It was ugly at times. It was beautiful at times. In the end, Penn State overcame some trip-ups to move to 8-2 and the squad's sixth consecutive Big Ten win. The Lions had a series of highs and lows in this game as their play continued to the evolve throughout the contest.
Let's take a look at the highs and lows from the win.
THE HIGH FIVE
Win's A Win: When it comes down to it, Penn State didn't play like a top 10 team. But the Lions fought back like champions and got a much needed win to help further define the character of this team.
Come On Back: They looked down and out, but but apparently no one told this PSU team as it fought back and never quit on a game that looked bleak at times. Then again this Nittany Lion squad continues to not quit and shrugs off adversity, and in this one it dug deep for a big win.
Floor It: For the fourth time in the last five games, Penn State's offense came out fast and scored on its opening drive — seemingly setting a tone that quickly evaporated as Indiana time and again rallied. But it's a vast change from the traditional slow starts PSU has experienced in these sort of games.
McGutsy: To say Trace McSorley is a gutsy player is an understatement. He stood in the pocket, delivering critical long balls to receivers like Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton despite knowing he was going to take some brutal hits. He still needs to protect himself, but you need that type of player when the chips are down.
Catching On: When the ground game got plugged up (more on that later), the receivers had to pick up the reigns. Godwin, Hamilton and Mike Gesicki largely shouldered the loadmand combined for 13 catches for 255 yards, which was an instrumental shift in the offense as the Hoosiers keyed on the ground game.
Grind It Out: OK, Saquon Barkley did not have one of his trademark banner days where he rolls up 150-plus yards. He downright struggled at times with several runs going for negative yards. In fact, he only ran for 60 yards on 33 carries for a 1.8 YPC average. However, when the team needed him he came through, grinding out yards and battling for the late go-ahead score. You see what players are made of in these sort of situations.
Big Bet: This offense is fun to watch and few plays were as exciting as when Barkley and McSorely ran the flea-flicker, which had a huge, must-needed pickup for the Lions and had the Hoosier defense reeling.
THE LOW FIVE
Line Dancing: With LT Paris Palmer exiting early and RG Connor McGovern exiting later with injuries, the Lions were forced shift Ryan Bates from LG to LT with Derek Dowrey and Steven Gonzalez being used at the guard spots. It was duct-taped line that had issues at times (including allowing three sacks), but came together when it counted.
Twilight Zone: There are times when coaches simply don't want to abandon a staple of their game plan even when it's obviously not working, no doubt in part thanks to the offensive line issues. This seemed to be the case Saturday with the zone read. As expected, Indiana wanted to stop Barkley, and for much of the day it did, largely thanks to the slow-developing zone reads that were snuffed out time and again for negative yardage.
Rush Hour: While Penn State's run game is a typically the backbone of the offense, such wasn't the case Saturday as the Lions only ran for 79 yards on 45 attempts. The Hoosiers took the Lions out their element, plugging up things for both Barkley and McSorely on the ground.
Lost It: While PSU won the turnover battle with five, it still gave up two major interceptions and didn't capitalize on most of the Hoosiers' lost balls. We discussed how ball protection has been so instrumental to the Lions' success, but Saturday it helped Indiana keep pace in this game.
Soft Serve: The PSU secondary flat out struggled at times and gave up 344 yards and two touchdowns, including a late go-ahead score through the air, thanks largely to cushion coverage. In the end the defensive backs played tighter and managed to lock down coverage, but they helped Indiana convert a lot of key third downs.