Trailing 24-21 entering the 4th quarter, the 2016 Penn State Football team did what they always seemed to do that season: they mounted a comeback.
Editor of The Football Letter John Black ’62 said it best after the game in The Letter.
“After a scare by a dangerous but erratic Indiana team Saturday, Penn State’s 2016 Cinderella season continued with the Nittany Lions’ sixth consecutive Big Ten Conference win,” Black wrote.
With a win and a Michigan loss at Iowa later that evening, the Nittany Lions would find themselves in an improbable three-way tie atop the Big Ten East standings with the Wolverines and Ohio State.
Improbable because of how Penn State started its campaign at 2-2 with a heartbreaking defeat at Pitt in Week 2 followed by a thumping in ‘The Big House’ in two weeks later.
The Nittany Lions had shown in their previous five games before their matchup with the Hoosiers, however, that they had come a long way since those early season struggles.
To get the comeback started at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, then-offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead went into his bag of tricks with the Lions near the Hoosiers’ end zone. Quarterback Trace McSorley handed the ball off to Saquon Barkley only to have Barkley turn around and pitch it back to McSorley for a flea flicker.
McSorley connected with DaeSean Hamilton for a 54-yard strike and the potent offensive attack for Penn State was rolling once again.
Another Indiana score on its next possession gave them back the lead.
A 7-play, 57-yard drive was capped off by two determined runs from Barkley and put Penn State ahead once more at 35-31 with just over four minutes to go.
After a fourth-down stop by the Penn State defense resulted in a Tyler Davis field goal for the blue and white, the Hoosiers became desperate.
Dropping back to pass on his own side of the field, IU quarterback Richard Lagow was smacked by a rushing Brandon Bell and the ball popped free.
There to scoop it up was defensive end Torrence Brown who barely stayed on his feet and drove into the end zone to put the Nittany Lions up 14 with less than a minute to go and effectively put the game on ice.
The win marked the first time Penn State had won six-consecutive Big Ten games in the same season since 1994.
James Franklin said afterward as Black reflected in the Football Letter, “We didn’t panic. Our defense kept us in the game, and we found a different way to win on the road. That’s an important trait for a young team still under development.”
Michigan would indeed fall in defeat at Iowa later that evening to put the Lions in a tie for first in their division.
As Black noted after the game, “Penn State will have more opportunities to make this season even more memorable than it already is.”
Safe to say, a Big Ten Championship title later, the Nittany Lions came through on those opportunities.