In the locker room trailing 28-7 at halftime, sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. refused to stay dazed after Ohio State landed heavy blow after heavy blow against IU.
The team came together and rebuffed the idea of simply laying down, and behind Penix, it nearly stormed back.
“His leadership, by the way that he plays the game, is pretty special,” IU head coach Tom Allen said Saturday after the game.
The Big Ten’s leader in passing yards turned up the heat late in the second half in an attempt to will No. 9 IU to a comeback victory over No. 3 Ohio State before falling short, 42-35.
“It hurts,” Penix said. “But we’re just going to keep a 1-0 mindset.”
Penix threw for 491 yards, just five shy of breaking IU’s record set by Richard Lagow in 2016. His five touchdowns were the most since Tre Robertson in 2013.
He continued to shatter personal records, setting a career high in passing yards for the second time this season.
Each time IU needed a big play, the quarterback found a receiver and continued to pace IU’s offense.
He hit three different receivers for four gains of over 50 yards — sophomore Miles Marshall for 68 yards, sophomore David Ellis for 51 yards and senior Ty Fryfogle twice, for 63 and 56 yards. Both of Fryfogle's receptions over 50 yards went for touchdowns, as well as a 33-yard touchdown catch in between.
Penix threw for 294 yards in the second half alone, digging the Hoosiers out from a 35-7 third quarter deficit.
“We got comfortable,” Penix said. “We just came out and just executed the simple things. Going out and playing hard, we came out and played hard for each other.”
He connected with Fryfogle for 189 of those second half yards and three touchdown passes. Fryfogle finished the day with 218 yards receiving.
“Mike’s very special,” Fryfogle said. “I mean, you can look at the tape. He can make any throw on the field, he can just do anything.”
Fryfogle has helped Penix make those throws, transforming into one of IU’s most reliable targets. He has 25 receptions over IU’s last three games.
Saturday was his second consecutive 200-plus yard receiving game, becoming the first player in Big Ten history to achieve that feat.
“He really understands how to track the ball,” Allen said. “He just comes up with big plays. They really had a hard time stopping him, for sure. He’s a special, special player.”
Yet as well as Penix threw the ball, the run game was equally poor.
IU had -1 yards rushing, and while a majority of the lost yards could be chalked up to a poor snap and a sack, there was no help from the run game to open up options for Penix in the pass game.
With the exception of a scramble on IU’s last drive, Penix finished the game with 28 consecutive pass attempts.
The only mistake from the sophomore quarterback was a pick six in the third quarter, just two plays after IU’s defense held Ohio State to a missed field goal attempt. Those seven points were the Buckeyes' only points after their first third-quarter drive.
When asked about the pass post game, his answer was succinct.
“Not a good throw,” Penix said. “That’s it.”
Allen said Penix proved his leadership on the field, providing IU with confidence it could come back behind its quarterback’s poise and refusal to quit.
Now 4-1 on the season, the Hoosiers announced themselves on a national stage. Despite once again falling to Ohio State, extending the losing streak to 26 games, Allen has guided IU back to relevancy.
“There’s no question the gap has been closed,” Allen said.