Penn State looks to stay unbeaten against a Hoosiers team motivated to salvage its season.
#4 Penn State (4-0, 1-0) vs. Indiana (2-2, 0-1)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
The Betting Line: Penn State -9
TV: ABC - Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Todd Blackledge (analyst), Molly McGrath (sideline)
Weather: Another beautiful fall day in Happy Valley, with a high of 72 and mostly sunny skies. There is a chance of showers after midnight, that will hopefully hold off until the conclusion of the game.
PENN STATE RECORD: 64-28, 8th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 88-43, 11th Year
VS. INDIANA: 6-1
INDIANA RECORD: 26-24, 5th Year
OVERALL RECORD: 26-24, 5th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 1-4
Sean Clifford and Jahan Dotson have a chance to tie, or exceed, the mark for most touchdown connections in school history. The current record is held by Todd Blackledge (who will be in the booth on Saturday), and Kenny Jackson with 17 touchdowns...Dotson and Parker Washington are the only receiver duo in the nation with at least 23 catches and 300 receiving yards...Penn State’s defense did not allow a passing touchdowns in the first 147 attempts of the season, and the starting defense has yet to yield a score through the air...Penn State is 9-6-1 all-time on games played on Oct. 2...this will be the 25th match-up between Penn State and Indiana.
INDIANA OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE DEFENSE
Indiana returns much of its talent and some notable playmakers this fall. Michael Penix Jr. is back at quarterback, although his season is off to a sluggish start with a 55% completion rate and more interceptions (6) than touchdowns (4). Penix Jr. has had little success connecting on downfield passes, something that will likely continue against Penn State’s vastly improved pass rush.
The Hoosiers do return two fantastic passcatchers in Ty Fryfogle, who was awarded the Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year award by the Big Ten in 2020, as well as Peyton Hendershot, who was named third-team All-Big Ten. Fryfogle regularly makes game-changing plays, and amassed 560 yards and six touchdowns in a three-game stretch last season against Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. Hendershot has excellent hands and can easily create mismatches, and will need to be held in check on third downs to get the Hoosiers off the field.
Stephen Carr has worked his way into the primary running back role, and has 336 yards with a 3.9 yard per carry average on the season. The Hoosiers are averaging 3.5 yards per rush as a collective unit. Meanwhile, the Hooisers line has allowed seven sacks in the first four games.
PENN STATE OFFENSE VS. INDIANA DEFENSE
Linebacker Micah McFadden is a disruptor who Penn State will need to keep in check. He’s fourth on the team with 19 tackles (three shy of the leader) with five TFLs, two sacks, two forced fumbles and one recovery. Defensive end Ryder Anderson was a key addition from the transfer portal following four productive seasons at Ole Miss. He currently leads the team with three sacks and 5.5 TFLs.
The defense has been opportunistic as a whole, with four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and seven sacks in four games.
Penn State will look to get its running game going after struggling on the ground against Wisconsin, Auburn, and most concerning, Villanova this past Saturday. The Nittany Lions are averaging 3.4 yards a carry thus far, which will need to improve considering the upcoming conference schedule. Stater Noah Cain should receive much more time this week after being rested for most of the Villanova game. The offense will continue to rotate three running backs, with Jon Lovett and Keyvone Lee also receiving carries. Lovett has shown flashes of playmaking ability, while Lee proved himself as a true freshman in 2020, although he needs to break his tendency to always look for the home run play and focus on being a north-south runner.
Indiana has a standout kicker in Charles Campbell, who is 19-of-20 on field goals during his career, and has connected on all 38 extra point attempts. He also has a powerful leg, connecting on a 49-yarder against Cincinnati and a career long on 53 yards last season.
Freshman James Evans is an Aussie-Style kicker who will be introduced to his first “punt week.” He’s averaging 42.2 yards in his early career with a long of 58. He’s had a punt of 51 yards or more in three of the first four games.
Penn State-31, Indiana-17
I don’t think of this as much of a revenge game, but more so an opportunity to set things right. Long before the “touchdown that never should have been” and the incorrect call on the two-point conversion that sealed the Hoosiers victory, Penn State made mistake after mistake to lose a game in dramatic fashion - one where they outgained the Hoosiers 488-211. The game should have been pretty much wrapped up by the end of the third quarter. Instead, it was one of the most chaotic losses in program history.
The 2021 Penn State team is in an entirely different universe than the one that sunk to an 0-5 start a season ago. It goes beyond talent and development- this team has the mentality that is reminiscent of previous championship teams in Happy Valley. They also have an attitude that has been unmatched during the James Franklin era. This team will get in opponents face and not relent for 60 minutes. It’s quite obvious they believe in themselves - and most importantly, they believe in each other.
Penn State strikes first and maintains a lead throughout, although Indiana stays within striking distance and makes things interesting with some big plays to Fryfogle and Hendershot. But the Nittany Lions take a double digit lead heading into the fourth quarter as the defense clamps down to close things out.
Sean Clifford keeps up his hot streak with 310 passing yards and three touchdowns - one each to Jahan Dotson, KeAndre Lambert-Smith and Theo Johnson. After several near misses, the defense produces a pick-six courtesy of Joey Porter Jr. that sends Beaver Stadium into a frenzy. Brandon Smith has another big game under the lights, with three TFLs and a forced fumble.
Let’s do this.