Highs and Lows: Penn State 34 - Indiana 27
The highs and lows from Penn State's 34-27 win against Indiana on Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium.
PLAYER OF THE GAME During a game in which the Nittany Lions lost their elite playmaker, K.J. Hamler, in the first quarter, Penn State's offensive line helped shift gears into a different offensive identity the rest of the way. Journey Brown's 100 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries led the way, but the effort of the line to pave the way to a solid rushing day was the difference in this one.
PLAY OF THE GAME Sean Clifford’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 1:44 left to play in the fourth quarter gave the Nittany Lions the 10-point cushion. In a game that the Nittany Lions couldn’t get to the finish line fast enough, it was the one that pushed them across.
BEST PASS Clifford’s second connection of the game with K.J. Hamler was put on a dime along the Nittany Lions’ sideline. Floating the deep ball between defenders, Hamler found himself underneath it and hauled it in to give the Nittany Lions 41 yards and a first down.
BEST RUN Trailing 14-10 late in the first quarter, a replay review on a Pat Freiermuth fumble kept possession with the Nittany Lions, and Clifford would quickly make the Hoosiers pay. Dropping back to pass on first-and-10 at the 38-yard line, the quarterback found a slot to shoot through, followed his blocks up the field and found the end zone untouched.
WORST RUN What happened on with Indiana’s third quarter punt fake? To suffer that type of miscommunication, or execution, coming out of a timeout no less, was one of the game’s biggest head-scratchers. With the Nittany Lions snuffing it out, then quickly turning the opportunity into a touchdown the other way, it turned into Penn State’s first two-score differential of the day.
BEST CATCH Indiana’s Ty Fryfogle wasted little time in making the game’s best reception. Facing a third-and-8 on their first possession, Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey floated one up the sideline for Fryfogle to snatch, good for a 24-yard completion, a first down, and eventually a 38-yard touchdown just three plays later to make it a 7-7 game.
WORST DROP The play was John Reid’s to make. With Ramsey floating one into coverage on the first play of the second quarter, the Nittany Lion corner made an excellent break on the ball and had nothing but green grass in front of him. Unfortunately for the fifth-year senior, the ball didn’t come with him as it dropped through his hands and to the Beaver Stadium turf. Indiana receiver Donovan Hale had a sure touchdown in the third quarter that also belongs in this category.
BEST SACK Indiana defensive end James Head ended a promising Penn State drive early in the second quarter when he beat Rasheed Walker on the edge. Wrapping himself behind Clifford, Head slapped down a strip sack to knock the ball loose and into the hands of teammate Michael Ziemba.
BEST HIT Meeting Whop Philyor in the middle with Ellis Brooks, Marquis Wilson popped loose yet another fumble to return possession to Penn State following the strip-sack to end the Nittany Lions’ possession just two plays earlier.
BEST EFFORT Indiana quarterback Peyton Ramsey made a heckuva play to avoid a third-and-goal sack late in the third quarter, tossing it into the end zone for a sure touchdown were it not for a flat-out drop by Donovan Hale. His play on Saturday was nothing short of gutsy, and he did it throughout.
BEST KICK Stalled out at the 29-yard line midway through the first quarter, Penn State’s Jake Pinegar sent home a 47-yard field goal to give the Nittany Lions a 10-7 lead. He’d build on Penn State’s lead later in the first half with a 27-yarder, going ahead 20-14.
BEST RETURN Indiana’s first quarter kickoff return by Ahrod Lloyd went for 28 yards to the Indiana 37-yard line thanks to Lloyd’s good effort and a combination of poor tackling on Penn State’s part.
BEST DECISION To James Franklin’s point, he went for fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line, with the game on the line, and Clifford punched it in to give the Nittany Lions a 34-24 lead with 1:44 left to play. It worked, and therefore it gets this week’s “best decision,” understanding that a field goal the other way would have given Franklin a “worst decision” nod for the very same call.
- Understanding that Blake Gillkin’s punt was bouncing end-over-end with Penn State’s coverage team approaching, Whop Philyor’s decision to try to field it and save his team maybe three yards of rollout proved disastrous. Though replays appeared to show that the ball didn’t touch Philyor, Penn State easily recovered the fumble to upend an otherwise unremarkable offensive start to the game. Gifted 50 yards of field position, the Nittany Lions made the most of it with a 12-yard touchdown to Nick Bowers, earning a 7-0 lead in the process.
- Journey Brown’s 35-yard rushing touchdown was a worthy byproduct, but the game certainly swung on Indiana’s bizarre fourth down fake punt attempt in the third quarter. Coming out of a timeout, facing a fourth-and-1 at the Indiana 44, the Hoosiers’ up back Peyton Hendershot cut off the snap to the punter and plowed ahead with no blocking in front of him. The decision, and execution, quickly led to a touchdown for the Nittany Lions and created a deficit the Hoosiers couldn’t overcome the rest of the way.
- The officials, however, also deserve a nod here. Their decision to flag Clifford for intentional grounding on a pass to the middle of the field when his receiver simply ran the wrong route, was as head-scratching as they come.
MOST TELLING MOMENT
- Mac Hippenhammer reeled in his first reception of the 2019 season early in the second quarter.
- Penn State completed seven passes total after Hamler went out in the first quarter.