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Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. Knows What's Wrong, Vows to Fix It

Ball protection has always been important to Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr., so he's not very happy about two three-interception games in the first three weeks of the season. But he knows what he's done wrong, and he's moving on. He remains confident that good things lie ahead for Indiana's offense.
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has a dog at home, a pit bull named Guisseppe. That dog's love, Penix said, is unconditional.

"When I come home, I have a dog at home and they are very loyal. He doesn't know I threw three interceptions,'' Penix said with a smile. "He stills come running right to me, showing me love and wagging his tail.''

Man's best friend, for sure.

It's good that Penix has that release, because it's been tough sledding early in the season for the redshirt junior from Tampa, Fla. After throwing 414 passes during his first three years in Bloomington with only eight interceptions, he's now had three-pick games twice in three weeks, first against Iowa in the opener and then again on Saturday in the 38-24 loss to No. 8 Cincinnati at sold-out Memorial Stadium. 

He's never had a three-interception game before, and he prides himself on ball security, something his coaches preach often, too. In fact, in high school, he went his entire senior year with just one pick,

He's seen them all on film now, and he knows what he's done wrong. Sometimes, he said, he needs to quit trying to make a hero throw and eat the ball.

"I've just got to know when the journey's over and move on to the next play,'' Penix said. "Yeah, it's (frustrating), but I got it out of me. It's tough in those situations, but you've just got to keep pressing on, keep moving forward.''

Penix is calm by nature, a product of good faith and good upbringing. That "1-0 mindset'' that's been pounded in his head since he's gotten here means a lot, too. The Cincinnati loss is learned from, but it's also in the rear-view mirror now, too. 

It''s on to Western Kentucky, the Hoosiers' next opponent on Saturday night in Bowling Green, Ky.

He's at peace, and he's ready to go. He's not the least bit surprised that Indiana coach Tom Allen said he is ''100 percent our starting quarterback'' on Monday, and Penix fully expects to have a big game this Saturday.

"I'm a Christian, and I pray. I understand that everything happens for a reason. I pray all day, every time I get a chance to,'' Penix said.  "It means a lot that my teammates have my back. I work extremely hard. The guys, they just continue to lift me up, and I know my coaches trust me. They know I can play, and I know I'm going to go out there and clean it up and play good football.''

Penix did have his moments on Saturday, completing 17 passes for 224 yards and two scores. Florida State transfer D.J. Matthews had five catches for 120 yards and tight end Peyton Hendershot had six catches for 60 yards.

"We made some big plays, some explosive plays, and we know our offense can create that,'' Penix said. "We made a lot of big plays downfield. D.J.'s been great. When he got here, we knew he was an explosive player. He's a guy that's very shifty and can make plays down the field. We've practiced a lot of. that, and it all carried over to the game.''

Allen and offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan both talked about Penix pressing a bit, and trying to do too much. He knows it, too.

"Looking at the film, I know I shouldn't throw that on a few of them, but in the game, I'm just a college player trying to make a play,'' Penix said. "Yeah, I was under duress, like you say, on the interceptions, but I was under duress on a lot of the big plays we made too.

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"I just have to protect that ball. That's the most important thing.''

Allen saw it all, too, the good and the bad. He saw Penix make some big throws, and even run for first downs when he had too. The turnovers are unacceptable, of course, but he also knows he's got a quarterback who can play at a high level. He's seen it all before.

"With him, I didn't feel like it was worrying about anything other than just trying to do too much, and you just can't in those situations,'' Allen said Monday. "There are times where he made big throws in the past under duress, and even in this game he took one of the biggest shots of the game on that third down throw to D.J. Matthews across the middle, which was huge play, and a great throw. 

"He got hit really, really hard, and he dove and ran and got a key first down and ran out of bounds and got hit as he was going out of bounds on another key situation. So he's showing growth and progress in that, and he has confidence in his knee. So to me, it was just better decision making. He's got to take care of the football.''

No doubt, because it's the difference between winning and losing. Penix knows that all too well. He's now played in 18 games at Indiana, and he has a 13-5 record. There isn't another Indiana quarterback in history who can top that.

But, with a 1-0 mindset, that doesn't means anything either. He's got to go out and play better Saturday night, and then move forward from there. There are plenty more huge games on the horizon. 

"You turn the ball over that many times against a top-10 team, you're not going to win,'' Allen said. "That's the thing, we still have the ball with (eight) minutes to go in the game, down by six, obviously on the 2-yard line, and we fumble the football. 

"We just didn't finish. You can call it what you want. You want to beat a team like that, and we did some good things, but we didn't finish. He's part of that. He's got to finish, as well, and that's going to be the focus is consistent performance.''

Meet Michael Penix Jr. at Yogi's on Tuesday night

The fourth Mike & Micah live podcast is Tuesday night at Yogi's Bar & Grill in Bloomington. The show, hosted by Sports Illustrated Indiana publisher Tom Brew, begins at 7 p.m. ET and is broadcast live on Facebook, You Tube and Twitter.

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is on the show tonight, and we have a special guest joining the show too, new Indiana wide receiver D.J. Matthews, the Florida State transfer who's made a lot of exciting plays so far in his career.

The podcast is open to the public, so come on down to listen to the show and get pictures and autographs. 

Here are the links to the show:

Watch the podcast on Facebook

The first thing you should do on Facebook is like our page. That's where you see all of our great football and basketball content all year, and it's where the Facebook Live! version of the podcast shows up. It's at Facebook.com/SportsIllustratedIndiana. Just CLICK HERE to get to the page, and then hit LIKE.

Watch the podcast on YouTube

This is our new Sports Illustrated Indiana YouTube page, and in the coming days and weeks, all of our video content will wind up there, too. To land on the page, CLICK HERE

Watch the podcast on Twitter

The first thing you should do on Twitter is follow Sports Illustrated Indiana publisher Tom Brew. Just CLICK HERE to follow Tom, and that's where the the podcast will go live at 7 p.m. ET