BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Allen Robinson ran 10 yards down the field then turned back to haul in a 10-yard pass from Christian Hackenberg.
Robinson did the rest, slipping through Indiana cornerback Tim Bennett’s try at a tackle and cutting back across the field to elude Hoosier safety Greg Heban. Robinson’s dazzling play — 46 yards total — brought the Penn State sideline to life at Memorial Field and tied the score at seven apiece.
“It does something for the momentum of the team when we score and then we stop them on defense,” cornerback Jordan Lucas said. “It kind of gives us an edge and a little bit more fire up under us. So that’s definitely what we talk about in the huddle.”
But, the Penn State defense couldn’t get it done.
Immediately thereafter, Indiana’s offense, which came into Saturday averaging 547 yards of offense per per game, marched 75 yards in six plays. The only thing that stood in their way of taking a 14-7 lead was an ineligible man downfield penalty that resulted in receiver Shane Wynn’s four-yard touchdown catch from Nate Sudfeld being revoked.
The Hoosiers settled for a field goal instead.
“Coach (Bill) O’Brien preaches about compleimentary football and that’s something we have to do,” defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. “Offense scores, defense, you have to go do your thing so the offense can get its momentum again. We didn’t do that in some areas of the game and we need to improve next week.”
Penn State’s defense couldn’t come up with a complementary stop when a win was still within reach. In fact, the field goal it surrendered was the best the Nittany Lion defense could do.
After the Nittany Lions took a 14-13 lead on a methodical, 13-play, 80-yard drive to open their second half, the defense gave up that lead.
Indiana needed just five plays to surge back in front with the final 44 yards coming when Tevin Coleman dashed up the center of Penn State’s defense untouched and outran its defensive backs for the score. The Hoosiers would never trail again.
It looked like Penn State would get back in the game when linebacker Glenn Carson and safety Adrian Amos combined to force Indiana’s only turnover of the afternoon. Sudfeld fired over the middle and Carson tipped it into the air. Amos went up to get the ball, secured it and took a big hit from its intended target, 6-foot-5, 250-pound Ted Bolser, but held on to complete the interception.
Hackenberg steered the Penn State offense into scoring position where Sam Ficken booted a 30-yard field goal to cut Indiana’s lead to 21-17.
But, Penn State couldn’t stop the Hoosiers when the Indiana offense retook the field.
Sudfeld directed an 11-play drive of 75 yards and turned over the offense to dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson who plunged in from two yards out for the touchdown.
“We needed to get stops right after we scored to change the momentum a little bit and we weren’t able to do that today,” linebacker Mike Hull said. “They had a good offense. They attacked us and didn’t let down. Especially after we scored they had to get the momentum back and that’s what they did. We just didn’t play well as a unit today.”
Sudfeld averaged more than six yards per attempt and more than 11 yards per completion. He did most his work on the run while stepping up in the pocket and hitting wide receivers or running backs on short routes. The Indiana offense did it all at a break-neck pace, never huddling as it reeled off 80 plays.
“Getting the call in and kind of processing the formation and what might be expected to come from that formation and it’s all happening quick, It can be tough at times but we practiced it,” Carson said. “We practice it all the time and we’ve practiced it all year. It just didn’t go our way.”
The defense finally got its first stop following a Niitany Lion touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. After running back Bill Belton hauled in a 14-yard pass from Hackenberg and tiptoed his way in the corner of the end zone, the defense came up with a stop after six Indiana plays yielded just seven yards.
By then it was too late, as Penn State was still down by 20 points.
“We just didn’t get what we need to get accomplished this week,” Carson said. “We didn’t play well across the board.”
Follow Travis Johnson on Twitter @bytravisjohnson.