But the fact of the matter was, the Hoosiers arrived at Beaver Stadium Saturday for a showdown with No. 18 Penn State at 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big Ten.
So even when the Nittany Lions fell behind 10-0 in the first quarter, one never got the sense they were in real trouble. The fact that they were that close despite committing three turnovers in the quarter actually seemed to be good news.
When they rallied to tie it 10-10 at the half, Indiana had to feel as if it had blown a golden opportunity -- again. And that is exactly how it played out. PSU powered to a 31-13 lead late in the game before allowing a late, meaningless touchdown.
The Lions improved to 9-2 overall and 5-2 in the conference, keeping alive their hopes for a BCS bowl.
Here is how things went down.
MAN OF THE HOUR: Penn State linebacker Navorro Bowman had the defining play of the day when he picked off a Ben Chappell pass and went 73 yards for a touchdown. He added a dozen tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack for good measure.
CLOSE SECOND: Nittany Lion running back Evan Royster gained 75 yards and a score on 17 carries. He also reached the end zone on a screen pass.
TURNING POINT: Bowman's return gave Penn State a 17-10 lead and seemed to energize the PSU players and the crowd.
SOLID STRATEGY: Even while trailing, the Lions never went away from the run. They had 39 rushes on the day (as opposed to 28 passes) and that took its toll on the Indiana defense.
NUMBERS GAME: Bowman has 66 more return yards this season (164 - 73 on Saturday's pick and 91 on a fumble recovery vs. Eastern Illinois) than all of Penn State's punt return guys combined (22 tries for 114 yards).
BUSINESS AS USUAL: The Penn State defense allowed only 48 rushing yards and has not allowed an opposing back to crack the 100-yard mark in the past 14 games.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: With new gunners Stephon Morris and Justin Brown, the PSU punt team rebounded nicely from its poor play against Ohio State. Jeremy Boone averaged 44.5 yards on two boots, one of which was downed at the 1-yard line and one of which was fair caught.
WHAT'S UP WITH?
Penn State's turnover issues. QB Daryll Clark threw two picks. And the Lions had three fumbles, losing two.
The not-so-special teams. Three different return men fumbled and Graham Zug caught a punt inside his own 10 (he was tackled at the 7). Speaking of which
Paterno saying, I thought the special teams did well except for the two punts we mishandled. Kind of like passengers on the Titanic saying they enjoyed the voyage except for that one little rough patch.
Clark flat out missing two wide-open receivers on bombs. He cost himself a bundle of yardage on those two plays.
Collin Wagner clanking a 34-yard field-goal attempt off the right upright.
HIT SQUAD: Senior Sean Lee had 10 tackles, and was drilling Hoosiers all over the field. He also broke up four passes and had an interception wiped out by a penalty.
HIDDEN HERO: Fullback Joe Suhey had 4 catches for 32 yards.
LOST IN THE SHUFFLE: Have to give a shout-out to Chappell, who was 32 of 51 for 298 yards and two TDs against a strong pass defense. He only has the one key interception.
DID YOU NOTICE?
Three Lions left with injuries: running back Brandon Beachum (knee), receiver Chaz Powell (shoulder) and cornerback A.J. Wallace (concussion). Paterno said he thought Beachum's injury was serious and Powell was day-to-day. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said Wallace will be looked at by doctors to determine his availability for the regular-season finale at Michigan State.
DeOn'tae Pannell, who started the season at right tackle before injuries and poor play knocked him out of the lineup, resurfaced as the starter at left guard in place of the injured Johnnie Troutman.
Drew Astorino turned in Penn State's longest punt return of the season (21 yards) in the first quarter. Of course, he fumbled at the end of it and the Hoosiers recovered.
The derisive cheer the crowd gave Zug when he successfully fair caught a punt in the third quarter.
When Wallace went out, Morris replaced him. Senior Knowledge Timmons began the season as a starter at cornerback but his reps are now limited to special teams.
Penn State attempted to run a wildcat play with back QB Kevin Newsome under center and Clark splitting out wide. The Hoosiers were not fooled, dumping Newsome for a 3-yard loss.
Powell was replaced by rookie Curtis Drake, who had one carry for 26 yards and two catches for 34 yards.
Senior wideout Patrick Mauti made his first career start but did not catch a pass.
Brett Brackett's bad luck. The junior wideout went into this game with two catches for minus-5 yards on the season. He finally got out of the red Saturday, grabbing one ball for 18 yards. But when he did so, the PA guy credited the catch to tight end Mickey Shuler. Brackett wears No. 83, Shuler No. 82.
Indiana coach Bill Lynch went ballistic when Royster scored on a screen pass in the second quarter. He thought Lion guard Lou Eliades held one of his defenders. Replays showed a possible hold but not necessarily a slam dunk of a call.
UNANSWERED QUESTION: Can the Lions finish with a flourish and perhaps earn a BCS bowl bid?