The first question posed to Indiana coach Kevin Wilson after Saturday’s 44-24 win over Penn State?
How big of a win is this, considering Indiana was 0-16 all-time against the Nittany Lions?
No bigger than any other Big Ten win, Wilson said.
“I think our guys are best if we just keep it simple, day by day ... and just talk about what we need to do short-term instead of big pictures and historical perspectives,” Wilson said.
“But we’ve got to win games like this. We want to build a program that’s going to be competitive in this league. They’re one of the standards you shoot for.”
Even with the sanctions against the program in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State (3-2, 0-1 Big Ten) came in as slight favorites against the Hoosiers. Even last season, Penn State was too talented for the Hoosiers to contend with.
But Indiana’s defense kept Penn State in check, and a 21-0 run to start the fourth quarter undid 20 years of IU defeats in the series.
It’s also the Hoosiers’ first win in a conference opener since 2000.
“We weren’t really focused on the history of Indiana versus Penn State,” IU quarterback Nate Sudfeld said. “Coach always said, this 2013 Indiana team has never lost to this 2013 Penn State, and vice versa. We weren’t really trying to put history into this game, we were just trying to go out and win this football game.”
IU’s offense got off to another slow start, reminiscent of its last game against Missouri. But while the Hoosiers settled for 13 points in the first half, IU’s defense held Penn State to seven points before halftime.
Part of the problem for the Nittany Lions were miscues on special teams. Penn State coach Bill O’Brien passed on a 43-yard field goal attempt on the game’s first drive, with Christian Hackenberg’s fourth-and-5 pass falling incomplete.
On Penn State’s next possession, a bad snap ruined what would have been a 31-yard field goal try by Sam Ficken, who would later have a field goal attempt blocked.
“We can coach it better, figure it out better for the kids and put them in better position to be able to make those kicks,” O’Brien said.
Penn State took its only lead of the game on its first possession of the second half. Allen Robinson capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 26-yard touchdown catch, his second score of the game. Ficken’s extra point put the Nittany Lions ahead 14-13.
Eighty-two seconds later, the Hoosiers were back in front. Tevin Coleman broke free for a 44-yard TD run, and Tre Roberson came in at QB to run in the 2-point conversion.
Roberson scored the first three times he touched the ball. After Penn State turned a Sudfeld interception into a 30-yard Ficken field goal to close within 21-17, Roberson finished an 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard TD run. He later scored on a 9-yard run one play after Penn State fumbled away a kickoff.
That made the score 42-17; the Hoosiers had never scored more than 31 against Penn State.
And now IU can focus on its next Big Ten hurdle: winning at Michigan State for the first time since 2001.