Against Rutgers on Saturday, the IU offense faced a third down in the first quarter. The team faced a similar situation against Penn State during its season opener.
The Hoosiers ran the same play, and junior tight end Peyton Hendershot ran to the same spot with an identical result. He dropped the ball, and the Scarlet Knights scored a touchdown on the next possession.
“I came to the sideline, and I was upset with myself because I only had one or two drops all last year,” Hendershot said after the team’s 37-21 victory. “I already have two drops. I just let the team down in my mind.”
Despite early miscues this season, Hendershot finished with a team-high six receptions against the Scarlet Knights. He accounted for 34 yards and two touchdowns. IU head coach Tom Allen said during a Zoom call Monday, Hendershot was the team’s Offensive Player of the Week.
Hendershot was suspended indefinitely from the team Feb. 24 after being arrested Feb. 22 for allegedly assaulting a 22-year-old woman he was previously in a relationship with, according to a press release from the Bloomington Police Department. Under the conditions of Hendershot’s plea agreement, he was required to complete a mental health evaluation and given one-year probation.
Hendershot rejoined the team June 14.
Allen commended his efficiency as both a pass-catcher and a blocker, saying he played a complete game.
Sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Hendershot approached him on the sidelines during games. Hendershot has overthought his mistakes but continues to tell Penix to keep trusting him.
“I know he’s a great player, and he’s going to make great plays,” Penix said of Hendershot. “Just because somebody drops a ball, we don’t hang our head. We just stay positive and just keep playing the game because we know those plays are going to be made.”
Hendershot said he often remembers a saying former IU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer told the offense last season: It’s not if, but when. The offense is going to make plays, and numerous players can contribute on any given week.
But Hendershot, like much of the offense under first-year offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan, is continuing to develop after just two weeks of play. The IU offense had more passing and rushing yards against Rutgers compared to its game against Penn State, and the team didn’t turn the ball over in Week 2.
However, the Hoosiers have gone three-and-out to begin the half three times this season. In the first two games, six defensive takeaways fueled the offense. Those takeaways have led to 27 points.
“We still need to start faster in each half,” Sheridan said. “We need to play more consistently, but I think there were moments in the game on Saturday where we looked like a very good offense.”
Allen praised Sheridan for his ability to adjust his game plan not only between games but between halves as well. He said there are going to be growing pains for a first-time coordinator calling plays in the Big Ten.
“Play-calling, to me, is an art. It’s not a science,” Allen said. “You can do all the study, you can do all the prep, you have all the data. But knowing what to call and when to call it at the right time is a big part of this.”
This week, coaches emphasized getting the ball into the hands of the team’s best players. One of them being Hendershot, who is coming off a season where he set an IU single-season record for a tight end with 52 catches.
He also finished with 622 yards and four touchdowns in 2019 and will look to continue improving in Sheridan’s offense with seven games remaining during the regular season.
“Just talked about playing for my teammates, and just going out there and taking one snap at a time,” Hendershot said. “I felt like Saturday, that’s what I did, and I got to play a better game because I wasn’t trying to do too much. That’s what my focus is for this week and all the weeks ahead.”
Update 4:33, Nov. 4: This story has been updated to include information on Hendershot’s charges over the summer.