MIAMI — Peyton Ramsey’s back foot dug into the artificial surface beneath him at Riccardo Silva Stadium at Florida International University.
Trying to block out the opening-drive interception he had thrown just one possession before, he lofted the ball to the back of the end zone toward junior wide receiver Donavan Hale.
Ramsey’s heave was perfectly-placed, just out of reach of the flailing arms of the FIU defender and into the awaiting hands of Hale, which grasped the ball for an 18-yard, game-tying touchdown.
Though it was just the beginning of IU’s scoring in the Hoosiers’ 38-28 season-opening victory in Miami, it represented a recurring theme for whoever was under center for IU on Saturday night.
When faced with whatever adversity the Golden Panthers threw their way, IU’s quarterback duo of Ramsey and freshman Michael Penix Jr. remained undeterred.
They put their heads down and dug in.
“We’ve got two really good quarterbacks, I believe,” IU Coach Tom Allen said. “I just think we’ve got to be able to manage those two and decide what situation is best.”
The new season got off to a shaky start for Ramsey and the Hoosiers, as the sophomore quarterback’s third pass of the year was intercepted by FIU freshman safety Dorian Hall. It led to the Golden Panthers scoring on the ensuing drive.
But Ramsey bounced back.
His strike to Hale on the next possession tied things up and erased FIU’s only lead of the game.
“When you make a mistake, you just have to bounce back,” Ramsey said. “I’m not perfect, I made mistakes last year, and I think I learned from that. I just try to stay calm, stay cool and play my game.”
Regardless, Ramsey was nearly perfect from there on out.
After his early interception, Ramsey went 16-21 for 140 yards and three touchdowns to close out the first half, tying a career-high in touchdown passes in just one half of play.
What started as a rough beginning to the game that saw Ramsey’s quarterback rating drop to -22.1 resulted in that rating shooting up to an impressive 151.9 when the game concluded.
“Peyton stayed poised,” Penix Jr. said. “At the beginning, it was just an interception but he came back, bounced back. That just comes with maturity.”
Every time an obstacle occurred, Ramsey navigated around it.
When FIU got back within seven points midway through the second quarter, Ramsey had an immediate answer — an 18-yard completion to senior wide receiver Luke Timian.
Later in the drive, when Ramsey’s two-yard touchdown pass to freshman tight end Matt Bjorson was overturned and ruled an incompletion, he responded again — this time with a two-yard touchdown toss to Hale on fourth down.
Meanwhile, as Ramsey handled the FIU defense, Penix Jr. waited anxiously on the sidelines.
The Florida-native didn’t make his first collegiate appearance until 10:55 was left in the third quarter, but it didn’t take long to prove he could be just as efficient as Ramsey, if not more.
He opened his IU career by leading the Hoosiers on a nine-play, 72-yard drive that featured a 19-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Whop Philyor and a nine-yard touchdown throw to senior running back Mike Majette.
After sitting out an entire half, the true freshman with no college experience went 8-10 for 96 yards and led IU on two scoring drives.
He even topped Ramsey’s QBR with a rating of 193.6.
“I’ve been preparing for this since day one,” Penix Jr. said. “Ever since I got here, I already knew what the expectation was and I knew it was college football. I just felt like it was another day for me because I was well-prepared.”
After both quarterbacks had impressive season-openers, Allen said he thought it showed the Hoosiers’ promising one-two punch at the position.
But he still has specific plans for each one moving forward.
“Bottom line is Peyton’s the starter," Allen said. "And Michael is a great number two quarterback."
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