Life is full of paradoxes.
For example, college football is a very fun sport. At the same time, college football is an extremely demoralizing and heartbreaking sport.
There are plenty of reasons for fans to feel dejected after Indiana football’s 24-0 loss to No. 4 Penn State, none of which come anywhere close to seeing junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. leave the field with a shoulder injury.
If I only wanted to fulfill my 600-word quota, I would seek out a particularly beefy thesaurus and look up 599 synonyms for “bummed.” Nevertheless, we have a full football game to discuss.
Nearly one year after Indiana upset then-No. 8 Penn State in incredibly dramatic fashion, the Nittany Lions exacted their revenge in decidedly undramatic fashion.
They slowly ground away the worn-down, outmatched Hoosiers for four quarters punctuated by injuries and questionable play calling.
Despite netting only four yards, Indiana’s first possession actually gave me some sources for optimism. Sure, Penix didn’t actually complete either of his passes, but he did throw entirely catchable balls to relatively open receivers.
I’ve been begging for an offensive scheme that doesn’t force Penix to hurl the ball thirty yards into triple coverage every other play. Beggars, after all, can’t be choosers.
At one point late in the first quarter, the Hoosiers actually reached as deep as the Nittany Lions’ 4-yard line before an unsuccessful fourth-down attempt.
On one hand, I admire the aggression of going for it in a big road showdown. On the other, points have come as easily as the last few squeezes of a toothpaste tube for Indiana’s offense in 2021, so taking an easy field goal looked awfully appetizing.
I would probably be lauding Allen’s decision had the Hoosiers converted. Alas, I am dumb and fickle and therefore smugly nodded to myself when Penn State sophomore running back Keyvon Lee broke free for a 44-yard gain three plays later.
Penn State subsequently took a 14-0 lead, finally inspiring a spark in the Indiana offense. After Penix completed two consecutive long passes for a combined 52 yards, I turned to my colleagues.
“That’s vintage 2020 Penix,” I said.
Wary of tempting the fates, I immediately covered my bases. “Not to put that bad juju into the world, but this is when Penix would throw an interception.”
Color me fifty shades of unsurprised when Penix floated a pick to Penn State sophomore cornerback Joey Porter Jr. the following play, immediately extinguishing Indiana’s offensive momentum. Nostradamus would have killed it in the sports prop betting scene.
There are plenty of individuals at whom you could point a finger in criticism of Indiana’s offense.
The offensive line seldom gives Penix enough time to throw. Penix’s receivers seldom create separation fast enough for him to get off a clean throw. When Penix does throw, it’s all too often off his back foot or on the end of an awkward sidearm.
Regardless of which of these factors deserves the most blame, the outcome is unchanged whenever the Hoosiers take the field.
Indiana gets the ball, graduate student running back Stephen Carr runs up the middle for zero to three yards, Penix tosses a few incompletions, freshman punter James Evans comes out and punts the ball away. Maybe the players on the sidelines wave around plastic chairs a little in between plays, but the punt arrives all the same.
As if to prove that a change at quarterback cannot compensate for subpar line play, Penn State senior defensive end Arnold Ebiketie drilled and sacked junior quarterback Jack Tuttle on his first snap, forcing yet another fourth down.
Even junior kicker Charles Campbell, the only Hoosier to score points against a Power Five school this season, couldn’t clear his lone field goal attempt over the Nittany Lions’ line.
In addition to Penix, defensive backs Raheem Layne and Reese Taylor left the game with injuries, significant blows to a defense that held its own considerably well against a top-five team.
This is usually when I would wrap up with a painfully forced metaphor or a witless one liner, but I’m not about to joke about the unending misery of Hoosier fandom when several actual humans sustained some pretty grim injuries tonight.
With the privilege of completely intact bones and tendons, I’ll merely issue a get well soon, Hoosiers.