Blue White Illustrated

Indiana Postgame

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Nittany Lions (5-4 overall, 2-4 Big Ten) and the Hoosiers (3-6, 0-5) was closer to a third-grader's finger painting than a Monet. In other words, it was about as ugly as football at this level can get. The stats alone were unsightly. The two teams combined for a mere 28 first downs, threw four interceptions, punted 20 times, committed 17 penalties and made countless other mistakes. In per- son, though, in a cold, windy stadium enshrouded in low-hanging gray clouds, a crowd of much less than the announced 42,683 fans witnessed several moments of actual entertainment. For two programs fighting to overcome too many debilitating obstacles to count, sheer survival became the only option. Trapped in a scoreless tie, Penn State embarked on a 12-play, 80-yard drive to the Indiana 1-yard line early in the sec- ond quarter. Unable to push through on three attempts a@er setting itself up with a first-and-goal, the Nittany Lions set- tled for a Sam Ficken field goal try at the 10. Even then, the Lou Groza Award semifinalist's attempt was blocked, leav- ing Penn State's offense empty-handed a@er a rare lengthy drive. The game was still scoreless a@er 26 minutes when Indiana safety Mark Mur- phy broke the stalemate with an inter- ception and 47-yard touchdown return off Penn State sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Though Franklin said that poor pass protection – an all- too-frequent issue throughout the sea- son – wasn't the problem this time, he did note that reliance on bubble screens is symptomatic of larger concerns. Mur- phy, capitalizing on the read, made the Nittany Lions pay. Said Hackenberg, "I think he sort of read it. It was one of those things. He drove on it pretty hard, and we were just trying to throw a quick screen out there." Making matters worse, freshman kick- off return man Grant Haley followed the momentum swing with an 8-yard return on the very next play. But Haley's short return was quickly forgotten when Hackenberg handed the ball to senior tailback Bill Belton on an inside draw. The Lions' offensive line punched a huge hole in the Hoosiers' defensive front, and Belton ran free up the gut before cutting to the sideline. "The line did a great job on that play," Belton said. "They opened a lot of things up, and once I got through, there was no- body in the middle of the field, so I was able to take that big crease that they gave me and go the distance with it." Outlasting Indiana cornerback Michael Hunter step for step down the sideline, Belton scampered 92 yards into Penn State's record books for the longest touchdown run in school history. Said Franklin, "I loved it. Going 92 yards, the whole time I was willing him into the end zone. I've never seen a run like that where the guys were like right on his back the entire 92 yards. But he was able to get into the end zone. It was a big play." A@er their sudden scoring outbursts, the two teams reverted to form into the second half. Again reaching the Hoosiers' red zone to open the third quarter, the Nittany Lions settled for a 27-yard Ficken field goal a@er Hacken- berg misfired on a pass to tight end Mike Gesicki on third-and-4. With the Nittany Lions leading by a field goal, 10-7, their No. 1-ranked rush- ing defense continued to shut down In- diana's phenomenal junior running back, Tevin Coleman. Failing to reach further than Penn State's 33-yard line, the Hoosiers traded ineffective offensive possessions, as the nation's leading rusher repeatedly failed to find much room to maneuver. Even so, Indiana had a chance to take the lead or at least tie the score when it took possession at its own 22-yard line with 2 minutes, 55 seconds le@. But on second down, Hoosiers quarterback Zander Diamont effectively ended the matter, throwing an interception to Penn State linebacker Nyeem Wartman, who returned the ball to the Indiana 24. Ficken kicked a 28-yard field goal five plays later, and the Nittany Lions le@ the game in the hands of their defense. Under the circumstances, the scoring margin was enough to make Franklin a happy man. "I would love to win 173-0, or if we could keep people to negative points, I would love to do that every single week," he said. "But right now, where we're at as a program, we're just going to find ways to get W's. Hopefully, those things will grow over time. I'm very confident that they will. "But the most important thing, where we're at right now, is to find a way to get a W, get back on that plane, keep building and stay positive and be optimistic." A@er going winless against their previ- ous four opponents, the Nittany Lions needed to experience some success. By achieving their fi@h win of the season with three games le@ to play, the Lions will now look forward to securing their first postseason bid since the NCAA im- posed its sanctions against the program in 2012. "A win is a win, and we needed one re- ally bad," Hackenberg said. "I think this is a great win for us, gives us something to build on this homestretch here." The Nittany Lions return to Beaver Sta- dium Saturday a@ernoon to take on the 5-4 Temple Owls. Television and kickoff time have not yet been set. SCORING SUMMARY 2ND 3:57 IND Murphy, Mark 47-yard interception return (Oakes, Griffin kick)...................7-0 3:37 PSU Belton, Bill 92-yard run (Ficken, Sam kick) 1 play, 92 yards, TOP 0:20.......................................................................... 7-7 3RD 9:28 PSU Ficken, Sam 27-yard field goal 9 plays, 39 yards, TOP 3:49...................................................................... 10-7 4TH 0:55 PSU Ficken, Sam 28-yard field goal 5 plays, 13 yards, TOP 1:31...................................................................... 13-7 N o V E m B E R 8 , 2 0 1 4 B l U E w h i t E o N l i N E . c o m 2

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