 28 percent of its 25 snaps on second down.

The Nittany Lions were at their most explosive on third down. Using a definition for explosive plays as runs of at least 12 yards and passes of at least 16 yards, Penn State had five explosive plays on its 16 third-down snaps. Four of those five explosive plays were runs.

Could Jack Tuttle provide stability to Indiana’s offense?

Indiana coach Tom Allen said Monday that starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. suffered an AC separation against Penn State that will leave his status under a week-to-week designation.

If backup Jack Tuttle must take over for Penix for any period of time, as he did in the 2020 season, perhaps he could bring some stability to an Indiana offense that’s searching for answers after being shut out in Week 5. While acknowledging the score and situation of when Tuttle replaced Penix after the latter’s injury (Tuttle’s first full drive followed a Penn State touchdown that put the Nittany Lions up 21-0), Indiana’s offensive success rate with Tuttle was nearly double that of when Penix was playing.

Indiana had a 40.9 percent success rate with Tuttle on the field versus 19.4 percent with Penix playing. (Tuttle’s rate was also buoyed by some late-game runs from Stephen Carr when the rest of the game was merely a formality.)

Tuttle did have an interception of his own against Penn State – and a bad one, too – so this is your friendly reminder that the hype and prospects of a potentially promising backup quarterback are likely to take a hit the second he becomes a starter, but Tuttle’s first three throws against Penn State went for seven, 24 and 27 yards, respectively, to three different receivers. It was a brief and rare glimpse of any semblance of offensive rhythm for the Hoosiers on Saturday.

Indiana’s overall offensive success rate for the game was 27.6 percent, which just edged out the team’s performance at Iowa (28.1 percent) for its worst success rate in a game this season. The Hoosiers cracked, or almost cracked, 40 percent in the three games in between: Idaho (41.8%), Cincinnati (39.0%) and Western Kentucky (49.4%).

Indiana has a potentially well-timed bye week as its offense loses a weapon, again

Indiana lost elusive receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. in Week 4, Penix suffered yet another injury in Week 5 and Monday brought the news that backup running back Tim Baldwin Jr. has entered the transfer portal.

Baldwin, who has been the clear but distant No. 2 in Indiana’s backfield this season with 28 carries for 103 yards, logged just a single carry for one yard against Penn State. He experienced fumbling issues this season with two fumbles on 28 carries, most notably on the goal line in the second half against Cincinnati.

If Baldwin is indeed out of the picture for the rest of the 2021 season and beyond, that leaves Davion Ervin-Poindexter (eight carries) as the team’s second-leading rusher this season.

Starter Stephen Carr has been good for about 20 carries per game this season, with at least 15 rushes in each of Indiana’s first five games and as many as 25 in a game, so he can shoulder a significant load as needed, but the Hoosiers will now potentially be without their starting quarterback, No. 2 wide receiver and No. 2 running back as they enter a bye week with a 2-3 record and back-to-back games against No. 11 Michigan State and No. 7 Ohio State.

Ervin-Poindexter (eight carries for 57 yards, 7.1 yards per carry, a 50-percent success rate) and fellow reserve Chris Childers (seven carries for 37 yards, 5.3 yards per carry, a 57-percent success rate) have each showed flashes of promise in admittedly very small sample sizes this season as the team’s third and fourth options at running back. They may now have the chance to split another five to seven additional carries per game, potentially paving the way for even larger roles in a post-Carr world in 2022.