Penn State took on the Hoosiers trying to avenge their controversial 36-35 loss a year ago, and attempting to win their fourth straight home game and 12th straight at home over Indiana.
The Hoosiers got the ball first after the Nittany Lions deferred their choice, and after gaining five yards on their opening rush, threw two straight incompletions and gave the ball to the home team.
Penn State’s opening drive started from their 24, and after a nine-yard gain by Noah Cain, Sean Clifford snuck ahead for the first down. Unfortunately, Clifford missed Jahan Dotson on third down, and the Hoosiers got the ball back.
Indiana completed a 35-yard pass to a streaking Peyton Hendershot down the left side of the field, extending their drive on third down. They sniffed Penn State territory before quarterback Michael Penix’s throw was wide on another third down, and Penn State took over at their own 20.
Clifford slipped by the Hoosier pass rush to pick up a first down with his feet, and the offense’s increased tempo propelled the Nittany Lions into Indiana territory. The drive appeared to stall around the Hoosier 31, but Clifford fit in a beautiful pass to Parker Washington on the near sideline to extend the drive. A pass interference call on an attempted throw to Theo Johnson gave Penn State first and goal from the nine. On second and goal from the 10, Clifford again scrambled to avoid the rush, and hit Brenton Strange in the end zone to take the 7-0 lead.
The Hoosiers again failed to move the ball, and it was back to work for the Nittany Lion offense. Unfortunately, the turnover bug that Penn State has avoided this year caught up with them, as Clifford threw it right to Raheem Layne, giving Indiana the ball at the Penn State 13. On third down, Penix scrambled for nine, but Stephen Carr was stopped for no gain on fourth down, and the Nittany Lions took over deep in their own territory.
Two plays later, Keyvone Lee shot up the middle for 44 yards, putting the ball at the Hoosier 46, and he caught a pass from Clifford to the 34 as the first quarter came to a close with the home team still leading 7-0.
Lee continued his strong start as the second quarter began. On third and one from the 25, he darted to the left, juked a defender, and got to the second level, gaining 21 yards to set up the offense with first and goal from the four. An illegal touching call on Brenton Strange made it second and goal from the eight, but Clifford threw a dot to Dotson in the back of the end zone, ending the 9-play, 96-yard drive to make it 14-0 Penn State with 13:31 left in the half.
The teams traded five consecutive punts, before the Hoosiers used two long passes to get to the Penn State 33. It was there that the Nittany Lions’ arguably best defensive back, Joey Porter, Jr. made a sliding catch on the sideline to halt the drive. Unfortunately, #PuntWeek struck again after the Lions failed to convert on third and one. Neither team was able to put further points on the board, and it remained 14-0 at the half.
Both offenses struggled to open the second half, with Penn State registering back-to-back sacks by Brandon Smith and Arnold Ebiketie on Indiana’s first drive of the third quarter. Ebiketie’s sack knocked out Penix for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury.
On the Nittany Lions’ next drive, Clifford again eluded the rush, and scrambled for 13 yards down the left side to convert a third and long. A few plays later, he avoided another sack and dumped it off to Dotson, who calmly navigated the 30 yards to paydirt, and it was 21-0 good guys with 4:16 to go in the third. The Hoosiers tried to answer back with their backup Jack Tuttle, driving to the Penn State 13, but their 30-yard field goal was blocked by Brandon Smith (or Ebiketie, as I thought initially.).
In the fourth quarter, Penn State tried to tack on an insurance score after completions to KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Parker Washington (on a reverse pass by Dotson), and a run up the middle on third and 14 by Clifford. However, the Lions were turned away from the one on consecutive plays.
The defense was able to stop the Hoosiers, and Dotson ran back the punt to the Indiana 32. The drive stalled, but Jordan Stout buried the 50-yard field goal to make it 24-0 with 8:06 left. A Ji-Ayir Brown interception on the Hoosiers’ next drive (his third of the season) ensured that the defense would maintain their first shutout since the 59-0 win over Maryland in 2019.
For the Nittany Lions, Sean Clifford was 17 of 33 for 178 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 10 carries for 58 yards. Keyvone Lee led Penn State with eight carries for 74 yards, and Jahan Dotson was his usual self, catching eight passes for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Defensively, Ellis Brooks had eight tackles, while Arnold Ebiketie had a sack, and Brandon Smith had both a sack and a blocked field goal. Add it all up, and the Nittany Lions are 5-0, heading into next week’s big showdown in Iowa City with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Hopefully the offense is more consistent next week, yes?