IU sophomore quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was one play away from zero passing yards in the first half against Maryland.
But just as Penix found his rhythm in the third quarter, he scrambled for a 21-yard gain and was pushed out of bounds. Penix suffered an apparent lower leg injury and didn’t return to the field. Sophomore quarterback Jack Tuttle took his place and completed all five of his passes for 31 yards.
But no matter who was under center, it was the Hoosiers’ running backs that carried the load on offense in the team’s 27-11 victory over the Terrapins on Saturday in Bloomington.
“I thought it was huge,” IU head coach Tom Allen said. “We need to have multiple running backs that can be effective, and we do.”
After Penix posted a career-best 491 passing yards and five touchdowns in a 42-35 loss to Ohio State on Nov. 21, he couldn’t find the same success against Maryland. Penix opened the game by completing two of his first 15 passes.
A 37-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Miles Marshall accounted for all of Penix’s passing yards in the first half.
The play set up the Hoosiers’ only scoring drive in the opening half. Following an incomplete pass to senior wide receiver Whop Philyor on the next play, the IU offense ran the ball seven straight times.
Junior running back Stevie Scott III pounded the ball into the end zone on a 3-yard score to cap off an 11-play, 74-yard drive.
IU managed just 139 yards of total offense through two quarters, including 102 on the ground, compared to Maryland’s 237. However, the Hoosiers still led 7-3 at halftime.
“Just everybody knowing their assignments at the end of the day and making plays,” Scott said. “If our quarterback is doing bad, it’s our job to uplift him and just try to put the team on our back.”
To start the third quarter, Penix completed his first four passes before leaving the game with an injury. With Tuttle at the helm and sophomore running back Sampson James inactive, freshman running back Tim Baldwin Jr. carried the ball 16 times.
Three of his runs went for more than 20 yards.
Baldwin ended the game as the team’s leading rusher with 106 yards while averaging 6.6 yards per carry. He became the 14th true freshman in program history to rush for 100 yards or more.
“Just being patient and trusting the O-line and trusting the work we put in as running backs,” Baldwin said. “Trusting the coach is going to make the right call that’s going and putting us in the right position. Depending on the angles of the defense, depending on how they’re fitting the run, I think it all just played to our favor today.”
With the help of big plays on the ground, IU scored on three straight possessions in the second half.
Scott notched two more touchdowns, both on direct snaps inside the 5-yard line. He finished the game with 24 carries for 80 yards and three touchdowns. And with the IU defense forcing three takeaways and a safety, the Hoosiers ran away with the game.
Maryland’s only touchdown was a 43-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa to junior wide receiver Dontay Demus Jr. with 1:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
IU finished the game with a season-high 234 rushing yards.
“It’s a team game at the end of the day,“ Baldwin said. “Whoever gets the momentum first and keeps it the whole entire time is most likely going to win the game.”