Penn State takes advantage of Indiana injuries, defense in win

Hackenberg leads Penn State past Indiana (0:48)

Christian Hackenberg throws for 262 yards and two touchdowns while running in another pair of scores in the Nittany Lions' 29-7 win over the Hoosiers. (0:48)

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Indiana entered this game with injury concerns on offense and overall concerns on defense. Penn State capitalized on both and rolled to a 29-7 victory.

Without Hoosiers starting quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard, the Nittany Lions limited the opposition to 234 total yards. The running backs averaged just 2.4 yards a carry, and the passing game was ineffective. (Third-string QB Danny Cameron replaced an injured Zander Diamont in the third quarter.) Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg also took advantage of a struggling secondary, to the tune of 262 yards and two touchdowns.

The Nittany Lions were dealing with their fair share of injuries, too – namely to RBs Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch, in addition to center Angelo Mangiro. But it didn’t seem to matter against Indiana’s No. 118-ranked defense.

Backup running backs Mark Allen and Nick Scott combined for 16 carries and 102 yards. Hackenberg was even better under a less-conservative gameplan. He finished 21-of-39 with no interceptions.

With the win, Penn State improves to 5-1 (2-0 Big Ten). The Hoosiers drop to 4-2 (0-2).

What the win means for Penn State: After Week 1, there were some doubts as to whether this team would qualify for a bowl. After five straight wins, that’s obviously not the case anymore. Penn State still has its problems -- James Franklin once said that winning only minimizes issues – but it still found a way to win. It’s not one of the Big Ten’s best, but PSU can provide a challenge if it can find consistency on offense.

What the loss means for Indiana: Hoosiers fans can’t get too upset over this loss. Indiana’s starting quarterback and running back were out for this game, and IU was forced to play Cameron, a third-string QB, after the backup was injured in the third quarter. It’s difficult to find success in a situation like that, especially when playing a top-25 defense. Indiana’s next game, against Rutgers, will show a lot more.

Player of the game: Hackenberg. The Penn State quarterback threw a season-high 39 passes, and he was a threat through the air and on the ground. Seriously. Hackenberg finished with two rushing TDs, and his score in the fourth quarter occurred only after he jumped into the end zone from about 3 yards out. He finished 21-of-39 with 262 yards, two TDs and no interceptions. He also had 21 rushing yards.

Unsung hero: Carl Nassib. If you haven’t heard of him yet, read this. If you have? You probably won’t be surprised to learn he finished with four solo tackles, two sacks and two forced fumble against the Hoosiers. Forget Joey Bosa and Shilique Calhoun; No B1G defensive end is playing better football right now.

The game turned when … : There were a lot of turning points, but the earliest one might have been the most important. In the first quarter, Penn State found itself in a third-and-10 situation on its own 36. Hackenberg was sacked then fumbled, but Indiana was called for a personal foul for illegal hands to the face. That gave PSU an automatic first down, and Hackenberg completed a 39-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Polk two plays later. That gave PSU a 7-0 advantage, and it never trailed.

Stat of the game: 310. Penn State amassed 310 yards on offense by halftime. That showed a lot, considering it came into this game averaging just 329.2 yards a game. The third quarter was lackluster, but the opening half was impressive.