Up Next for Penn State: Don't Call it a Revenge Game

Penn State concludes a four-game homestand with a prime-time visit from Indiana. You remember Indiana.
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You remember this image, Indiana remembers this image and Penn State certainly doesn't want to hear any more about this image.

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. reaches for the pylon on an overtime 2-point conversion vs. Penn State in 2020. (Marc Lebryk/USA Today Sports)

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. reaches for the pylon on an overtime 2-point conversion vs. Penn State in 2020. (Marc Lebryk/USA Today Sports)

Quarterback Michael Penix Jr.'s overtime 2-point conversion will be referenced often this week as Penn State prepares to host Indiana at Beaver Stadium. The Hoosiers' 36-35 overtime victory launched two seasons in different directions, and the memory certainly made a difference during Penn State's offseason.

But unlike Michigan in 2018, the Lions aren't about to declare a Revenge Tour (and that one ended poorly, anyway) this season.

"We don't believe in revenge games," Penn State defensive tackle PJ Mustipher said. "We're focused on this week. We can’t focus on last year because last year already happened. We can’t do anything about that. We can’t go back and change it. We’re focused on getting ready for this 2021 Indiana team."

Instead, Saturday's top storylines will regard how the teams' respective quarterbacks and defenses are following different arcs, and how Penn State can reach 5-0 with Iowa looming. 

No.  4 Penn State (4-0) vs. Indiana (2-2)

  • When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Beaver Stadium
  • TV: ABC
  • Streaming: fubuTV
  • Betting Line: Penn State is a 10.5-point favorite, per SI SportsBook
  • Series History: Penn State leads 22-2
  • Last Meeting: Indiana 36-35 (OT) in 2020
  • Streaks: Penn State has won eight straight games and is 11-0 at home vs. Indiana

About the Lions: The defensive turnaround this season has been remarkable. Through four games last year, Penn State allowed 138 points, a red-zone conversion rate of 87 percent (with eight touchdowns) and two teams to convert third downs above 50 percent. This season, Penn State is allowing 15 points per game, has held five red-zone drives scoreless and is limiting opponents to a third-down rate of 36.8 percent. They also have five interceptions (one more than all of 2020) and have dropped five others. Penn State is playing relentless, aggressive defense, particularly in a secondary that is hawking the ball. Cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields, though he doesn't have an interception, has allowed just eight completions on 17 targets, according to Sports Info Solutions. Nickel cornerback Daequan Hardy has been difficult to throw against as well, allowing just six completions on 13 attempts. Their offensive counterparts are playmakers as well. Against Villanova, receivers Parker Washington, Jahan Dotson and KeAndre Lambert-Smith combined for 353 yards receiving, 204 of which came after the catch. They made it easy for Sean Clifford to become the first Penn State quarterback to throw for 400 yards at Beaver Stadium.

About the Hoosiers: Indiana began the season ranked 17th in the AP poll, and coach Tom Allen was open to discussing how his team could be a Big Ten title contender. But the Hoosiers are a meager 2-2 and needed to sweat out a 33-31 trip to Western Kentucky last weekend. What's lapsed? First, Penix has looked like a quarterback returning from a major injury. He has taken seven sacks (and been pressured 39 times, according to SIS), which has muffled his passing game. Penix's completion rate (55 percent) reflects his rustiness, though he went 35-for-53 for 373 yards in a better outing against Western Kentucky. But that pressure number is something on which Penn State will focus, particularly with the way ends Arnold Ebiketie and Jesse Luketa are playing. On Monday, coach Tom Allen announced that DJ Matthews Jr., the team's third-leading receiver, sustained a torn ACL and will miss the remainder of the season. Matthews Jr., a Florida State transfer, also had returned a punt for a touchdown. Meanwhile, what happened to Indiana's physical, intimidating 2020 defense that held opponents to three touchdowns or fewer in six of its eight games? The Hoosiers rank last in the Big Ten in scoring defense (29.3 ppg) and have allowed 15 touchdowns in four games.

Read more

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Penn State's big-play win over Villanova lacks 'edge,' James Franklin says.

Sean Clifford becomes the first Penn State quarterback to throw for 400 yards at Beaver Stadium