He’s already one of the biggest what ifs in IU history.
Then true-freshman quarterback Michael Penix got his chance against Penn State. He lit a spark, and made gave IU a chance against Trace McSorley’s team.
What if he hadn’t torn his ACL?
He was named the starter for the 2019 season just days ahead of the season opener against Ball State. He dazzled in the opener, opening an opportunity for an IU program searching to find its next step to finally take it.
And he’s gone again. A what if forever hanging over yet another IU season.
Penix was announced to be out for the remainder of the 2019 season Tuesday in an IU Athletics press release. He suffered an injury to his right sternoclavicular joint, where the sternum and clavicle meet in the neck/shoulder region.
“We feel really bad for Mike,” IU head coach Tom Allen said in the press release. “He’s worked extremely hard and had a great season. He’ll recover from this and get bigger and stronger this offseason. Mike has a very bright future with the Hoosiers.”
At 7-2, Penix’s injury is a brick wall thrust in the path of momentum. He finishes the season with 1,394 passing yards, 10 touchdowns to just four interceptions and a 68.8 completion percentage. He was sacked just one time despite a shifting offensive line.
Penix also had 119 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
Though amid the glimpse at the future and potential of Allen’s team with every time Penix touched the ball, injuries plagued the young quarterback’s season, reaching a crescendo with Tuesday’s announcement.
Penix only played in two full games this season: Ball State and Michigan State. He didn’t play beyond halftime against Eastern Illinois, Rutgers, Maryland or Northwestern and only against Rutgers was Penix clearly removed because of a blowout.
Penix thrived under new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer’s system, though so did Peyton Ramsey. His strong arm and playmaking ability was evident, and why it was still so crucial for this team to get Penix back even with how well Ramsey played in his absence.
Whenever he was in the game, IU had a chance, that was never more clear than in his performance against Michigan State in East Lansing. And against lesser opponents, it was Penix that made sure IU didn’t fall into a years old narrative of faltering under expectations.
Even in what has been IU’s best season in decades, how far this team could have gone at full strength could loom forever.