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Observations of Indiana’s upset of No. 8 Penn State

The Nittany Lions were guilty of a plethora of mistakes -- penalties, turnovers, missed field goals -- but had a chance to win.

Indiana's Noah Pierre (21) and teammates celebrate after defeating Penn State.
Indiana's Noah Pierre (21) and teammates celebrate after defeating Penn State.Read moreDarron Cummings / AP

Penn State knew that Indiana would be a tough opponent on the road. However, it was the eighth-ranked Nittany Lions shooting themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties that eventually turned out to be the story in the Hoosiers' 36-35 overtime victory, their first over a Top 10 team since 1987.

Here are some observations from the game:

The numbers lie

Judging from the statistics, Penn State should have won this game with plenty to spare. The Nittany Lions outgained Indiana, 488 yards to 211, ran off 87 plays to 62 for the Hoosiers, and held the ball for 40 minutes, 25 seconds over the four regulation quarters. But three turnovers led to 10 Indiana points. Three field goals were missed, although Jordan Stout’s 57-yard try with 3 seconds left (that fell less than a yard short) was a low-percentage attempt. There were 10 penalties for 100 yards, and a mental error when Devyn Ford crossed the goal line on a 14-yard run when Penn State had a chance to run out the clock in regulation with a 28-20 victory. The game went into overtime, and Indiana, which began the period on defense, answered Penn State’s touchdown and then went for a two-point conversion that was successful but not before a long replay review.

Considering time and score

Penn State appeared to have the game won after it stopped Indiana on fourth down with 1:47 to play and took possession on the Hoosiers 14-yard line. But running back Devyn Ford took a handoff against token resistance by the defense on the next play and went in for the touchdown, taking just five seconds off the clock. Since Indiana had just one timeout remaining, the Nittany Lions could have burned the rest of the time had they kept the ball. So the Hoosiers had enough time to drive the length of the field, and they did, scoring on a 1-yard run by Michael Penix Jr. with 22 seconds left and then a subsequent two-point conversion run by Penix that tied the game.

Those killer penalties

Penn State coach James Franklin makes a big deal out of winning the penalty battle, but the Nittany Lions made just too many mistakes in that department. Two of the most critical came in the second half – a 15-yard offensive pass interference penalty against tight end Pat Freiermuth in the third quarter, and a targeting call that resulted in the ejection of linebacker Jesse Luketa in the fourth and nullified a Penn State fumble recovery. The pass interference penalty damaged a drive that ended in Jake Pinegar’s missed 47-yard field goal, and the Luketa penalty set up a 49-yard field goal by Indiana’s Charles Campbell. Then, on Indiana’s final drive, defensive end Adisa Isaac was flagged for a facemask penalty on a sack of Penix that moved the ball into Penn State territory on the tying touchdown drive.

Clifford has a Wentz-like game

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford threw two awful interceptions in the first half that led to 10 points by the Hoosiers, errors that gave the home team confidence and momentum. But Clifford showed in his first season as a starter last year that he has plenty of guts, and he showed that in the second half when he used his feet more than his arm. He showed particular grit when he scrambled on second-and-16 and turned it into a 35-yard touchdown run on the final play of the third quarter. Then, with the game on the line late in the fourth quarter, Clifford calmly stepped up and floated a pass to Jahan Dotson at the 20, which Dotson ran in for a 60-yard score with 2:30 left to play.

Special teams woes

One characteristic of games nationally earlier in the season had been sloppy special teams play, and Penn State showed that to be the case in its opener. In the first half alone, the Nittany Lions had three bad plays on punt teams – kick-catch interference; Jahan Dotson stumbling over teammate Marquis Wilson on a fair catch try and fumbling, although the play was wiped out by an Indiana penalty; and a 21-yard punt return by Taylor Reese that set up the Hoosiers' 62-yard TD drive. Then there were two missed field goal attempts, of 25 (doinked off the left upright) and 47 yards, by Pinegar, who missed one try all of last season. For good measure, Lamont Wade bobbled a kickoff near the goal line and could get it out only to the 5.