BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Penn State outlasted Indiana 13-7 here Saturday, a win that could best be described as ugly.
By everyone but Nittany Lion coach James Franklin, that is. After seeing his team snap a four-game losing streak to improve to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten, Franklin had a different view of the victory than most.
That was the prettiest win I've ever seen in my 20 years (of coaching), he said in his postgame press conference. The water tastes better right now, the Gatorade tastes better. Your questions are gonna be better. Everything is good right now.
His point was well-taken. During the four-game slide, a lot of what could have gone wrong did go wrong for the Lions. That, coupled with a struggling offensive line and spotty special teams, led to the four losses over a six-week span (including two byes).
And as ugly as things were Saturday -- the teams combined for one offensive touchdown, 20 punts, 17 penalties and 75 yards in lost rushing ground -- the PSU defense was dominant and the team now sits a single win away from bowl eligibility.
I'm really, really proud of our guys, Franklin said.
Even if the win was pretty ugly.
MAN OF THE HOUR: LB Nyeem Wartman (shown above) led the Penn State defense with seven tackles and an interception that effectively sealed the deal for the Lions.
CLOSE SECOND: RB Bill Belton's 92-yard bolt in the second period was the longest scoring run in school history. It was the only offensive TD in the game. Belton finished with a season-high 137 yards.
CLOSE THIRD: LB Brandon Bell had six tackles, including two in the backfield.
TURNING POINT: Belton's big run came on the first play from scrimmage following IU S Mark Murphy's 47-yard pick six in the second quarter. It was a classic counterpunch and tied the game 7-7.
SOLID STRATEGY: Penn State's defensive front seven focused on gap integrity, and it turned out to be the trick to holding Hoosier RB Tevin Coleman in check (20 carries, 71 yards). It was the first time in 10 games the nation's leading rusher was held below 100 yards and his longest tote was 17 yards.
NUMBERS GAME: Lion QB Christian Hackenberg was sacked five more times, bringing his season total to 35.
BUSINESS AS USUAL: LB Mike Hull had seven more tackles and 1.5 stops in the backfield. He did, however, draw a 15-yard penalty after retaliating against an IU O-line for a low block.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Penn State's punt coverage was exceptional, holding the Hoosiers to -15 return yards.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
DT Austin Johnson tossing his helmet while going into the locker room at halftime. He was apparently upset about low blocks. Franklin ordered him to pick up his lid.
Franklin talking after the game as if he had benched Johnson for loosing his cool. Johnson started the second half.
Hackenberg not seeming to have much of an internal clock. We get that he is being hammered. But on at least two of Saturday's sacks, he seemed to have time to throw the ball away.
Penn State coming away from a first-and-goal from the IU 2 with no points. Going jumbo on the first two plays did not seem to make much sense, given the issues the O-line has had. Then Hackenberg was sacked. Then K Sam Ficken seemed to hit a low ball and his 23-yarder was blocked.
HIT SQUAD: Hull wiped out Coleman on an attempted IU option play in the third half.
HIDDEN HERO: P Dan Pasquariello did some good things. He dropped five punts inside the Hoosier 20-yard line and, as noted earlier, gave the cover men time to get down the field and make plays.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: S Jesse Della Valle returned a punt 24 yards and intercepted a pass. Nice day.
DID YOU NOTICE?
LT Donovan Smith did not make the trip. He missed his second straight game with an unspecified injury.
OG Miles Dieffenbach dressed for the first time this year. Dieffenbach, who tore his left ACL in the spring, saw a handful of series in the game.
The pregame handshake was shown on the video board and the fans gave a nice round of applause.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can Penn State grab a win over Temple next week to become bowl eligible?