Indiana clung to a 21-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter against a team it had never before beaten.
The Penn State Nittany Lions of 2013 weren’t the typical powerhouse that college football fans are accustomed to, but were 3-1 before facing the Hoosiers and 8-4 in 2012. The program was also in its final year of bowl sanctions and what would be the last year under head coach Bill O’Brien.
Led by three future NFL players — quarterback Nate Sudfeld, running back Tevin Coleman and wide receiver Cody Latimer — the Hoosiers took down the Nittany Lions 44-24 for Indiana’s first and only win over Penn State.
Indiana fans had grown accustomed to watching their team crumble in the fourth quarter against top teams in the Big Ten under Kevin Wilson, but not on the gloomy, overcast day that was Oct. 5, 2013 in Bloomington. In fact, when the Hoosiers gathered by the student section after the game to sing “Indiana, Our Indiana,” there may have been more students in shoulder pads than in the stands.
Indiana began the fourth quarter on a mission, scoring via quarterback sneak from dual-threat speedster Tre Roberson on the first possession of the quarter.
The Indiana defense stood strong in the fourth quarter, leading to a crazy turn of events. In a matter of 12 seconds, the Hoosiers scored two touchdowns to go up 35-17. A 36-yard touchdown catch from Kofi Hughes was followed by an Indiana fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff only to be topped off with a nine-yard touchdown run from Roberson.
The game was littered with future NFL talent on the other side, as well, with Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg and wide receiver Allen Robinson II. Latimer and Robinson II put on a receiving showcase of their own, Latimer hauling in nine catches for 140 yards and Robinson catching 12 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.
A freshman in 2013, Hackenberg set a Penn State record with 55 pass attempts, netting 340 yards and three touchdowns. Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions tried their best to mount a fourth-quarter comeback after cutting the lead to 42-24 with 7:44 remaining.
But the Indiana defensive line stuck the dagger in the hearts of the Penn State faithful, forcing a Hackenberg fumble in his own end zone for a safety with 5:40 left in the game. An overlooked factor in this game could be Indiana’s stout defensive line allowing just 70 yards on the ground, compared to 150 yards by the Hoosiers and 90 from Coleman alone.
It must have been odd to see Indiana run out the last five minutes of the clock versus a Big Ten powerhouse, but that’s how the only Indiana victory over Penn State ended.
While Indiana possessed one of its most potent offenses in recent years in 2013, it was not enough to become bowl-eligible. The Hoosiers won the Old Oaken Bucket in a 56-36 win against Purdue, but losses in five of the previous six games made reaching bowl eligibility impossible.
It is a fun game to reflect on, not only because of all of the future NFL talent, but also on the coaching side. In 2012, O’Brien won Big Ten Coach of the Year as well as the Paul “Bear” Bryant College Coach of the Year Award. Despite interest from the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles after his first year at Penn State, O’Brien decided to stay at Penn State, stating, “I am not a one-and-done guy.”
O’Brien would finish 7-5 at Penn State in 2013, and, viewed as a hot coaching commodity at the time, was hired by the Houston Texans to be their head coach. O’Brien remains head coach of the Texans today and has a 2-4 record in the playoffs as a head coach.
For the Hoosiers, Wilson was the head coach from 2011-2016, sporting a 26-47 in six seasons. He was thought of as a contrarian, who would often downplay wins and show optimism after losses. Wilson proved this after his team’s victory over Penn State.
“I don’t know if we played great or overwhelmingly awesome, but we were pretty solid as a team,” Wilson said.
Under Wilson, the Hoosiers never won more than six games. Indiana lost in the Pinstripe Bowl in 2015 and the Foster Farms Bowl in 2016, but Wilson left the team before coaching in the latter.
He parted ways with Indiana after accusations of mistreating players and pressuring one to play through injuries. Wilson is now the offensive coordinator at Ohio State where he has been since the beginning of the 2017 season.