UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Two years removed from his first trip to Penn State as Indiana head coach, the same problems plague Tom Allen's Hoosier team.
The issues now have less to do with talent and more to do with execution, specifically making blunders common for past IU teams, but largely absent this season.
Saturday afternoon's 34-27 Penn State victory at Beaver Stadium was defined by mistakes made and bad breaks suffered by the Hoosiers.
Junior wide receiver Whop Philyor's muffed punt following Indiana's first defensive stand of the game set the tone in this regard. The Hoosiers started the game by stifling Penn State and forcing a three-and-out, sending pangs of unease through the slow-arriving crowd of 106,328.
But Philyor's mistake – wandering near enough to the punted ball to barely graze it in the opinions of the officials – gave Penn State the ball inside the Indiana 30-yard line.
This allowed Penn State junior wide receiver KJ Hamler to make a rare first-half impact, beating freshman cornerback Tiawan Mullen for an 11-yard reception to keep the Nittany Lion drive moving. A 12-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford to senior tight end Nick Bowers soon gave Penn State a 7-0 lead inside of three minutes.
The Hoosier response was swift.
A 6-play, 75-yard drive was managed well by quarterback Peyton Ramsey, who capped the sequence with a 38-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ty Fryfogle to level the score.
Indiana's first qualm with the first-half officiating came on Penn State's next drive. A pass interference call on cornerback Devon Matthews turned a third-down stop into a next set of downs for James Franklin's Nittany Lion team. The drive ended with a 47-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Jake Pinegar.
The lone Hoosier lead of the game then followed. Indiana again marched more than 60 yards down the field in less than three minutes, running seven plays highlighted by a 42-yard pass to Philyor. The drive was capped by Ramsey sneaking the ball across the goal line on a one-yard rush in front of the Penn State student section.
IU's 14-10 lead lasted all of 137 seconds, before Penn State rattled off 17 straight points.
First came a 38-yard rushing touchdown by Clifford, who burst up the middle of the IU defense before bouncing to the outside after linebacker Micah McFadden was unable to keep up. This came just one play after a forced fumble by Indiana was ruled as an inconclusive recovery after a quick whistle from the officials, allowing Penn State to keep possession.
Next came the lone scoring play of the second quarter, a 27-yard field goal by Pinegar. Earlier portions of the quarter featured fumbles by each team recovered by their opponents, but no points scored as a result.
The significance of the period though came when Indiana lost Philyor to injury. He was the player who fumbled for Indiana's turnover, but it came after he was sandwiched in between two Penn State defenders and was hit in the head in the process.
Philyor went into the injury tent on the IU sideline and then left for the team's locker room. He did not return to the game.
Penn State's main receiving threat, Hamler, also didn't play most of the afternoon, as he didn't play a snap past the first quarter.
But the second half came to be defined by the conclusion to IU's opening drive.
On a 4th-and-1 at its own 44-yard line, the Hoosiers ran a bizarre fake punt formation.
Only two players comprised the IU offensive line on the play, including the center, and the snap from freshman Sean Wracher surprisingly found its way to the upback Peyton Hendershot, who was quickly tackled for a loss.
Two plays after Penn State took over on downs, junior running back Journey Brown had scampered into the endzone for a 35-yard rushing score.
Indiana tried its best to claw back in the game from a 27-14 deficit.
The next Hoosier drive resulted in a 25-yard field goal from Logan Justus, although the 14-play drive (which took more than seven minutes) also featured a dropped touchdown catch from wide receiver Donavan Hale.
Early in the fourth quarter, Ramsey's mobility allowed him to escape the pocket on multiple occasions, and his second rushing touchdown of the game, another 1-yard score, brought the Hoosiers to within three points.
But the Nittany Lions closed the door on the comeback attempt with a 18-play, 75-yard drive that took more than nine minutes off the clock. The end result, a one-yard rushing score from Clifford, came after more shoddy tackling from the IU defense and two fourth-down conversions by Penn State.
Ramsey's final line of 31-41 passing for 371 passing yards represented another spirited effort from the IU starter, especially given the amount he had to scramble Saturday.
The loss continues IU's dismal history against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are now 22-1 all-time against the Hoosiers. Penn State has still never lost to IU at home.
Next for Indiana (7-3, 4-3) is a home meeting with Michigan. The Hoosiers will look to snap a losing streak to the Wolverines that dates back to 1987.
Penn State (9-1, 6-1) plays Ohio State in a game with major implications for the Big Ten East division title and a potential berth in the College Football Playoff.