Opportunity Slips Through IU's Fingertips

Indiana's season of near misses and wasted opportunities continued Saturday in Happy Valley. No. 18 Penn State bounced back from a 10-0 deficit and a turnover-riddled first half of football to score 24 unanswered points on its way to a 31-20 win over Indiana at Beaver Stadium...

Indiana's season of near misses and wasted opportunities continued Saturday in Happy Valley.

No. 18 Penn State bounced back from a 10-0 deficit and a turnover-riddled first half of football to score 24 unanswered points on its way to a 31-20 win over Indiana at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State improved to 9-2 overall and 5-2 in the Big Ten while picking up its 13th consecutive win over Indiana. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, were officially eliminated from bowl contention while falling to 4-7 and 1-6.

While Indiana won the turnover battle 4-1, it was Indiana's lone giveaway and Penn State's ability to take advantage of it that turned the tide of the game. With Indiana driving midway through the third quarter and the game tied at 10, Ben Chappell threw the ball high to Trea Burgess on a screen pass. The ball slipped through Burgess' hands and into the arms of Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman, who returned it 73 yards for the go-ahead score.

"We've had some crazy plays happen to us, and that one went through Trea's hands and went right to their guy," Bill Lynch said. "If (Trea) catches it, I'm not so sure he doesn't run for 10 more yards."

But Burgess didn't catch it, and Penn State seized its first lead midway through the quarter. Nittany Lion tailback Evan Royster added his second touchdown of the day on a three-yard run on the opening play of the fourth quarter to extend the cushion to 14, and Indiana's latest shot at an upset was once again derailed.

While it was Penn State's three second half touchdowns that ultimately made the difference on the scoreboard, it was Indiana's failures to capitalize on the Lions' turnovers in the first half that did Lynch's team in. Lions' quarterback Daryl Clark threw a pair of first-half interceptions and Penn State fumbled away two punt returns, but Indiana was able to convert those takeaways into only one touchdown.

"We created some turnovers in the first half and couldn't totally take advantage of it," Lynch said.

The biggest wasted scoring chance came with Indiana leading 10-3 in the closing minutes of the first-half. Penn State's Graham Zug fumbled a Chris Hagerup punt, and Burgess recovered at the Penn State 29 with 1:50 left. But a short Bryan Payton run was followed by a Ben Chappell incompletion and then a sack. On fourth down, Nick Freeland missed a 47-yard field goal with :51 on the clock that would have given Indiana a 10-point lead.

The disappointment of the missed field goal was compounded by a 70-yard Penn State's ensuing touchdown drive, which was capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass from Clark to Evan Royster with six seconds left. Clark completed an 18-yard pass on the 3rd and 10 to keep the drive alive, and a 26-yard Curtis Drake reverse coupled with an additional nine yards for a Matt Mayberry face mask moved the ball to the IU 13. Clark then hooked up with Royster on a screen play for the touchdown to send the two teams into the locker room tied at 10-10.

Lynch wasn't happy with the failed opportunities or the lack of an officials' call on an apparent hold on Will Patterson on the first-half ending touchdown pass play that turned the game's momentum back to the Lions.

"When we got those opportunities we have to take advantage of them," Lynch said. "You have to make it happen with your execution on offense, defense, special teams. We just came up a little short again."

The squandered opportunities continued early in the second half. On the second half kickoff, Burgess forced another Graham Zug fumble, and the ball went bounding in the direction of Freeland. But IU's placekicker was unable to corral the ball and Penn State maintained possession. The Lions then drive to the IU 17-yard line, but Penn State kicker Collin Wagner drilled a 34-yard field goal off the upright to keep the game tied at 10.

That proved to be the last of the gifts to the Hoosiers, as Penn State opened a 31-13 lead before Chappell connected with Tandon Doss on a six-yard score with less than a minute left for the game's final score.

"We did some things well, but we have to score more points in a game like this because you're not going to hold them off forever," Lynch said.

With Darius Willis sidelined with an ankle injury, the Hoosiers ground game way virtually non-existent, totaling just 49 yards on 24 carries. Indiana instead had to rely on the arm of Chappell, who completed 30-of-51 throws for 297 yards and had touchdown throws to Damarlo Belcher and Doss. But Chappell did have the costly turnover and misfired on a couple of deep balls where his wideouts had a couple of steps on the Lion secondary.

Penn State, meanwhile, was led by Royster, who ran for 95 yards on 17 carries and had a team-high four catches for 39 yards.

"We fought them," Lynch said. "I know the Penn State guys left the field knowing they were in a football game."


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