State College, Penn — On the first drive of the second half, No. 24 IU football found themselves with a big decision. Trailing by only six points and the chance to take the lead, the Hoosiers faced a fourth-and-one from their own 40 yard-line.
After calling a timeout to assess the situation, IU head coach Tom Allen elected to send out his special teams unit to punt, or so it seemed.
Allen did indeed send out the punting unit but set them up in similar fashion to the infamous Indianapolis Colts’ botched fake punt formation with only two players on the offensive line.
Unlike the Colts’ however, there was no intended trickery in the play-call as the Hoosiers planned to punt the ball the entire time.
“It wasn’t (a fake punt),” Allen said. “We just had a true freshman long-snapper who made a mistake. He was frustrated with himself when he came off. He realized it, so it’s unfortunate and pretty costly for sure.”
It would only take the Nittany Lions just two plays — capped off by a 35-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Journey Brown — to create a hole that the Hoosiers couldn’t crawl their way out of as they fell 34-27 to No. 9 Penn State.
The failed punt wasn’t the only mistake that led to IU’s upset bid falling by the wayside.
After forcing a three-and-out on Penn State’s first drive of the game, junior receiver Whop Philyor muffed the punt as the Nittany Lions jumped on the ball, leading to their first touchdown of the game.
It would be a short afternoon for Philyor as he would later be knocked out of the game after taking a hit to the head that led to his second fumble.
After a quick swing pass from junior quarterback Peyton Ramsey, Philyor turned upfield for a 10-yard reception before taking a hit to the head as he was sandwiched between two Nittany Lion defenders.
“We had some costly mistakes that hurt us,” Allen said. “Those will come back to bite you in games like this.”
Outside of turnovers, IU’s youth showed.
After Philyor left the game due to concussion protocol, the Hoosier offense looked confused at times as freshman David Ellis and redshirt-freshman Miles Marshall were asked to take on bigger roles in a hostile environment.
Both Ellis and Marshall’s lack of experience led to the Hoosiers taking two substitution infractions.
Another freshman, left-tackle Matthew Bedford was another young player that struggled all afternoon against Penn State’s talented front-seven. The Nittany Lions were able to consistently beat Bedford around the outside forcing Ramsey to scramble and extend plays outside of the pocket.
But even with all the youth and mistakes, the Hoosiers were able to stay with the Nittany Lions until the final whistle.
“It hurts,” Ramsey said. “So many opportunities on both sides of the ball that we just didn’t capitalize and at the end of the day that’s what it’s about.”
Ramsey was able to march the offense up-and-down the field against one of the best defenses in the country as he completed 31 of 41 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown. He also added 31 yards on the ground rushing and punched the ball into the end zone twice from the one yard-line.
The problem for IU’s offense was that it had a dry spell from the 6:13 mark of the first quarter until 10:24 in the third during which the Hoosier offense didn’t score any points.
On defense, the Hoosiers were able to force Penn State into third-and-long situations but had trouble finishing the job.
On Penn State’s final drive, the Nittany Lions were able to milk the clock, ending IU’s chance at an upset as they were on the field for over nine minutes, giving IU just 1:44 to score 10 points.
“There were a few key third down stops that we needed to capitalize on, but we didn’t,” sophomore linebacker Micah McFadden said.
For Allen and the Hoosiers, there are no moral victories, but this is as close to one as they could get, taking the ninth-ranked team to the brink on the road.
“I was highly disappointed,” Allen said. “We did not come here to be close. I was ticked off we weren’t able to finish for a variety of reasons. We came here to win, and we battled them. Their coaching staff, they recognize who we are and how we’ve changed over the last few years.”
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