No. 10 Penn State narrowly avoided disaster Saturday.
On the heels of an anemic offensive performance in a top-10 loss at Ohio State last weekend, the Nittany Lions returned home and barely scraped past Indiana, 33-24.
Penn State, a 31-point favorite, fell behind 14-7 early but rallied with 17 unanswered points to take a 24-14 lead into the fourth quarter. But the Nittany Lions let their foot off the gas. Indiana put together an 80-yard touchdown drive to cut the score to 24-21 early in the fourth quarter. Later on, Penn State quarterback Drew Allar threw an ugly interception deep in his own territory, allowing the Hoosiers to tie the score with a 35-yard field goal with 2:58 to play.
Allar and the PSU offense struggled mightily last weekend in Columbus and have been one of the least-explosive passing attacks in the country. But when a play was needed, Allar delivered one of his best throws of the season.
As the clock ticked under 2:00, Allar looked deep and found KeAndre Lambert-Smith for a 57-yard touchdown. It proved to be the game-winner.
Penn State coming up clutch. pic.twitter.com/rua231RKNz
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) October 28, 2023
On the ensuing drive, Penn State’s Dani Dennis-Sutton got pressure off the edge and forced a strip-sack on Indiana quarterback Brendan Sorsby. It was a mad dash to scoop up the ball, but it ended up bouncing through the back of the end zone for a safety.
That defensive play officially put an end to Indiana’s upset effort and kept PSU’s Big Ten title hopes alive.
Penn State is now 7-1 overall and 4-1 in Big Ten play, but there’s plenty of reasons for concern going forward. The Hoosiers entered the weekend with a 2-5 record. Their only wins came over Indiana State, a winless FCS team, and Akron in quadruple overtime, yet they were on the verge of upsetting the Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium.
Despite the big play from Allar and Lambert-Smith at the end of the game, the offense still struggled. Before the 57-yard touchdown, Allar was just 19-of-30 for 153 yards.
The defense has been PSU’s strong suit, and even that unit had a lackluster performance. The Hoosiers had two long passing touchdowns in the first half, a 90-yarder in the first quarter and then a 69-yarder on a complete coverage bust from the Nittany Lions.
And when PSU had a chance to put the game away, the Hoosiers drove the length of the field to keep the chance at a huge upset alive. Keep in mind, this Indiana offense entered the day averaging just 4.81 yards per play. That ranked No. 119 out of 132 FBS teams.
Penn State will head to Maryland next weekend, but the biggest game on the schedule is the Nov. 11 home game versus No. 2 Michigan.