COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Indiana's football season is not going as the Hoosiers had planned.
They were ranked 17th in the preseason Top 25, and now, with October winding down, they still haven't won a Big Ten game. The quarterback position — and not just the health of Michael Penix Jr. — remains a major issue heading into Saturday's matchup at Maryland.
There’s no indication Penix will return after missing two games with an injured throwing shoulder. His replacement, Jack Tuttle, injured his right foot on Indiana’s first possession last weekend against Ohio State.
Both are considered week to week.
That leaves Donaven McCulley, a true freshman who was supposed to redshirt, and walk-on Grant Gremel next on the depth chart. McCulley played three sports in high school and opened this season on the scout team to speed up the learning process.
“He didn’t sit around and play football in his offseason, he was playing other sports. That’s part of who he is and what makes him as athletic as he is,” coach Tom Allen said. “But it also created a situation where he did not have a lot of the rep base other guys may have."
The five teams that have beaten Indiana (2-5, 0-4) this season have a combined record of 31-4, and all five have been in the top 10 at some point. Maryland (4-3, 1-3) has also looked overmatched at times when facing tougher competition. The Terrapins lost 51-14 to Iowa and 66-17 to Ohio State.
With the top three teams in the Big Ten East ranked in the top eight nationally, games like this among the bottom teams in the division take on added importance as teams scramble to reach the six-win mark that assures bowl eligibility.
Part of the reason Indiana started the season ranked was because the Hoosiers had a successful 2020 campaign that resulted in an Outback Bowl appearance. Indiana beat Maryland 27-11 in late November.
“Just like last year, they do a lot of blitzes, they change the fronts up,” Terrapins quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa said. “They do different looks, disguises, to try to mess with the quarterback.”
Indiana’s defense had been pretty stout all season — until playing No. 5 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes scored 44 first-half points, more than the Hoosiers had allowed in 25 full games. The final tally, 54 points, was the most allowed by Indiana since a 55-52 loss to Rutgers on Oct. 17, 2015.
Allen challenged his team to focus on rebounding.
“There was a little hesitancy, I thought at some times, in our guys that I hadn’t seen out of them before, definitely haven’t seen it recently,” Allen said. “We obviously made corrections and press on. That was the challenge to our guys. We did not play at our standard without question, but we can’t let that last one affect the next one.”
STOPPING THE RUN
Maryland's defense has been a weakness at times, and the Terps allowed 326 yards rushing in a 34-16 loss to Minnesota last weekend.
Terrapins coach Michael Locksley expects Indiana to try to exploit Maryland's run defense as well.
“In baseball, if you can't hit the curveball, guess what you're going to see? You're going to see the curveball,” Locksley said. “I would expect with their quarterbacks being banged up, they're going to line up and say, ‘Let’s look and see what Minnesota did.'”
Peyton Hendershot became Indiana’s most prolific pass-catching tight end with five receptions last weekend.
He’s nearing two more milestones.
After surpassing Ted Boler’s reception mark, the fifth-year senior now needs 61 yards and four TD catches to break Bolser’s career marks in those categories, too.
Bolser caught 117 passes for 1,337 yards and 15 touchdowns from 2010-13. Hendershot starts this weekend with 119 catches, 1,277 yards and 12 scores.
This weekend is Maryland's Homecoming game, and the Terps will celebrate their 2001 ACC championship team. Locksley was a running backs coach for that team.
Follow Noah Trister at https://twitter.com/noahtrister
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