Football is a game of inches, and apparently Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had just enough of them for the win. On a run to the pylon in overtime against No. 8 Penn State, Penix and his outstretched arm lunged toward the end zone and just barely scored a two-point conversion to give the Hoosiers a dramatic 36-35 win. It marked the first victory for Indiana over a top 10 team ranked in the AP Top 25 since 1987, ending a 42-game losing streak.
The merits of the successful two-point conversion will be debated. Penix, scrambling to his left, dove towards the front pylon. The official nearest Penix ruled it was a touchdown, but further review showed the ball was awfully close to being down short of the goal line. The call on the field was upheld, likely due to inconclusive video evidence, and the Hoosiers were able to celebrate after coming up painfully short so many times before in similar games.
Whether it was the right call or not, Penix’s effort has to be admired.
This was a back-and-forth game that took several turns within the final few minutes of the fourth quarter. Indiana led most of the afternoon with Penn State failing time and time again to finish drives with points. Down 20-14 with 2:30 remaining, however, quarterback Sean Clifford hit Jahan Dotson for a 60-yard touchdown pass to put the Nittany Lions up 21-20. The Hoosiers then went four-and-out on their next possession.
With 1:47 remaining, Penn State running back Devyn Ford took a handoff for a 14-yard touchdown. Indiana clearly allowed Ford to score, an observation he only realized once he broke the plane for the end zone. It’s hard to blame Ford for doing what he would do any other time he touched the ball, but Penn State coaches had to be aware that Indiana would let them score as to get the ball back with time on the clock. If Ford had knelt it, Penn State should have been able to run out the clock. Penn State also elected not go for two after the touchdown, which could have put them up by nine points instead of eight.
Instead, Indiana got one more crack at a touchdown, which they scored on a seven-play, 75-yard drive with 22 seconds left. But again, this is Indiana, so nothing is ever easy. The Hoosiers inexplicably squibbed the ensuing kickoff, allowing Penn State to set up a 57-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left. Interestingly, coach James Franklin opted not to try one more play to potentially gain a few yards before trying the kick. As a result, the 57-yard attempt from Jordan Stout fell about 1 yard short.
Though Penn State struck first in overtime, it was Penix and Indiana who came out ahead on the final play. The two-point conversion will be a controversial call, but the reality is Penn State had its opportunities to put the game away late after taking the lead and did not. And now with Ohio State on the schedule for Halloween night, the Nittany Lions have to regroup quickly.