BLOOMINGTON – For an Indiana team looking to change its on-field history against Ohio State, Thursday's news of an injury to starting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was eerily reminiscent of recent meetings between the two teams.
Coach Tom Allen said he is “not 100 percent sure” if the redshirt freshman will play against the No. 6 Buckeyes on Saturday. He said Penix will be a game-time decision due to an injury Allen declined to go into detail about.
Allen doesn't believe it will be a long-term issue for Penix, who tore his ACL last season. Regardless, the short-term effects of the injury conjure up memories of past meetings between underdog Indiana teams and highly ranked Ohio State squads.
In 2012, 2014 and 2015, Indiana was forced to play its backup quarterback against top-10-ranked Ohio State teams. Should the situation arise again, it would be redshirt junior Peyton Ramsey tasked with leading the Hoosiers in their opening Big Ten game.
“That's why you have multiple quarterbacks,” Allen said. “If (Penix) can't go then Peyton will be ready. I feel great about Peyton. He's won a lot of games for us here and he's a great player.”
Allen said Penix has been able to practice a bit this week and doesn't believe he was injured during last weekend's 52-0 home win against Eastern Illinois. Allen said Penix simply told him something didn't feel right, and the quarterback showed no signs of injury when speaking to the media Monday.
As such, the strong possibility remains Ramsey will see game action Saturday.
Ramsey led Indiana's most recent upset attempt against Ohio State, as the Hoosiers led in the second quarter on the road last season before losing by 23 points.
He saw 2019 game action for the first time last weekend, going 13 of 14 on passing attempts for 226 yards and two touchdowns after Penix was pulled in the second quarter.
“They're very similar quarterbacks skill set-wise, so not really much changes at all,” Allen said.
The all-hands-on-deck mindset Indiana enters this week's game with received a boost Thursday when Allen said he expects sophomore linebacker Cam Jones to play.
Defensive coordinator Kane Wommack stressed early-game consistency when describing how he'd like the Hoosiers to contain Buckeyes playmakers like sophomore quarterback Justin Fields and junior running back J.K. Dobbins.
“Rarely are games won in the first and second quarter,” Wommack said. “But they certainly can be lost in the first and second quarter. For our guys, it's important for us to understand that you just keep chipping away at the execution.”
Even while preaching this, Wommack knows a time may present itself when the Hoosiers will need a big defensive play. Last week marked the end of a 19-game takeaway streak for the IU defense, something Wommack wants to rectify with the help of players like Jones.
“I think when we get them into those later rounds these young guys will continue to build confidence,” Wommack said.
“I think that's when you can take your knockout shots.”
Whether the Hoosiers will be able to keep the game close entering crunch time remains a different question, one complicated by the potential absence of Penix.
Allen has a ready-made answer for that.
“We just don't blink,” he said. “We do not blink.”
Indiana vs. Ohio State
When: Noon Saturday
Where: Memorial Stadium, Bloomington
Records: Indiana 2-0 (0-0 Big Ten); Ohio State 2-0 (0-0)
Radio: 1250 AM