Well, as crazy as it seemed at times, Indiana managed to pull away from Ball State for a comfortable win in the season opener. It wasn’t always pretty, but IU turned around its performance in the second half to come away with a 34-24 win. It was Michael Penix’s first game as the full-time starter and it looked like that at times. There were bright spots and there were some moments to forget. But ultimately, it was the first step in IU’s quest for bowl eligibility. There will be much more from the Hoosier Network crew, but for now, here are my instant reactions.
Penix is very good, but still has a ways to go in his development
We have to remember that it was only 10 months ago that Michael Penix suffered a torn ACL against Penn State, ending what was a potentially a chance to overtake Peyton Ramsey as the starting quarterback. IU switched up a lot how they used Penix. There were the short screen passes to Ty Fryfogle and Whop Philyor, followed by deep passes to Nick Westbrook, showing off Penix’s arm. But there were times that Penix looked like the guy that only played in three games last year. He was picked off two times in the first half, including a ball to Fryfogle that never stood a chance of being completed. There’s no doubt that the arm strength is there, but the decision making has to get better. There’s no need for fans to overreact when he makes good decisions or whenever he makes bad decisions. His future is bright, and when he starts to overcome his own mistakes and when his receivers consistently catch the ball, the IU offense could be special.
Stevie Scott finds stride in second half
Stevie Scott found himself very frustrated in the first half. He could never find a hole and the defense swallowed him up before he could get out of the backfield. Things started to clear up in the second half and he capitalized to the tune of two touchdowns. He was far and away the most used tailback in IU’s backfield, finishing with 48 yards on 19 carries. You can see how much Head Coach Tom Allen wants to get the ball into Scott’s hands. As Penix develops and the offense becomes more dynamic, the holes will start opening up and Scott will start to find running space in the open field.
IU’s mistakes hurt but don’t kill Hoosiers
There will be plenty to talk about when IU looks at film on Monday. The Hoosiers had plenty of chances to put away Ball State, but a number of dropped balls, missed tackles and late penalties just hampered IU’s ability to play fast and free. However, the biggest problem there is that some of those mistakes came from IU’s veteran players. Fifth-year senior wide receiver Nick Westbrook and junior wide receiver Whop Philyor both had dropped balls that would’ve led to touchdowns. Redshirt junior linebacker Marcelino Ball had an unsportsmanlike penalty that extended a Ball State drive. Against Ball State, you can afford some of those mistakes, but against the Big Ten’s best, you can’t. Those are things that have to be cleaned up. IU welcomes Ohio State to Bloomington in two weeks. Ideally, it should be fixed by then.
There were plenty of positives to take away from IU’s 34-24 victory. The most important thing: it was a victory. IU will welcome Eastern Illinois to Memorial Stadium next Saturday at 3:30 p.m.