Report Card: Doling out Grades for Indiana in Win over Penn State

Indiana beat Penn State on Saturday despite being outgained by a wide margin. In the end, none of that mattered in the 36-35 overtime victory, but it did have a bearing on the first report card of the season.
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Indiana coach Tom Allen said he was sick of tired of just being close before, so going for two and beating Penn State seemed like this right thing to do.

It paid off, of course, and Indiana won 36-35 in overtime, beating a top-10 team for the first time since 1987. That was a huge accomplishment, but it also overshadows the fact that Penn State outgained them 488-211. That's a lot.

So let's break it down for the 1-0 Hoosiers, who are now ranked No. 17 in the Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Coaches Poll.

Passing Offense: B-minus

The game-tying drive at the end of the fourth quarter and the win in overtime masked what was a putrid start for Indiana's passing game. The best explanation is that the offense looked like it was being run by a quarterback who hadn't played in a year.

Michael Penix Jr., as we know, hasn't played in a year, and his rust showed. Early in the fourth quarter, Penix still hadn't reached 100 yards passing. He missed a few receivers, had a few drops and also had a few guys quit on routes. It just didn't mesh, and there was plenty of rust to knock off.

We were looking at a D grade until Penix raced down the field on that final drive and tied the game at 28. Then he hit Whop Philyor on a perfect throw for a touchdown in overtime, and that made up for everything. He was 8-for-9 for 71 yards in those final few minutes.

Penix finished the day 19-for-36 passing for 170 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Philyor (5-for-36 yards) was his favorite target, but Miles Marshall (4-for-46 yards) had the most yards. The early guess is I doubt that Penix will pass for less than 170 yards again any time soon.

Rushing Offense: C-minus

Stevie Scott was a one-man show in the running game, getting 57 yards on 20 carries. Sophomore Sampson James only had one carry, which was something of a surprise.

Penix was sacked three times, which subtracts from the rushing total, and it was also a bit of a surprise that he never once ran the ball himself outside of a quarterback sneak that tied the game with 22 seconds to go. They want to keep him healthy, of course, but a few runs would at least keep defenses honest.

This grade could have been lower too had it not been for Scott scoring two touchdowns on the ground. He's certainly got a nose for the end zone, and he helped the Hoosiers jump out to a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

Penn State's defensive front is very good, so Indiana's reworked offensive line gets a break for now. But improvement in this area is a must.

Passing Defense: B

Two priorities this season is forcing more turnovers and getting more pressure on the quarterback. They got two interceptions in the first half from Jaylin Williams and Jamar Johnson, which both led to points. But the Hoosiers had just one sack, and that came on a blitz from Devon Matthews.

They did a great job in coverage, and kept everything in front of them except for the 60-yard scoring play to Jahan Dotson that gave Penn State the lead late. That play was the only thing that kept them from an A-minus grade.

Penn State was 9-for-17 on third down and had a 40-20 edge in time of possession, which means the Indiana defense was out there on the field a long time. More pressure will help down the road.

Rushing Defense: B

Penn State was without starting running back Journey Brown, and then Noah Cain went down early with an injury. Devyn Ford had only 69 yards on 20 carries, so that's a job well done.

Indiana likes what it has on the defensive line, and they rotated guys in and out all day. DeMarcus Elliott and Sio Nofoagatoto'a played well and linebacker Micah McFadden was a beast, making 11 tackles. The only flaw was in letting Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford hurt them too much with his feet. He had 119 yards on 17 carries and it seems like he ran through the entire Indiana defense on his 35-yard touchdown run.

Well done, but room to grow as well, too.

Special Teams: A-minus

Kicker Charles Campbell was perfect in his debut, making both field goals from 34 and 48 yards respectively. Indiana had only one return, and Reece Taylor took a punt for 21 yards.

The only blunder at all came on a kickoff in the final minute when Jared Smolar seemed to whiff on a kickoff. It left Penn State with great field position and a 57-yard field attempt fell just short. That could have been devastating, and it can't happen again. 

Coaching: B

I liked Kane Wommack's defensive plan pretty well, but they still need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. Nick Sheridan, calling his first game as offensive coordinator, seemed a little too conservative at first, running the ball on first down three straight times. Stevie Scott gained just 1 yard all three times. 

The first time Indiana threw on first down, Penix hit Ty Fryfogle for a 21-yard gain. Indiana had only 211 yards of total offense, and that's nowhere near enough.

But when it comes to a grade here, it all goes out the window thanks to coach Tom Allen. He had the guts to go for two and get the win in overtimes, and it worked to perfection. Bravo!

Afterward, everyone talked about how they were confident they could win this game, and beat a top-10 team for the first time in 33 years. That comes from the top. Allen's positivity rubs off on this team, and it had a lot to do with them finding a way to win.