The Indiana Hoosiers and Penn State Nittany Lions were both ranked in the Top 25 when they first met 20 years ago. Penn State’s 38-31 win that November 1993 day set the tone for two decades of IU misery in the series, but Saturday brought retribution.
Twenty-three fourth quarter points powered the Hoosiers to their first defeat of Penn State in 17 tries.
The two now sport matching 3-2 records, though the Nittany Lions are looking up at the Hoosiers in the Big Ten standings. This marks Indiana’s first conference-opening win since 2000.
After Penn State’s unexpected run to eight wins in 2012, the first season of potentially crippling NCAA sanctions, the expectations for the coming years of Lion football were raised considerably. Today’s loss quells some of that.
Safe to say this is the worst game of Bill O'Brien's short tenure. Getting routed by Indiana after a bye week is about as low as it can get.
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) October 5, 2013
Others are moving up the timetable for what is a perceived, inevitable leap for head coach Bill O’Brien to the NFL.
— Ron Musselman (@ronmusselman8) October 5, 2013
Just a matter of time until Bill O'Brien is back in the #NFL IMO. Is/will continue to be in high demand, regardless of 2013 results.
— Louis Riddick (@LRiddickESPN) October 5, 2013
It was never a secret that Penn State was going to face struggles amid the four years (and beyond) of sanctions. While there has been good news–the eight wins, O’Brien’s contract extension, repeal of some of the scholarship restrictions–the more trying times are still ahead.
But the light at the end of the tunnel is bright. True freshman Christian Hackenberg was under duress repeatedly, but avoided turnovers and completed 30 passes for 340 yards.
Hackenberg will only mature, particularly under O’Brien’s guidance.
As for Indiana, a disappointing loss to Navy took some of the wind out of the Hoosiers’ proverbial sails. And at 3-2, the Hoosiers still need three more wins to reach the program’s first bowl game since 2007.
That’s no easy feat with Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State still on the docket.
Nevertheless, the progress IU has made in Kevin Wilson’s three years as head coach is remarkable. The defense showed tremendous strides against Penn State, and Wilson’s noted high-tempo offense went for 486 yards.
Junior wide receiver Cody Latimer registered numbers comparable to those of outstanding Nittany Lion wideout Allen Robinson.
Penn State may have its issues, but Wilson’s win is a meaningful step in the overall process of establishing Indiana football.