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Michael Penix Jr. makes short-lived return in IU football 34-3 win over Northwestern


Sophomore defensive back Bryant Fitzgerald cheers as he arrives on the field Nov. 2 at Memorial Stadium before IU played Northwestern. Anna Brown

IU football attempted to run out the clock as it finished off Northwestern for a 34-3 victory, but it wasn’t the same Hoosier quarterback on the field that started the game.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. made his sixth start of the season Saturday after missing last week’s win at Nebraska. Before halftime, however, Penix exited the game with an injury and failed to return for the third time this season. 

“He (Penix) was the starter, and as soon as he’s healthy to play, then he would come back and be the starter when he was able to go, and he was able to go this week,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “He got dinged up before half so we’ll know more about that tomorrow.”

Thanks to three turnovers and a number of costly penalties from the Wildcats, the Hoosier offense was able to work with favorable field position in the first half. Penix led IU to scoring plays on four of his five drives in the game.

Junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey took over as signal-caller with a 24-3 lead, but once he subbed in, IU’s offense went cold. 

Despite crossing midfield twice, Ramsey’s first three drives ended with the Hoosiers punting the ball away to the Wildcats. 

IU leaned more on sophomore running back Stevie Scott and the rush attack in the second half, but Ramsey made plays when he had to. The junior finished 7-of-10 passing for 108 yards and a touchdown that Scott took 20 yards to the house. 

“It’s not too difficult for us,” fifth-year receiver Nick Westbrook said of this season’s mid-game changes at quarterback. “At the end of the day it’s still our same scheme, same offense. It doesn’t miss a beat. We have so much chemistry with both of them.”

Junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey prepares to catch the ball Nov. 2 at Memorial Stadium. Ramsey threw a 20-yard pass to sophomore running back Stevie Scott III for a touchdown in the third quarter. Alex Deryn

Allen’s defense didn’t force any second-half takeaways but managed to keep Northwestern’s offense on its half of the field for the entirety of the third and fourth quarters. 

The Hoosiers have limited opponents to no more than one scoring play in four of their nine games, but Allen said the defense badly wanted its third shutout of the season.

“It’s hard to get shutouts,” Allen said. “It’s hard to hold a team to three points. It’s hard to hold people to even seven, 10 points anymore. I thought Kane Wommack did a phenomenal job calling the defense today.”

The Hoosiers picked up their fourth-straight win Saturday, a stretch in which they are outscoring opponents 141-62.

IU last recorded four consecutive wins when it opened the 2015 season 4-0. The last time the Hoosiers won four straight Big Ten games, was in 1993. 

Westbrook admits it’s exciting to see so much momentum around the team for a change, but he said they’re after much more.

“We didn’t come this far just to get this far,” Westbrook said. “That’s just the mindset of this team. Everybody believes. It’s great to be winning and change history, and to do it with a group of guys that love each other so much is a lot of fun.”

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