Struggling Indiana needs win over No. 10 Penn State to get bowl hopes back on track
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) — Coach James Franklin knows Penn State’s offense is better than it showed last week. It needs to improve if the Nittany Lions want to rebound after their Big Ten Conference title hopes took a hit in their loss to No. 3 Ohio State.
The No. 10 Nittany Lions (6-1, 3-1 Big Ten) will host Indiana (2-5, 0-4) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Both teams will look to move on from dreadful offensive performances. They combined to go 3 for 27 on third down in losses to Ohio State and Rutgers, respectively.
“We have to move on and learn from it … and finding ways to get wins,” Franklin said. “Because I also believe that we’ve got to make sure that this loss doesn’t get us twice, which I think it has happened in the past.”
With a little help, the Nittany Lions could still play for a Big Ten championship, but not unless they recoup some of the swagger that made the offense so effective earlier in the season.
That means leaning on a running game that averaged 203 yards a game before managing just 49 yards on 26 tries against the Buckeyes. It’s hard to do better when the offense can’t stay on the field. The Nittany Lions punted nine times against Ohio State while star tailbacks Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton combined for just 18 carries in the 20-12 loss.
“We weren’t able to stay on schedule,” Franklin said. “We weren’t able to get into a flow. We weren’t able to get the touches the way we would like to get the touches, specifically for the running backs. That was the biggest issue.”
It shouldn’t be as hard against the Hoosiers, who need to win four of their last five to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2020. They are allowing a conference-worst 174.4 rushing yards per game and have surrendered 14 rushing touchdowns.
“You can watch the tape from the game, we never gave up,” offensive lineman Caedan Wallace said of the 31-14 loss. “Obviously, we fought through the last play and that’s always positive. We all have a good mindset for moving forward.”
The Hoosiers defense allowed 38 runs of 10 or more yards and had to defend 41 plays in the first half against Rutgers.
“Those things, they add up,” Indiana coach Tom Allen said. “Now you’re in the second half and you’re playing too many snaps, and really it was because of some self-inflicted wounds.”
Indiana’s Tayven Jackson and Brendan Sorsby have both played a bunch of snaps this season, but Sorsby will get the start on Saturday.
Sorsby has completed 45 of 89 passes for 420 yards with three touchdowns this season. Allen would like to see Sorsby speed up his reads, but otherwise feels confident with the second-year player.
“Obviously, got to continue to grow and develop as a decision-maker in both throwing and running,” Allen said. “We’ve got to do a better job of making some of those contested catches. I think that will be a huge plus for him.”
IN OR OUT?
Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson is questionable with an undisclosed injury.
One of the most feared pass-rushers on the nation’s top-ranked defense, Robinson appeared to take a helmet to the side of the head against Ohio State and was helped off the field.
Dante Cephas and Malik McClain, two wideouts Penn State plucked from the transfer portal, have combined for just 15 catches so far. Neither played much of a role last week, with Cephas catching his first two passes in the fourth quarter.
Franklin is hoping another player outside of KeAndre Lambert-Smith, with his team-leading 37 catches, steps up sooner rather than later.
“We have a group of guys that I think are all competing, but no one is separating themselves from the group,” Franklin said.