STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Penn State senior quarterback Matt McGloin threw for 395 yards and four touchdowns and sophomore wide receiver Allen Robinson caught 10 passes for 197 yards and three touchdowns to lead Penn State to a 45-22 win over Indiana on Saturday in front of 90,358 at Beaver Stadium, officially eliminating the Hoosiers from bowl contention.
Indiana fell to 4-7 overall, 2-5 in the Big Ten. The seventh defeat means the Hoosiers will fail to reach a bowl game for the fifth straight season. They have only been to one game since 1993.
“That’s very disappointing,” junior safety Greg Heban said. “Not just personally but for all the seniors that have been here working all four years to get the bowl game. It’s disappointing for the staff as well. They put so much time and effort into trying to get us where we need to be. That’s how important those non-conference games are at the end of the season. … Those are the ones you have to get. If we had won against Ball State and Navy we’d be playing for a bowl game.”
This one got away from the Hoosiers on both sides of the ball. Penn State didn’t demolish the Hoosiers in quite the same fashion that Wisconsin did a week ago, but the Nittany Lions still posted 546 yards of total offense. McGloin was on point and the Hoosiers had no answer for Robinson, but the Lions were also able to move the ball on the ground. Their 151 rushing yards weren’t even a third of the 546 Wisconsin hung on the Hoosiers a week ago, but it still made the pass game more effective. Sophomore running back Zach Zwinak rushed for 135 yards and a touchdown and fullback Michael Zordich rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries.
Indiana’s defensive performance was better than it had been against Wisconsin, but the Hoosiers still missed a number of tackles at critical times. Robinson could have been stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage on a bubble screen midway through the second quarter, but instead juked a number of would-be Indiana tacklers for a 53-yard touchdown.
“They were able to swing a couple of big plays, big momentum plays,” linebacker Griffen Dahlstrom said. “Long downs. We need to get off the field. We need to do a better job of making those plays as players, keeping our feet hot, myself included, we just gotta make the plays.”
Said IU coach Kevin Wilson: “We make some good plays at the line of scrimmage. But I think as we look at some things, our support with linebackers and secondary, we just lose leverage on the ball and give up some plays. … We gotta keep working defensively. We are not at a point right now where we’re going to play shutdown defense, but we gotta keep finding ways to play it better as we move forward. That’s for sure. That’s two weeks in a row.”
The Hoosiers also left the game believing they’d missed a number of offensive opportunities. Sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman threw for 454 yards, the second-highest single-game total ever by an Indiana passer and just 26 yards short of Ben Chappell’s record of 480. He threw for two touchdowns, but also threw two interceptions and could attribute much of his yards to volume of passes. He was 33-for-59 on the day and missed a number of wide-open passes at critical junctures.
“I thought he left a bunch,” Wilson said. “We’re gonna keep putting the ball in his hands. He’s gotta make some plays in some tight windows, tight throws. A couple of third down throws, he’s throwing past bubbles. He’s throwing some passes he shouldn’t. To move the chains, it hurt us on a couple of those when we got to the 40. A couple of times, we had the combination of run and throw and he took a throw that wasn’t there. It’s give and take, sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong.”
Sophomore wide receiver Shane Wynn caught 12 passes for 108 yards and tight end Ted Bolser and Stephen Houston each had touchdown receptions — Houston’s being a 79-yard catch and run off a screen pass. However, the Hoosiers ran for just 24 yards on 26 carries, failing to reach 100 yards on the ground for a third straight week.
That was one of the biggest reasons, Wilson said, that the Hoosiers scored just two touchdowns in nine trips into Penn State territory and four trips into the red zone.
“One of the best ways to be a good scoring zone teams is when you run the ball,” Wilson said. “The field gets compressed. The zones are tighter, the windows are tighter. You gotta run the ball, and we run the ball for (24) yards. We gotta keep working to get a run game going. We like to throw it some, but we want some balance. Earlier the year, the more balance we had the better we were. When you don’t run it well and you don’t play good defense. It’s tough to win. That’s the main reason we’re on the wrong side of the ledger today.”
The Hoosiers were actually up 10-7 in the second quarter thanks to a 26-yard field goal by kicker Mitch Ewald and a 2-yard touchdown pass from Coffman to Bolser, but the 53-yard touchdown pass from McGloin to Robinson put the Lions up for good. Indiana answered with a 44-yard field goal to make it 14-13, but Robinson caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:25 to go in the half and an interception by Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges set up a 16-yard touchdown run by Zwinak to make it 28-13 at halftime.
Indiana answered early in the second half with Houston’s 79-yard touchdown catch and had a chance to put more pressure on the Nittany Lions. After missing the extra point on Houston’s touchdown, Ewald recovered his own onside kick, but the Hoosiers’ drive stalled and Ewald missed a 55-yard field goal attempt. The Hoosiers recovered a fumble by Zwinak and Ewald then hit a 46-yard field goal, but getting just three points from that exchange cost the Hoosiers needed momentum.
“One of our big philosophies is we’re not going to kick field goals, we’re going to score touchdowns,” junior wide receiver Kofi Hughes said. “That’s something we didn’t do today. … We weren’t scoring touchdowns. We left a lot of big plays out there. We shot ourselves in the foot with a couple of things. The defense was doing their thing and we really could’ve capitalized on them early. I think that would’ve changed the outcome of the game and probably the second half.”
The Nittany Lions marched 75 yards on nine plays on the ensuing drive and scored on a 1-yard run by Zwinak. They added a Zordich touchdown on the next drive to go up 42-22 and then tacked on a 28-yard field goal by Ficken for the final margin.
The Hoosiers season is now down to one game, but Wilson said the Hoosiers take more than solace in the fact that it’s a game that means something regardless of the records of the teams involved. Indiana ends its season against Purdue next week for the Old Oaken Bucket.
“We don’t like to lose bowl eligibility because of the season, the way we didn’t manage or call and execute and get our guys ready to win some games,” Wilson said. “That being said, we are lucky to be at a school that has a great rival. A lot of schools don’t have that.”