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Michael Penix Jr. and Whop Philyor's connection key to IU football's success against Maryland


Junior wide receiver Whop Philyor cheers with freshman Michael Penix Jr. on Sept. 28 in Spartan Stadium. Penix and Philyor have connected for a school record 24 receptions resulting in 324 receiving yards in the last two games against Michigan State and Rutgers. Alex Deryn

When you think of someone named after a fast-food burger, you may not envision a speedy 5-foot-11-inch, 178-pound receiver who can weave through defenders and make them miss with video game-like jukes. 

Unfortunately for defenders, junior receiver Whop Philyor does exist and is having a career season for IU.

The connection between redshirt-freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. and Philyor has been a staple of the Hoosiers offense so far this season. 

Philyor quickly became one of Penix’s favorite targets as he leads IU with 41 catches and 553 receiving yards. In IU’s last two games against Rutgers and Michigan State, Penix and Philyor have connected for a school record 24 receptions resulting in 324 receiving yards.

Penix and Philyor’s trust in each other extends beyond the field. Following the game Saturday against Rutgers, Philyor let slip that he and Penix would sometimes play Fortnite while studying film.

“Fortnite, you know you got teams,” Penix said. “Usually we play duos so it’s me and him. I trust him to make sure I don’t die, and he trusts me to make sure he don’t die. Same thing on the field. I trust him to do the right routes and make the catches, and he trusts me to make the right throws.”

Their connection in the passing game will continue to be an important factor going forward as IU looks to move just one win away from bowl eligibility when it takes on Maryland this weekend.

The Terrapins rank No. 113 in the country, allowing 279.7 passing yards per game, which will be an area the Hoosiers will try to exploit as they will bring their No. 17 passing offense to College Park, Maryland.

In fact, both Maryland and IU’s offense rank inside the top 50 as the Terrapins rank No. 42, and the Hoosiers are just two spots behind them at No. 44 in total offense.

IU head coach Tom Allen acknowledged the challenges ahead for the Hoosiers as they get ready to take on Maryland.

“Just an unbelievably athletic football team that we're about to play in all phases, speed everywhere on the field” Allen said. “They've got some really talented transfers and some really, really good players.”

Two years ago in Allen’s first year as head coach, the Maryland game in College Park was a crucial game that IU let slip away in a 42-39 loss. The game became one of the key moments that players, coaches and fans pointed to as the Hoosiers fell one game short of being bowl-eligible.

With a revenge game coming up, the veteran players who were there for that game understand its importance and know they need to emphasize its significance to the younger players as well.

“We going to talk to these younger guys about it,” Philyor said. “It’s not really much we need to talk about with them, but it’s just making sure we do the small things to get over the hump. We need these six games.”

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