Two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions meet Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Bloomington when Indiana opens its 112th season of Big Ten football by hosting Penn State. The game marks not only the conference opener, but the first meeting between the two schools in the “Leaders” division, the new format created with the addition of Nebraska and a league title contest in December.
The Hoosiers (1-3) are coming off an embarrassing 24-21 loss to North Texas of the Sun Belt conference in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates. First-year head coach Kevin Wilson has openly questioned his upperclassmen’s leadership and effort, vowing to continue a trend of playing younger players in order to speed their development. Thus far, 16 true freshman have seen action.
Though starting quarterback Ed Wright-Baker was pulled last week, he appears to have retained the starter’s job. He’ll be aided by the expected return of senior wide receiver Demarlo Belcher, who missed last week’s contest with an undisclosed injury. Belcher’s senior year has gotten off to a slow start, with just 14 catches and one touchdown thus far.
IU will hope to jump-start the ground attack that found little success last week against North Texas, a squad statistically rated amongst the worst in stopping the run. Freshman DeAngelo Roberts struggled, a week after gaining over 100 yards, and may see his time split with Matt Perez and Stephen Houston.
Meanwhile, Penn State (3-1), under legendary head coach Joe Paterno, who’s in his 46thyear at the helm of the Nittany Lions, has a two game winning streak following their only loss to top ranked Alabama 27-11. Paterno is the all-time FBS leader in wins and has a 403-136-3 overall record.
Penn State will rely on steady quarterback Matt McGloin, who’s thrown for 421 yards on 35-54 passing with three touchdowns, and running back Silas Redd, 62 carries for 303 yards, a 4.9 average, and four touchdowns. McGloin’s favorite target is Derrick Moye, who’s hauled in 20 catches and two touchdowns.
The Nittany Lions defense will challenge the inexperienced Hoosiers front line. Penn State is led by a pair of defensive tackles, Devon Still and Jordan Hill.
Saturday’s game marks the first of back-to-back home conference games. IU hosts Illinois next week.
• Safety Mark Murphy became the first true freshman since Tracy Porter (2004) to return an interception for a score when he raced 31 yards to paydirt at North Texas.
• Indiana’s defense has scored twice this season – Lawrence Barnett 54-yard fumble return vs. Virginia.
• IU scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and is outscoring its opponents 52-21 in the final stanza this year.
• Sophomore Jamonne Chester caught eight balls for 92 yards and true freshman Cody Latimer hauled in his first career touchdown, a 44-yarder, in their first career starts.
• Safety Chris Adkins recorded a team-high 10 tackles, the third double-digit tackle effort of his career.
• The Hoosiers defense recorded three takeaways and share fifth in the Big Ten with eight in 2011.
• Indiana’s 1991 Copper Bowl championship team is celebrating its 20th reunion this weekend.
• Hoosiers defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen was named the bowl’s defensive most valuable player.
• IU’s staff and players will “go pink” in support of breast cancer awareness on Saturday (more info on page 3).
• Former football Hoosiers Trent Green (1990-92) and James Sniadecki (1966-68) will be recognized at halftime as two of the six newest members inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame.
• Indiana has never defeated Penn State. PSU has won all 14 meetings, including five in Bloomington.
• The Nittany Lions earned a 41-24 victory at FedExField, home of the Washington Redskins, on Nov. 20, 2010.
• Hoosiers sophomore defensive end Javon Cornley’s brother, Jamelle, played forward on PSU’s basketball team from 2006-09. Jamelle is the program’s fourth all-time rebounder (755) and fifth all-time scorer (1,579).