Indiana’s mentality for each game week this season so far has been like a barber shop – next man up.
The approach will be equally important this Saturday at Penn State (4-1, 1-0), where the Hoosiers (4-1, 0-1) will look to rebound from their first loss of the season at noon on ESPN.
“We've shown as a program we can be good. We've shown we don't consistently move on,” Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson said. “It's going to be another great week, another great test."
It’s a test the Hoosiers may face without senior quarterback Nate Sudfeld and junior running back Jordan Howard.
Both Howard and Sudfeld traveled with the team to State College, Pa. However, Wilson wouldn’t specify whether the team’s leading rusher and leading receiver, respectively, would be playing.
Against Ohio State last week, Sudfeld re-aggravated an ankle injury sustained the week before that against Wake Forest. Howard injured his ankle, left the game, returned later in the second half for one offensive series but couldn’t continue and didn’t play the rest of the game.
Sophomore quarterback Zander Diamont stepped in capably for Sudfeld, while sophomore running back Devine Redding – who had been providing relief for Howard when Howard needed a breather – took over the lead running back role. Both will likely start if Sudfeld and Howard can’t play.
“We've got confidence in Zander (and) we have confidence in Devine,” Wilson said. “We'll find a run game … We’ll keep moving.”
Whoever lines up in the backfield and under center for the Hoosiers will face one of the toughest defenses in the Big Ten.
Penn State leads the Big Ten in sacks with 21. That’s also the second-highest total in the country. Individually, Nittany Lions senior defensive end Carl Nassib’s eight sacks are also the second-most in the nation.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Indiana boasts one of the Big Ten’s offensive lines, allowing the fewest sacks in the conference so far this season with three. It’s also the eighth-lowest total in the nation.
“They’ve got a very good defensive line, defensive linebackers,” IU junior offensive lineman Dan Feeney said. “So it’s going to be a good challenge this week, just preparing, hitting the reset button and getting ready for Penn State and not having last week’s failure affect this week.”
As for Penn State’s offensive line, it hasn’t been doing many favors for junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The Nittany Lions’ 15 sacks allowed are tied for 108th-most in the FBS.
Because of that, Penn State’s offense has been anemic, ranking 95th in the country in scoring. However, Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr is still wary of preventing the big play, which the Hoosiers failed to do last week against Ohio State.
“From a skill standpoint, they are a talented group,” Knorr said. “If we don’t do a good job at downing the ball, keeping the big plays, they can hurt you from a big play standpoint.”
Now, Indiana must put it all together for its second road game in three weeks.
“I'm glad we put on a hard fought game, but we need to play better,” Wilson said. “We expect to play better, and we haven't accomplished much yet. That's all we're talking about is getting better and keep moving forward.”