Penn State landed on the wrong side of a roller-coaster Big Ten matchup at Indiana, dropping its 2020 season opener, 36-35, in overtime. Nearly 10 months removed from their last matchup, the Nittany Lions fell flat following a first-possession touchdown but rallied late to take a lead before miscues opened the door for an Indiana answer.
Three first-half turnovers, Devyn Ford‘s decision to take the bait and score with less than two minutes remaining and time working against Indiana, and a controversial two-point conversion ruling that pushed the Hoosiers to victory headlined a lengthy list of difficult discussions during postgame media availability. Head coach James Franklin, however, refused to pin the loss on one single play when discussing Ford’s touchdown.
“I think the hard part here is that there were a lot of plays throughout that game that we would have liked to have been different,” Franklin said. “And I know, in some ways, probably people look at that one play, but there are a lot of plays throughout the game that we should have done differently, and we could have handled better, and could have made plays. So it’s my job as the head coach to make sure everybody clearly understands those situations and obviously right there that didn’t happen.”
On the following drive, Indiana, with more than a minute to work with upon getting the ball back, tied the game with just 22 seconds left in regulation when Hoosiers quarterback Michael Penix Jr. found the end zone and then again on an ensuing two-point attempt.
Though Ford’s touchdown ultimately worked against Penn State as Indiana then had time to tie the game, it was the final play of the contest that generated the most buzz. Penix found receiver Whop Philyor for a nine-yard touchdown to bring Indiana within one point. But Tom Allen’s group then elected to go for two. On that play, Penix ran to his left and, with safety Jaquan Brisker incoming, extended for the pylon, knocking it over in the process. It was ruled a conversion but a lengthy review followed. Replays appeared to indicate the bottom of the ball may have hit the turf before the rest of it encountered the pylon, but officials determined the play would stand, resulting in a crushing Nittany Lions defeat.
You know, to me, from what I was told, it could have went either way,” Franklin said of the play. “But if it’s something that could have went either way, then it’s inconclusive and the call stands. But I haven’t seen it. I literally come off the field, I talk to the team, I do Penn State radio, and then I come in to talk to you guys. I haven’t seen any film.”
Penn State returns to action next Saturday when the Nittany Lions play host to Ohio State under the lights at Beaver Stadium. Franklin knows, too, that there will be plenty to clean up in the next seven days among his group if Penn State intends to thwart a Buckeyes team that won 52-17 vs. Nebraska in its opener.
“We did not play well (today),” Franklin said. “In really six years at Penn State and 10 years of being a head football coach, we have not been a team to get penalties. And we have not been a team to get turnovers. And tonight, we had both.”
We had 10 penalties for 100 yards, which is very uncharacteristic of us. And we had three turnovers. … A lot of different situations came up through this game, a lot of different plays. We finally got into a rhythm in the second half a little bit but you can’t not play well on the road in the Big Ten against good opponents, and we didn’t do that early on.”