It was a win, yet little else went right in IU’s 27-11 victory over Maryland on Saturday.
The first half was as ugly as IU has seen all season. Sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had only two completions for 37 yards on 15 attempts. Despite being outgained by 98 yards, the Hoosiers led at the half.
Halfway through the third quarter, Penix scrambled for 21 yards before heading out of bounds. After stepping awkwardly, Penix fell to the ground and had to be helped off the field.
IU head coach Tom Allen said in a postgame Zoom that Penix has an unknown lower leg injury and is undergoing additional testing.
The Hoosiers’ second half performance came off the back of a team that has shown an ability to fight all year long.
“We just kept chipping away at it and made some adjustments at halftime,” Allen said.
IU pulled away in the second half by doing exactly what top 15 teams do. IU pressured Maryland’s sophomore quarterback, Taulia Tagovailoa, and kept him from getting comfortable, forcing sacks, turnovers and a safety.
“He was just a one-read player,” sophomore cornerback Tiawan Mullen said. “Wherever he looked, that was which was he was going to throw the ball. We just did a lot of studying on him, so we came up with a lot of takeaways.”
The three interceptions brought the Hoosiers to 16 on this season, the most out of all Football Bowl Series schools.
IU’s touchdown following junior linebacker Micah McFadden’s interception put the team at 58 points off turnovers on the season.
A majority of IU’s offensive production came from the team’s running backs, including three touchdowns from junior running back Stevie Scott III on direct snaps.
Scott said the wildcat formation was something IU has been working on all season but had yet to come up in the game.
“We ran it a lot in practice just to get everything down pat,” Scott said. “Practice makes perfect, and every time we ran it, it felt like practice.”
Throughout the second half, the offense slugged run plays up the middle and bounced handoffs outside, picking up yards in chunks and draining the clock.
IU finished the game with 234 rushing yards. That figure was nearly twice as many as its previous high, when it had 118 yards against Michigan on Nov. 7. Freshman Tim Baldwin Jr. became the first Hoosier to rush for 100 yards on the season.
“We need to have multiple running backs that can be effective, and we do,” Allen said. “Just to be able to get [sophomore] David Ellis the ball as well. To see Tim, the way he ran today, I thought he ran extremely effectively.”
Sophomore Jack Tuttle performed admirably in replacement of Penix, completing passes he needed to in order to extend drives. He ended the day a perfect 5-5 with 31 yards, including a two-point conversion.
The Hoosiers extended their 7-3 halftime lead slowly, with few of the explosive receptions they have relied on this year. IU only had two receptions longer than 20 yards.
In the first half, Penix looked like a different player than he had been all season, struggling to connect with his receivers and keeping IU from moving the ball down the field.
One of his two completions was tipped at the line of scrimmage, caught by junior tight end Peyton Hendershot for no gain. The other was a 37-yard reception to Miles Marshall, a jump ball thrown up by Penix after Maryland jumped offside.
“The slow starting offense, we’ve got to sit down and figure it out,” Allen said. “Last week we had to figure out the run game and we got that figured out this week. So now we’ve got to figure out a way to start faster.”