#PSUvsIU: Game Breakdown

The good, the bad and the extremely ugly from Penn State's meltdown vs. the Hoosiers in Bloomington.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Heading into Saturday's game at Memorial Stadium, Indiana did not appear to be that difficult of a puzzle for Penn State (or anyone else) to solve. The Hoosiers featured a high-powered offense but also the worst run defense in the Big Ten, surrendering 247.8 yards per game on the ground.

In its two losses, IU gave up 444 rushing yards to Navy and 280 rushing yards to Missouri.

So what did the Nittany Lions do on this wet, sticky afternoon before a half-empty stadium that only holds 53,000 at capacity? They passed like crazy, allowing rookie QB Christian Hackenberg to chuck the pigskin a school-record 55 times (he completed 30) while the backs ran just 30 times. State netted 70 rushing yards (though it should be noted that it lost 31 yards on a poor snap on a field goal).

But even with that loss factored out, the total was 101 yards on the ground. PSU ran the ball three times or more in a row only three times.

Oh yeah, and it was hammered, 44-24, coming unraveled in the fourth quarter to fall to 3-2 overall and 0-1 in the Big Ten. IU (3-2, 1-0), the only Big Ten team without a win over Penn State to its credit, beat the Lions for the first time in 17 meetings.

“I think we need to scheme up some better runs,” Lion coach Bill O'Brien said. “We need to be diverse in the running game and it starts with coaching.”

It would really appear to start with the game plan. One of two things happened here Saturday, and neither is particularly promising for Penn State moving forward:

• The team with the worst run defense in the Big Ten just forced PSU to pass the ball by loading up the box.

• O'Brien, who was known for his innovative passing schemes as offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, was too stubborn to truly commit to the run and instead put the weight of the offense on the shoulders of an 18-year-old QB.

Take your pick. We'll go with the latter.

As poorly as the PSU defense played at times in this game, that was somewhat expected. Indiana entered averaging more total yards and passing yards than anyone in the Big Ten.

But the shootout many predicted never materialized, because the PSU ground game was either firing blanks or simply not firing at all.

Here is our breakdown of the game.

MAN OF THE HOUR: WR Allen Robinson nearly single-handedly kept Penn State in the game through three quarters. He caught a career-best 12 passes for 173 yards and two scores, and rushed once for 10 yards. Can you believe it was the first carry of his career?

NOT SO CLOSE SECOND: P Alex Butterworth averaged 45.2 yards on four punts, with a long of 52. He narrowly missed having a ball go out of bounds at the 1-yard line.

CLOSE THIRD: We struggled for not so close second. In this sort of loss, we'll stop there.

TURNING POINT: Lots of ugly stuff to pick from here. We'll settle on PSU's first drive of the fourth quarter. Down 28-17 -- which was not that huge of a hole considering the opposing defense -- the Nittany Lions imploded. Guard Miles Dieffenbach wrapped two false start penalties around a blown-up flanker screen to put PSU in second-and-25 from its own 10. State eventually got to fourth-and-2 from its own 33, and went for it. But Hackenberg missed WR Matt Zanellato, giving IU a short field. The Hoosiers scored two plays later to end it. There were still nearly 11 minutes left in the game. “I felt like we needed a touchdown, we needed to make something happen,” O'Brien said when asked why he went for it on fourth down so deep in his own territory.

SOLID STRATEGY: Credit IU coach Kevin Wilson for daring O'Brien to beat his team with the pass. The Nittany Lion mentor bit.

NUMBERS GAME: Indiana out-rushed Penn State, 150-70. We'll bet you didn't see that coming.

BUSINESS AS USUAL: LB Glenn Carson led the Lions with 10 tackles. It was not a particularly good game for the PSU 'backers, though.

SPECIAL DELIVERY: Not much to talk about beyond Butterworth. Geno Lewis was having a good day on kick returns before fumbling one in the fourth quarter, setting up another short IU TD drive.


• Penn State never committing to the run.

• The suddenly bad field-goal unit. Snapper Ty Howle fired a low ball back to Butterworth (more on this later) and Butterworth missed it. The ball went rolling for a 31-yard loss before K Sam Ficken recovered. Later, Ficken had a kick blocked. This unit had been a strength for PSU all season.

• More poor tackling by the Nittany Lion defense. IU had plenty of yards after first contact.

• The Penn State defense being seemingly clueless when Hoosier backup QB Tre Roberson entered the game. Roberson is known as a runner, and all he did was run for two TDs in goal-line situations. He also converted a two-point conversion on … you guessed it … a run.

• Penn State barely involving its backs in the passing game. Bill Belton caught three balls -- including a TD -- and that was it.

• The Lions going a respectable 11 of 22 on third-down conversions but still failing to score consistently.

• State going 1 of 5 on fourth-down conversions. PSU entered the game 7 of 9 in such situations.

HIDDEN HERO: Zach Ladonis won a spot on the team as a long snapper during an open tryout in September. He took the field Saturday (wearing No. 61) and snapped to Butterworth. One snap was a bit high. But overall, solid stuff for the newcomer.

LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Hackenberg's 340 passing yards are the most ever by a Penn State freshman.


• S/H Ryan Keiser was in street clothes, his left hand heavily wrapped. That hurt the Lions, as the backup holder (Butterworth) failed to field a low snap, resulting in the 31-yard loss. Also, S Malcolm Willis, who usually splits time with Keiser, struggled.

• Starting WR Brandon Felder missed the game with an unspecified ankle injury. Lewis got the start in his place and had six catches for 35 yards.

• LB Mike Hull was back in the starting lineup after missing two of the previous three games with a knee injury. His knee was heavily braced and by the second quarter he was limping noticeably. He had 10 tackles and half a sack.

Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, who filled in for Hull when he was injured, started in place of LB Nyeem Wartman in this game. Agyapong had four tackles. Wartman had no stops.

• DT Kyle Baublitz was back in the starting lineup. He had been replaced by Austin Johnson in the Kent State game.

• S Adrian Amos had his first pick of the season. But he only logged one tackle.

UNANSWERED QUESTION: How much air did this take out of Penn State's homecoming game with Michigan?

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