The Nittany Lions went to Bloomington favored by three and a half points. Having watched every Penn State game this year, I felt that if I were to be so crass as to bet on college sports, I would take Indiana and the points. Remember that Indiana has never beaten Penn State in nine opportunities. But we really suck this year. Even though Phil Grosz of Blue White Illustrated, the perennial optimist, predicted a 24–10 Penn State victory, I would still bet against them. Hell, Phil has picked the Lions in every game they’ve ever played, going back to 1898.
The bonehead playing which has been the hallmark of this season continued apace. A glaring example occurred on the opening kickoff, taken a few yards deep in the end zone by Rodney Kinlaw. Austin Scott waved at him to down it, but for some reason, with Hoosiers surrounding him in the end zone, Kinlaw decided he was going to make a break for it. Yeah, uh-huh. He made it out to the five yard line. After a couple of ineffectual plays, Zack Mills couldn’t find a receiver on third down, throwing the ball away from the end zone.
Rescued by a 58 yard punt by Jeremy Kapinos, the Lions once again displayed their ineptitude on special teams by allowing a 32 yard return to the Penn State 33. After a 3-and-0ut by the Hoosiers due to agressive PSU defense, the Indiana punt pinned the Lions deep in IU territory at the 3 yard line.
The Lions began to drive, but the drive was interrupted by an interception of an errant Mills pass. All receivers were covered as Mills rolled to his left, toward the sideline. He forced a pass just before going out-of-bounds. The ball was returned to the Penn State 32.
The vaunted Penn State defense could not stop Indiana from scoring, which they did on a 26-yard run on an option play to Courtney Roby.
On the next drive, Mills couldn’t complete his passes, by virtue of either drops or bad throws. Penn State and Indiana then traded punts, with the Lions winding up with the ball at the Penn State 31.
Penn State started a march down the field, culminating in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Mills to Robinson. Mills threw a floater at the flag, while Robinson bolted under it, diving as he caught it out-of-bounds. The Big Ten replay review concluded that at least one of Robinson’s feet was clearly in-bounds, and he had possession of the ball. A Robbie Gould PAT tied the score at 7–7.
It looked like Indiana was going to score again when Lovecchio completed a 32 yard pass at the Penn State 33. However, his next pass, which should have been caught at the PSU 5 went through his receiver’s arms, and was intercepted by Alan Zemaitis, who returned it to the 12.
Anthony Morelli came in at quarterback with the seconds ticking down in the first quarter. Showing freshman jitters, which weren’t helped by our crappy offensive line, Morelli threw an interception on his fourth play. Kyle Killian ran the INT back 46 yards for the touchdown. Missing the extra point, Indiana led 13–7.
There was no further scoring in the first half, but Morelli was slightly shaken up late in the second quarter, with Mills coming back in with around three minutes left. Mills also started the third quarter. I think that Joe felt that da kid might get hurt out there. Given the capabilities (or lack of same) of our offensive line, I tend to agree.
On Indiana’s first drive of the third quarter, another pass reception call was overturned by the official. This time, a third down reception was called complete on the field—by the same official who tried to screw Robinson on his touchdown reception—but the review concluded that the receiver was out-of-bounds, leading to a punt by the Hoosiers instead of what would have been a new set of downs on the Penn State side of midfield.
Mills remained in at quarterback and on this drive he seemed to want to throw to Isaac Smolko, the tight end, who was the target three times. Getting lucky on a pass interference call, Penn State kept the ball, inspiring Joe to call his famous fake-reverse-halfback-option pass, this time by Austin Scott, but the ball fell incomplete. Then, a spectacular catch by Mark Rubin got the Nittany Lions into the Indiana red zone. On second down, Zack Mills ran wide to the left on the option and just barely made it into the end zone. BUZZZZZ! The replay official decided that the play would be reviewed, but the play stood as called. It was an 81-yard drive in which Mills went 4–5 passing. Refreshing, for a change! Robbie Gould converted the extra point try, fortunately, which enabled the Lions to finally take the lead 14–13 with 1:49 left in the third quarter.
Indiana’s reply took the form of a competent march down the field by the senior quarterback until Courtney Roby fumbled an option toss, which Lovecchio covered outside the Penn State 35. On the next play, which would have been a failed third down try, another dumbass play by the Nittany Lions gave Indiana 15 yards and a first down. After Lovecchio threw the ball while in Lavon Chisley’s grasp, Chisley wrestled him and roughly threw him down. Lovecchio, who has suffered a concussion in last week’s loss to Illinois, sat the next play out, but quickly returned. The drive stalled just inside the PSU 5, but the Hoosiers were able to salvage a field goal at 8:50 to take the lead, 16–14.
Mills started his drive from the Penn State 20. An Indiana bonehead play—a hit on Michael Robinson out-of-bounds by one of the players on the bench—put Penn State in the Indiana red zone. I’m like, “Whatever! Oh mah gawd, my wager is in jeopardy!” From the six yard line, Mills threw a fade to Robinson in the corner of the end zone, resulting in a pass interference call against Indiana. First and goal at the two. The power game worked from there, as Tony Hunt took the ball into the end zone on a sweep right. He was helped off the field. Mills’ two-point conversion attempt was no good, but a pass interference call gave him another chance. The second time was a charm. Mills ran it in himself, as the Mighty Nittany Lions took the lead, 22–16.
Lovecchio did not get flustered. The Penn State defense looked a little tired. Lovecchio once again marched the Hoosiers down the field into Lion country. Anwar Phillips nearly intercepted a pass that would have given him nothing but green in front of him, but the next play, Lovecchio completed a pass to Travis Haney that wound up at the Penn State 3. Three running tries failed to get the Hoosiers into the end zone. With 59 seconds left and Indiana at the one-and-a-half yard line, the Hoosiers ran Chris Taylor right into the middle, but he was stopped inches short of the goal line. The ball was turned over on downs.
It only remained for Penn State to run the clock out but Indiana had preserved enough time-outs to force the punt from deep in the end zone with two seconds left. Discretion being the better part of valor, Kapinos was coached to hold onto the ball for two seconds and take the safety.
Final score: Penn State 22, Indiana 18. Well, wasn’t that exciting? We just barely covered the spread! Those Vegas boys really do know what they’re doing. Oh, I didn’t really bet on the game. We got to see a brief baptismal of fire for young Anthony Morelli. It probably didn’t go as he would have liked, but that’s why he needs game experience. He just needs to get back in and try again. Moreover, for a change, most of the penalty calls and all of the replay reviews went in our direction! But when you come out ahead on the scoreboard, you don’t need those excuses anyway. (I’m just so used to making them…)
Penn State is now 3–7, 1–6, in a flat-ass tie with Indiana and Illinois for last place in the Big Ten. Next week is the big weekend–the rivalry game weekend, which somehow wound up being Moo U. for Penn State, while Indiana plays intrastate rival Purdue and Illinois plays intrastate rival Northwestern. The Nittany Lions could climb out of the Big Ten dungeon with a win over Michigan State next weekend. Ain’t it exciting?