Written by: TJ Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
On a crisp early afternoon in Bloomington, the Indiana Hoosiers celebrated Homecoming by debuting new “Bicentennial” uniforms and beating up on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to earn their first Big Ten victory of 2019. The Hoosiers jumped out to a 21-0 start in the first eight minutes of the game and cruised to a dominant 35-0 win to move to 4-2 on the season. Michael Penix continued to emerge as a Big Ten star, going 20-29 for 282 yards with three touchdowns. For the second straight contest, Whop Philyor was an unstoppable force at receiver. He caught 10 passes for a career-high 182 yards. The running game joined the party as IU had their best day on the ground all season. Stevie Scott ran the ball 12 times for 164 yards and IU had 260 rushing yards in total. The Hoosiers were dominant in every phase, out-gaining Rutgers 557 to 75 and making things completely miserable for the moribund squad from New Jersey. The Hoosiers had seven sacks and noticeably ratcheted up the pressure they applied on the opposing offense.
The first play of the game was a telling indicator of how the day would go. Demarcus Elliott continued his stellar play with a sack and a forced fumble on Rutgers quarterback Johnny Langan. Reakwon Jones scooped up the ball at the 18 and ran into the end zone for a 7-0 lead just ten seconds into the contest. Indiana forced Rutgers into a three and out and took over for its first offensive possession on the 30-yard line. Michael Penix connected with Whop Philyor on the first offensive play for a 56-yard gain and then Penix found Peyton Hendershot for a 14-yard touchdown to put IU ahead 14-0. The Scarlet Knights again were forced to punt without picking up a first down. Stevie Scott ran the ball across midfield and Penix threw it to Nick Westbrook who worked his way through defenders and into the end zone for an 18-yard score and a 21-0 lead. Rutgers was able to move the ball with a long run from Isaih Pacheco but the Hoosiers defense pushed the Scarlet Knights back and a head-scratching fourth down play by Rutgers failed to give possession back to Indiana. The Hoosier offense got sloppy with their large lead. Michael Penix threw an interception to Damon Hayes as he telegraphed a pass downfield and Sampson James fumbled on his first carry of the game. The fumble gave the ball to Rutgers around midfield but the Indiana defense, playing a shuffled lineup after the bye week, swarmed and pressured Rutgers with terrific defense all afternoon. After the teams traded possessions for much of the second quarter, Indiana got the ball back at the one-yard line with just more than two minutes remaining in the first half. Penix threw deep and found Whop Philyor for a long gain and then connected with the junior from Florida three more times to get Indiana inside the ten. However, a fourth and one attempt was stuffed and the two teams went to the locker room with the score 21-0.
Indiana received the kick to start the second half and began the proceedings with a 57-yard run by Stevie Scott. The Hoosiers capped the drive off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ty Fryfogle to take a 28-0 lead. Rutgers had another three and out and IU marched down the field with an extended drive that ended with a one-yard plunge from Sampson James to make it 35-0 Hoosiers. Michael Penix exited the game after that drive. The outcome was certainly no longer in doubt but he did leave the game with a gimpy gait so it will be something to watch moving forward this week.
IU pulled the majority of its starters and regular rotation players prior to the start of the fourth quarter and the Hoosiers coasted to the commanding and thorough 35-0 victory. This was the first of a massive four-game stretch for Indiana and they took care of business in impressive fashion. Indiana has more than 30 points in each of Michael Penix’s four starts and IU could have much more in this game if they chose to. The Hoosiers now travel to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins as they try and get one step closer to bowl eligibility.