BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Before Indiana's game with Ohio State even started, there were concerns about the Hoosiers' quarterbacks room. Starter Michael Penix Jr. was on the sideline, out temporarily with a left shoulder injury, and redshirt freshman Dexter Williams, the third-stringer back on the spring depth chart, was gone for the year after a torn ACL.
No. 2 Jack Tuttle got the start, just the fourth of his career. Last week against Michigan State was his third, and it didn't go well, with two interceptions and a lost fumble in a 20-15 loss. True freshman Donavan McCulley, who just showed up on campus four months ago, was thrust into the back-up role.
Tuttle does have a nice resume and the faith of his teammates, and that showed on Indiana's impressive first drive, when the Hoosiers marched right down the field and scored on a 7-yard pass from Tuttle to record-setting tight end Peyton Hendershot.
But Tuttle was hit on the TD pass and went down — and basically out — with an apparent lower leg injury. And just like that, the game was basically over. Not counting that first 12-play, 75-yard and the 17 yards they gained at the end when the final clock was ticking down, the Hoosiers a grand total of 36 yards all night.
That's right, 36 yards.
"It was ugly," Indiana coach Tom Allen said in a postgame news conference. The Hoosiers have now lost a league-record 27 straight games to Ohio State, dating back to 1988. "That's the best way to describe it. It was painful, especially that second quarter window.''
McCulley, a high school football and basketball star at Lawrence North in Indianapolis just last year, was pressed into the duty, but the true freshman showed quickly that the moment was too big for him, at least in the passing game.
McCulley showed he's a mobile quarterback who is more comfortable with rushing for now. His passing game was basically nonexistent, as he only completed only 1-of-6 passes, a nice 30-yard throw to Ty Fryfogle.
"I think there's some concern of him being ready for that," Allen said of McCulley's ability to run the passing game. "He's got to grow, for sure. He's got to expand without a doubt, but just not wanting to put him in a bad spot to get back there and have to make some complex reads, I think that was kind of the thought process."
The ''process'' was to quickly insert Noblesville, Ind. walk-on Grant Gremel into the game. Gremel, who is in his third year in the program, at least knows the full playbook. Allen and his coaches thought he was a safer bet against Ohio State's nasty pass rush, which Indiana's offensive line had no answers for.
Gremel completed 3-for-4 passes for 9 yards and no touchdowns and was sacked once in the first half.
"Grant's taken some (first-team) reps in practice," Allen said. "There were times when we felt Donaven was a little bit rattled, and we just had to get him calmed down and just see him progress through that.
"He did some positive things, but Grant was obviously a guy that can throw the ball. That was never a thought going into the season, but the starter's down, the number two goes down, and now you've got one scholarship quarterback left."
Tuttle went straight to the locker room after his injury, and Allen said his X-rays were negative. Tuttle even tried to play after halftime, but came out after one play. He's going to get an MRI on Sunday to see if there is any ligament damage, Allen said.
Tuttle was 4-for-7 passing for 41 yards on the night. The 80-yard team passing total paled in comparison to the 491 yards Penix rolled up against Ohio State last year in Columbus.
It was the lowest total since Zander Diamont threw for only 68 yards in a 13-7 loss to Penn State on Nov. 8, 2014.
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