In the world of football, the success on the offensive side is mostly credited to the skill position players – the quarterbacks like Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, the running backs like Christian McCaffrey or Derrick Henry, and the receivers like Justin Jefferson or Stefon Diggs. They’re the guys whose names are on the back of the jerseys bought from fans around the world.
What about the five of the 11 offensive players who aren’t the skill position players? Enter the offensive line.
Today and throughout the season, Indiana football proved that the talented skill position players don’t mean anything if the offensive line is inferior to the opposing defense. This year, the offensive line has impacted Indiana’s offensive performance more than anybody this season for the Hoosiers.
Against the Nittany Lions, the Hoosiers, for the first time this season, started someone other than redshirt junior Connor Bazelak at quarterback. Minutes before kickoff, it was revealed Hoosier veteran redshirt junior Jack Tuttle was the starter.
This comes after Tuttle announced he entered his name in the transfer portal while still remaining with the team on Oct. 17.
[Related: Indiana football back-up quarterback Jack Tuttle enters the transfer portal]
Coming into its matchup with No. 16 Penn State, Indiana’s Bazelak suffered 22 sacks for a total loss of 184 yards through eight games. The Hoosiers have given up the second most sacks in the Big Ten Conference and rank 99 out of 131 FBS teams.
On Saturday, Indiana football head coach Tom Allen featured three different quarterbacks under center and the Indiana offensive line gave up six sacks in the 45-14 loss to Penn State.
New Quarterback Alert - Welcome back Jack!
First Sack - 12:34 left in the first quarter
On the first offensive snap of the game for the Hoosiers, Penn State defensive lineman redshirt senior Nick Tarbuton sacked Tuttle for a 1-yard loss. That first play ended up being more foreshadowing for the Indiana offense than they would have hoped.
Despite early troubles from the offensive line, Tuttle was impressive in his first start of the season and provided a much-needed spark to the Hoosiers’ offense.
On the second offensive drive, Tuttle and the Indiana offense marched down the field in less than three minutes and answered a Nittany Lion touchdown with one of their own. Notably, throughout the entire first half, Tuttle was able to anticipate the pocket collapsing and use his feet to extend Indiana drives.
Second Sack - 1:55 left in the first quarter
Indiana gets an interception and starts at Penn State’s 31-yard line setting up a short field for the Hoosiers.
However, on 2nd and 14, Tuttle was taken down by Penn State’s redshirt junior defensive lineman Adisa Isaac for a loss of nine yards.
Third Sack - 1:10 left in the first quarter
On the very next snap — 3rd and 28 after a false start — Tuttle was taken down again, this time by senior safety Ji’Ayir Brown for a loss of seven yards.
Indiana started its drive with great field position on the opponent’s 31-yard line, then finished at Penn State’s 44, forced to punt.
Fourth Sack - 5:04 left in the second quarter
At this point Indiana trails 21-7, after a Nittany Lion touchdown Indiana tries to answer starts its drive from its own 25-yard line. The first play of the drive Tuttle drops back and is quickly taken down by defensive lineman redshirt junior Dvon Ellies.
After the play Tuttle stays down. He’s helped off the field, but he wouldn’t return. He left the game as the leading passer and rusher for Indiana.
New Quarterback alert - Welcome to college football, Brendan Sorsby!
Fifth Sack, Sixth Sack - 3:16 left in the second quarter
Replacing Tuttle, freshman Brendan Sorsby made his collegiate debut and was greeted with back-to-back sacks gifted by the Nittany Lion defense, signed for by the Indiana offensive line.
Six sacks were suffered by Indiana's quarterbacks before the second half even started.
New Quarterback alert - Where have you been, Dexter Williams II?
Although no sacks were given up by Indiana’s offensive line in the third quarter, the offense scored zero points. Redshirt sophomore Dexter Williams came on in relief at quarterback and made his debut toward the end of the third quarter. He anticipated the limited time to work in the pocket and made quick throws while using his feet, much like Tuttle in the first quarter.
On fourth down, Penn State’s pass rush broke through the offensive line and Williams' throw was tipped and intercepted. On Williams’ next drop back he was hit as he threw it and the ball sailed over intended receiver junior Andison Coby and into the hands of Penn State’s Daequan Hardy for an interception.
In those two plays, a sack might’ve been the best-case scenario compared to interceptions given up.
Despite six sacks in the first half, Indiana didn’t allow another sack for the rest of the game, but the damage was done.
“It's killing us right now,” Allen said after the game about the offensive line. “It doesn't matter who the quarterback is, who the running back is.”
Coming into this game, Penn State was seventh in the Big Ten in sacks and the six against Indiana today bumped them up to third in the conference.
Indiana ran the most rushing plays they have all season with 34, but those attempts only amounted to a total of 65 rushing yards — 1.9 yards per carry.
“It’s been difficult upfront not giving our backs seams to run through and the quarterbacks time to throw, ''Allen said. ”In order to move the football, we’ve got to start up front.”
On top of the six sacks, the Nittany Lions defense had 16 tackles for a loss, four quarterback hurries and three interceptions against Indiana.
“Not good enough,” Allen said about the offensive line. “It’s killing us right now.”
Instead of a couple of skill players being praised for their scoring, the Indiana offensive line continues to struggle. The dam that is the Indiana offensive line broke loose and Penn State sailed its way to a 45-14 win on the road.