MIAMI – IU’s season is off to a good start. The Hoosiers knocked off the Florida International Panthers 38-28 at Riccardo Silva Stadium in Miami. Peyton Ramsey overcame an early interception to throw for 156 yards and three touchdowns, while freshman Stevie Scott led IU’s rushing attack with 20 carries for 70 yards.
Here’s five important takeaways from the Hoosiers’ season opening win.
1. The defense forced turnovers.
On a night when IU’s offense was able to score and move the ball with relative ease, the biggest plays of the game came on the defensive side of the ball. Senior safety Jonathan Crawford’s interception return for a touchdown gave IU a 14-7 lead that the Hoosiers would not relinquish, and forcing three turnovers was a big reason why.
“Our goal is three per game,” IU Coach Tom Allen said. “We got our goal tonight and that was the difference in the game.”
Crawford said his preparation was a big reason why he was able to make such a crucial play, and mentioned that that situation was something IU simulated in practice.
“I think it comes from film study,” Crawford said. “It was third and seven, I sat right at the sticks, waited for the receiver, then I saw the ball and I went and got it.”
2. The defense struggled to stop FIU from moving the ball
While forcing three turnovers was a big positive for IU, the defense was far from perfect on the night.
The Hoosiers had a lot of trouble getting stops, especially against the Panthers’ running game. FIU racked up 170 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. If not for the two lost fumbles, the score could have looked a lot different. Postgame, Allen said that IU’s defense still had plenty of work to do.
“We were just OK,” Allen said. “They had 320 yards, which isn’t very many in today’s game, but 28 points is too much.”
Part of that is down to youthful mistakes, as IU had many new faces playing in the game. Allen was also quick to give credit to the increase in talent on FIU’s offense as well.
“We played a ton of guys,” Allen said. “But we’ve played this team three times out of the last four years and that’s the most talented team we’ve played.”
3. Peyton Ramsey bounced back from an early interception and had an impressive game.
Starting quarterback Peyton Ramsey didn’t get off to a great start. His third pass was intercepted, but the redshirt sophomore was able to turn it around and come away with a solid performance.
He floated a beautiful throw between two defenders to find Donavan Hale for IU’s first touchdown, then tacked on two more before the end of the half to give IU a two-touchdown lead. After his interception, Ramsey only had five incomplete passes throughout the rest of the game.
“It happens, it’s football,” Ramsey said. “When you make a mistake, you have to bounce back. I made mistakes last year and I think I learned from that. I just tried to stay calm, stay cool and just play my game.”
After leaving the game in the third quarter in favor of freshman Michael Penix Jr., Ramsey re-entered the contest and took care of the football, allowing the Hoosiers to close out the victory.
Although he didn’t make a ton of plays with his arm in the second half, Ramsey ran the offense with a great deal of comfort, which was big reason that he won the starting job in fall camp.
4. Michael Penix Jr. looked solid in his IU debut.
Highly-touted recruit Michael Penix Jr. returned to his home state of Florida, and showed why he was a good addition to the IU program during the third quarter. Penix Jr. was 8-10 for 96 yards and a touchdown and exhibited flashes of elite playmaking ability. Penix Jr. looked ready to go from the start, and said postgame that it felt like any other football game.
“I’ve been preparing for this since day one,” Penix Jr. said. “I knew what the expectations were, and I just felt like it was just another day for me because I was well-prepared and I was ready to go.”
It remains to be seen how much we will see Penix Jr. take the field for IU this season. He can still play in three more games and be eligible for a redshirt but it will be hard to keep him off the field if Penix Jr. continues to impress like he did tonight.
5. IU took advantage of every opportunity to get Reese Taylor on the field.
Freshman Reese Taylor didn’t have a defined position when he arrived in Bloomington, and it looks like that’s still the case. Taylor lined up at both receiver and cornerback and recorded three carries, two catches and two tackles. With redshirt sophomore running back Cole Gest’s status uncertain after leaving the game with an injury, Taylor could see an increased number of carries after an impressive debut tonight.
Taylor’s biggest highlight came in the first quarter, when he got the ball on a jet sweep, bounced off multiple tacklers and wound up with a 32-yard gain on his first touch in an IU uniform. That ability to make people miss was a big reason why he was named Indiana Mr. Football in 2017, and it’ll help him stay on the field this season.
IU showed a lot of promise in its first game of 2018, but that promise was not without plenty of mistakes. The defense was able to force turnovers, but their inability to stop FIU from moving the ball is definitely concerning.
It was a mixed bag for the Hoosiers in their season-opener, and Allen will want to see more consistency from his team by the time conference play rolls around.
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