Indiana's Defense Seizes Moment With Big Plays in Win Over Penn State

Indiana's defense had three takeaways and a number of big plays in the Hoosiers' thrilling 36-35 overtime win against Penn State.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Tom Allen just finished his postgame press conference after Indiana's monumental win over No. 8 Penn State. He ended it with his patent catchphrase, "LEO," which means Love Each Other. 

Linebacker Micah McFadden was up next for his interview. Off camera, Allen got up and hugged McFadden and said he loved him. McFadden responded, saying, "I love you so much."

It embodied the feeling around what this win means for Indiana. It embodied how together this Indiana team is, which was evident in the game as they gutted out a 36-35.

A big key behind the Hoosiers' success in the game was their defense. Allen and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack talked all preseason about how they believe the defense has improved so much over the offseason.

Indiana was returning nine starters on that side of the ball, and it showed Saturday afternoon in Memorial Stadium.

After a rocky start, where Penn State marched the ball down the field on its opening possession in a 7-minute drive for a touchdown, Indiana's defense settled in.

They started to force some three-and-outs, but then they did what Allen said they feed off of, and that's take the ball away. 

At the end of the first quarter, Jaylin Williams intercepted Sean Clifford, giving Indiana's offense the ball in Penn State territory for the first time in the game. The Hoosiers settled for a field goal to make the score 7-3. 

Indiana forced Penn State to punt on its next possession, Reese Taylor returned the punt 21 yards and the Hoosiers got their first touchdown of the game to take a 10-7 lead.

Then, Jamar Johnson picked off Clifford. Johnson's interception made it three consecutive games dating back to last season that he came up with a pick.

"I think we just seized the opportunities in the moment," Johnson said. "He overthrew a pick to me, so I had to catch it."

The Hoosiers weren't done either. The Nittany Lions had the ball in the redzone at the end of the half, and Clifford was running an option play with Will Levis.

Johnson saw that Clifford was trying to pull it, so he punched it out, creating a fumble that was recovered by Jerome Johnson.

"Also, I made an instinctive play down in the red zone," Johnson said. "The quarterback tried to pull it, but I just went for the ball. I think that was seizing the moment."

Indiana shut Penn State out in the second quarter and took a 17-7 lead into halftime.

The takeaways may have been done for the day but the big plays weren't.

Penn State went nearly scoreless in the third quarter as well until Clifford ran it 35 yards for a score as time expired.

Indiana's offense only ran seven plays in the third quarter, including an interception from Michael Penix Jr., but the defense held strong for long periods of time.

"We knew first and second down was going to be a big part, but also third down," Micah McFadden said. "We talked about it early in the week, just containing the quarterback and he did break out for some good runs but I think for the most part we had him contained pretty well."

"I think it was a huge part of winning first and second down for the most part and getting them into those third and longs, and being able to capitalize."

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) attempts to avoid tackle from Indiana Hoosiers linebacker Micah McFadden (47) and Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Tiawan Mullen (3) late in the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium.

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) attempts to avoid tackle from Indiana Hoosiers linebacker Micah McFadden (47) and Indiana Hoosiers defensive back Tiawan Mullen (3) late in the second half of the game at Memorial Stadium.

If you just look at the final score, it's easy to assume Indiana's defense struggled, giving up 35 points in the game.

But the defense kept Indiana afloat as the offense struggled to find any rhythm.

The defense showed out and looked like a top 25 defense, something Allen wants to be a staple for the program.

Tackling, takeaways and effort are what Allen said the defense hangs its hat on, and the Hoosiers executed all of those on Saturday to pull out the huge victory over Penn State.

"We believed it the whole time," McFadden said. "There was no doubt on the sideline. Definitely exciting that we could capitalize with the overtime win but I think there was just outstanding belief on the whole sideline." 

"Nobody was hanging their head when they went up and I think that really shows just how together this team is, how much of a family we are and I think that made the difference."

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