t wasnâ€™t the blowout that many were expecting, and it wasnâ€™t the upset that fans were assuredly hoping for. At the end of the day, it was a sloppy, physical slugfest that came down to the final horn and saw the Indiana Hoosiers come up one play short.
Indiana (1-4, 0-1) put forth a valiant effort on defense, as they held Penn State (4-1, 1-0) to only 16 points. Unfortunately, an offense still searching for its best option at quarterback put up only 10 points of its own, and saw a last-gasp Hail Mary pass fall short of the end zone.
In fairness to the Hoosier offense, it was a group operating at less than 100 percent. Edward Wright-Baker, who had started the first four games of the season at quarterback tweaked an ankle during Tuesdayâ€™s practice and was unable to participate the rest of the week.
Leading rusher, Dâ€™Angelo Roberts, was also injured Tuesday, sustaining a concussion which held him out of Saturdayâ€™s game. To make matters worse, both Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson were also limited with injuries and neither made much of an impact on the game.
â€œWe had some wide receivers out this week,â€ said Ted Bolser, who caught Dusty Kielâ€™s only touchdown pass. â€œI picked up their slack and took advantage, but we need them back at 100 percent and hopefully they get back soon.â€
The absence of such crucial receivers became apparent time and again as the Hoosiers dropped pass after pass, which killed a number of drives. Indiana struck early, as Kiel led a quick 9 play, 47-yard drive, which ended in a 49-yard Mitch Ewald field goal.
The offense unraveled from there though, as the next 11 Hoosier drives ended in either a punt or a turnover. Kevin Wilson attempted to explain what went wrong after the game.
â€œThere were some things that got us behind schedule early,â€ he said. â€œWe got into a rhythm lateâ€¦ but the offense needs to pull their own weight.â€
While the Hoosier offense struggled to provide anything positive, the defense played perhaps its best game of the season, and kept the game competitive right down to the wire.
â€œWe battled,â€ Wilson said after the game. â€œWe got on schedule as a defense and played well. I think we let them off the hook a couple of times, no offense to Penn State, but we played good defense and had a chance to play a better one.â€
One week after being embarrassed by the North Texas Mean Green to the tune of a 21-0 halftime deficit, the defense held its own. Indiana actually led after the first quarter and was tied at three points apiece with the Nittany Lions at the half. On the day, the Hoosier defense allowed 464 yards, but forced three turnovers and allowed only sixteen total points. Larry Black explained the defensive effort after the game.
â€œWe just manned up and did what we had to do,â€ he said. â€œDefense boils down to striking the opponent, getting off blocks and making plays and thatâ€™s what we didâ€¦ itâ€™s all about emotion, guys being on their keys and making plays. Thatâ€™s what we did.â€
Senior defensive captain Jeff Thomas contributed his usual solid performance, and youngsters such as Mark Murphy and Drew and Forisse Hardin ramped up the energy on the defensive side of the ball.
The lone big mistake came in the third quarter when Penn State receiver Derek Moye got behind the Indiana secondary and broke off a 74-yard touchdown catch. Forisse Hardin took some of the blame when he explained the defensive breakdown.
â€œCommunication broke down a couple of times and (on the Moye touchdown) I was supposed to be in a cover-1 look, but I bit on a shallow route.â€
That mistake put the Hoosiers in a 13-3 hole and when the Nittany Lions added a field goal to make the score 16-3 the game appeared all but over. But Dusty Kiel and the offense refused to go quietly. After lying dormant for most of the game, the Indiana offense pieced together a 14 play-77 yard drive that was capped by Ted Bolserâ€™s 5-yard touchdown catch.
Mike Ekelerâ€™s defense came out sharp on the next Penn State possession and stonewalled the Nittany Lions on a 3rd and short in Indiana territory to give the offense one last chance to win the game. Kiel led the Hoosiers to the Nittany Lion 40-yard line before he was forced into a last second heave that fell short of the end zone. After the game, Wilson was disappointed in the loss, but praised his teamâ€™s effort.
â€œWe need fight and attitude to win games,â€ he said. â€œWe didnâ€™t make the plays we needed and didnâ€™t have the physical presence we needed, but Iâ€™m proud of our kids for having attitude and battling.â€
Indianaâ€™s next battle comes in Bloomington next Saturday when they take on the Illinois Fighting Illini (5-0, 1-0).