It's usually easy to rattle off the big plays made by Indiana's defense in any particular game.
It's just not a long list. Generally the conversation is about how Indiana left a lot of potential big plays on the field.
Yet in Indiana's 44-24 victory over Penn State Saturday at Memorial Stadium, it was one big Indiana defensive play after another that resulted in IU being able to snap an 0-16 streak against the Nittany Lions.
Consider:• On the Penn State's opening drive, the Nittany Lions were faced with a fourth-and-5 at the IU 26. Penn State elected to go for it and IU freshman linebacker T.J. Simmons broke up a pass attempt to Allen Robinson. IU took over on downs. • With IU leading 10-7, Penn State took two shots at a game-tying 42-yard field goal in the second quarter. The first one IU's Bobby Richardson got a piece of the ball but Penn State had called timeout just before the kick. When it kicked again, Indiana DT Ralphael Green blocked it and Penn State came away with no points. • In what could be described as one of the plays of the game, Penn State was moving toward a potential game-tying touchdown late in the third quarter. The Lions had third down and 6 at the IU 7. That's when John Laihinen came through and sacked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg for a 5 yard loss. Penn State settled for a 30 yard field goal and trailed 21-17. • The next time Penn State got the ball, following an IU touchdown, the Lions gambled on a fourth and 2 situation and their own 33. Again it was Richardson making a big play when he knocked down a pass attempt by Hackenberg at the line of scrimmage. IU took over and two plays later scored on a 36 yard touchdown pass from Nate Sudfeld to Kofi Hughes. • The next big play was turned in by Nick Mangieri who hit Hackenberg in the end zone for a sack and a forced fumble that resulted in a safety. That made it 44-24 with 5:40 remaining.
"I thought we did a really good job as coaches, cleaning some stuff up and getting them lined up , getting their eyes where they need to be so they knew what they needed to do,'' said IU coach Kevin Wilson. "We talked a lot about you do this every day (in practice) against good players so now let's go do this. For them to make some stops, some perimeter stops, to harass the quarterback, to fight and scratch I'm proud of them. I'm proud of the coaches for putting a good plan together.''
Wilson said he wasn't surprised by now Indiana needs to start doing those things on a consistent basis. One game here or one game there doesn't cut it.
"It's still going to be a bunch of work,'' Wilson said. "We have been very inconsistent here. Once we do it, you don't see it. Good teams become really good because they repeat what they are capable of doing. What we saw today is what we're maybe capable of playing like if we're going to start being good. We'll back it up with being the kind of kids we need to be, having a good week, getting better and going to East Lansing and go play hard again.''
Laihinen talked about what he saw on the sack.
"I remember I went up field and had to go underneath the guy,'' Laihinen said. "He stepped up in the pocket and I just came underneath a little and I found him.''
Just how good was Indiana's defense Saturday?
The Hoosiers limited a good Penn State rushing attack to 70 yards on 38 carries. Penn State went for it on fourth down five times and was only successful once. The Hoosiers also stopped the Nittany Lions on third down 11 of 22 times.
It's clearly baby steps for the IU defense, but following the Missouri game the only way IU could go was up.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch