Indiana Daily Student

Coaches, players confident in Michael Penix Jr. as Indiana football’s starter

<p>Junior tight end Peyton Hendershot prepares to catch a pass from junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. against the University of Cincinnati on Sept 18, 2021, at Memorial Stadium. Head coach Tom Allen said Penix&#x27;s X-rays came back negative.</p>

Junior tight end Peyton Hendershot prepares to catch a pass from junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. against the University of Cincinnati on Sept 18, 2021, at Memorial Stadium. Head coach Tom Allen said Penix's X-rays came back negative.

After a game in which junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. completed less than 50% of his passes and threw three to the other team, Indiana head coach Tom Allen shot down any discussion of a quarterback competition in a press conference Monday.

“Absolutely not,” Allen said. “Michael Penix is our starting quarterback. I believe in him with 100% of my heart and know that our team feels the same way.”

Penix also will be healthy heading into Saturday’s game against Western Kentucky University. His X-rays and an MRI taken on his non-throwing hand after last weekend’s game against the University of Cincinnati came back negative. 

Offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said Penix has made progress in feeling confident in avoiding injury, but hasn’t fully worked back into rhythm yet.

Most of Penix’s mistakes came as a result of trying to do too much, Allen said. Two of Penix’s interceptions came on third downs, and the third was thrown under heavy pressure on first down. 

“Everybody has their own journey, their own timetable,” Sheridan said. “I think Mike has continued to make progress each and every week.”

Allen said mistakes and turnovers are a concern. Penix has thrown a total of six interceptions this season after only throwing four across six games in last season. 

“He needs to make better decisions in those moments,” Sheridan said. “He knows that.”

Sheridan said he had concerns with turnovers after the team’s training camp, and the coaching staff has been addressing the issue in practice. Along with Penix’s six interceptions, a fourth quarter fumble by sophomore running back Tim Baldwin Jr. prevented Indiana from retaking the lead against Cincinnati. 

Indiana’s offense has also had issues with pass protection and receiving, Allen said. Penix has been pressured on 39.8% of his dropbacks this season and thrown four interceptions under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus.

Senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle dropped two passes Saturday, equal to his season total last season according to PFF. Allen said the team spoke with Fryfogle about the drops after the game, and that drops haven’t been an issue for him in practice.

“You go through and look at the film, we had several drops which were uncharacteristic for some of those guys, but they dropped it,” Allen said. “They did not catch the football well as a group.”

Allen and Sheridan both said Penix made several big plays throughout the game. Penix repeatedly targeted graduate student wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr., with the longest completion between the two resulting in 44 yards.

Sheridan said that creating explosive plays was a part of Indiana’s offensive gameplan, and it naturally lowered Penix’s completion percentage. 

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