IU head coach Tom Allen’s normally raspy voice was even more shot than usual after IU defeated No. 8 Penn State in the season opener Saturday.
It took overtime to settle IU’s game against No. 8 Penn State, and it took two two-point conversions for IU to pull off the 36-35 upset.
The win gives IU its second-ever victory against Penn State and its first win over a top-10 opponent since beating Ohio State in 1987.
After Penn State took a 35-28 lead in overtime, sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Whop Philyor. As Penix and the rest of the offense looked to the sideline, Allen didn’t hesitate telling them to stay on the field.
For the second time, Penix was the hero, sneaking the ball over the goal line. This one came after a long review over a matter of inches, completing the Hoosier’s upset.
"I knew it was a touchdown as soon as I did it," Penix said. "I told the team when they were reviewing like, 'Man it's a touchdown, it's a touchdown.' I just knew I couldn't let the guys down."
For most of the game, IU seemed in control.
Its defense held Penn State to only seven points in the first half after a strange ending in which Penn State recovered a fumble with two seconds left in the half but clanked their field goal off the upright.
The second half was nearly the opposite. Before the final drive of the fourth quarter, IU had produced 24 yards of offense in the half and only three points.
The Hoosiers turned the ball over on downs trailing by one deep in their own territory.
“I guess it’s kinda fitting," Allen said. "I kept going back to the bowl game in the last few minutes there, and just like we got to find a way not to let this happen again.”
For a minute, it felt just like last year’s game against Penn State, where IU came back to make it 27-24 in the fourth quarter before ultimately falling to the then-No. 9 team in the country, 34-27.
It seemed like a typical IU finish before Penn State ran in a 14-yard touchdown run and went up 28-20 with less than two minutes left.
Rather than Penn State running the clock out, the touchdown allowed IU to get the ball back with just under two minutes remaining.
“Fortunately for us we got the chance,” Allen said. “With 1:42, with Michael Penix, I really believed we were going to go tie this game up. I just believe in him.”
Penix took control.
The second year starting quarterback led IU on a game-tying, 75-yard drive, capped with a one-yard rush for a touchdown and a conversion on the two-point attempt.
“It showed that you just can’t count us out,” Penix said.
It looked like IU might be in trouble early after Penn State marched down the field on its first offensive possession without much resistance. The Nittany Lions took the ball 64 yards in seven minutes, capping off the drive with a two yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Sean Clifford to take a quick lead.
But the defense held together, keeping Penn State from scoring again in the half. The halftime lead came on the back of three takeaways for IU that the offense converted into 10 points.
“There were some things they were throwing out there at us that we weren’t really ready for,” junior linebacker Micah McFadden said. "We made some some really good adjustments. Our players capitalized."
It’s only the second time the Hoosiers have faced a ranked opponent in Bloomington to start the season. The last time was in 2017 when IU led No. 2 Ohio State 14-13 to start the second half. They lost 49-21.
This time it was different.
“The bottom line is we’re building a football program that, in my mind, wants to win a Big Ten Championship,” Allen said.