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Indiana Win Potentially Crucial For Future Success Of Penn State Football

It sounds weird. At times, Penn State football looked like it hadn’t even woken up to play Indiana on Saturday in the team’s narrow 33-24 win. Still, that game, and everything that came with it, was exactly what the Nittany Lions needed.

Let’s give a quick recap of the game. Penn State gave up the first score of the game to Indiana in the first quarter but tied it with a touchdown of its own. That process repeated in the second quarter, and the Nittany Lions earned a field goal just before halftime. The third quarter gave way to another Nittany Lion touchdown while Indiana was held scoreless.

The fourth quarter is what’s most important. The Hoosiers got a touchdown to put a game that seemed to be failing out of reach back in the palm of their hand. A field goal soon after tied the game at 24-24. For a moment, everything seemed to be going wrong for Penn State. But everyone knows what happened next: Drew Allar threw a touchdown bomb to KeAndre Lambert-Smith followed by a safety caused by a Dani Dennis-Sutton strip sack. Penn State walked away with a win, even if it was closer than fans wanted.

Here’s what’s most notable about that game: Penn State won. But it’s not the singular notch in the win column that counts, it’s what could’ve happened to put a notch in the loss column. Penn State has played in these crucial Big Ten games after a loss before. Oftentimes, they’ve sent a season down the wrong way. After the Nittany Lions lost to Ohio State a week prior, they followed up with a nail-biting win that showed everything good and bad with the roster.

Since 2021, Penn State was 4-3 coming off of losses before its Indiana win Saturday. It’s a positive record, but not a great one. In that seven-loss season in 2021, the losses seemed to just pile up in succession. The team’s most crucial loss of the season — a now infamous defeat to Iowa — was followed by a nine-overtime loss to Illinois. Not this time.

As James Franklin likes to say, “winning is hard.” At a minimum, Penn State won despite its challenges.

Penn State also won a dogfight. Before Ohio State, the Nittany Lions hadn’t played an opponent that took them to the fourth quarter. Penn State was losing to Ohio State 12-6 entering the final 15 minutes, but there was still some hope for the visitors until the Buckeyes delivered the final blow by outscoring the Nittany Lions 8-6 in the fourth quarter.

But against Indiana, Penn State showed it could do what it takes to win a game in the late stages. It may have been outscored in the fourth quarter 10-9, but when it mattered most, the Nittany Lions stepped up. They didn’t throw in the towel, as they had against Ohio State, but kept fighting and reaped the rewards.

When the offense needed to score a touchdown, it did so. When the defense needed a stop, which it had failed to do throughout the game, it forced a safety to call game.

But despite that, one thing may be most important of all: Drew Allar threw an interception. And it was exactly what he needed.

Something that Franklin praised Allar for repeatedly earlier in the season was that the young quarterback protected the football well. He didn’t take risky shots, didn’t throw interceptions, and didn’t fumble the football. Going into the Indiana game, Allar had never given up a turnover.

But in the fourth quarter, Allar threw his first pick. It wasn’t entirely his fault: Allar’s offensive line allowed several Hoosiers to break through, and he threw the ball up as he was falling. Allar even said after the game that he didn’t know he threw the interception until he was almost back to the sideline.

That Indiana interception turned into a field goal for the Hoosiers, but Allar responded perfectly. The next time that the second-year quarterback had the ball in his hands, he found Lambert-Smith streaking down the field for a 57-yard touchdown.

“That is a legitimate first: You throw your first interception, how are you going to respond to it? I thought he handled it really well and delivered a big-time throw,” Franklin said postgame. “I think that’s a positive and something that we can build on.”

“It may sound a little weird, but I’m happy he got that pick out of the way,” Lambert-Smith added.

The truth is that it’s possible Allar just needed to make a mistake. Now that he’s thrown an interception, Allar might feel a weight lifted off his shoulders. He’s allowed to make mistakes, and now he knows that he can respond the way his team needs.

That goes for the entire team. When Penn State needed to stick out a game, it did. In a game that could have ended the season, the Nittany Lions may have pushed the right buttons to right the ship and put themselves back on the track to success.

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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