Redshirt freshman quarterback Michael Penix Jr. enjoyed a successful starting debut, lifting Indiana to a 34-24 win over Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on Saturday.
Penix, who beat out incumbent starter Peyton Ramsey in fall camp, spread the ball to seven different receivers, completing 26 of 40 passes for 326 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Penix added a team-high 67 yards on seven carries as the Hoosiers won for the 14th time in their last 16 season openers.
Sophomore running back Stevie Scott III had 48 yards rushing and two scores for Indiana, while senior receiver Nick Westbrook had three catches for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Scott’s second touchdown run and Indiana’s subsequent two-point conversion put the Hoosiers ahead 31-17 with 13:47 remaining in the game. Ball State cut Indiana’s lead to 31-24 with 6:28 left on a 36-yard scoring pass from quarterback Drew Plitt to receiver Yo’Heinz Tyler, but the Hoosiers answered with a seven-play, 38-yard drive. Indiana senior kicker Logan Justus capped the drive with a career-long 50-yard field goal, his fourth of the game, putting the Hoosiers up 34-24 with 2:15 left.
Indiana clinched the win when defensive back Jaylin Williams intercepted a Plitt pass with 1:14 remaining.
Penix gave Indiana an early 10-3 lead, connecting with Westbrook on a 75-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left in the first quarter for his second career TD pass and first of the season.
Ball State answered when sophomore cornerback Amechi Uzodinma II intercepted a Penix pass at the Hoosiers’ 45-yard line and the Cardinals answered with a five-play drive culminating in a 1-yard scoring run by running back Caleb Huntley with 13:58 in the second quarter.
Penix threw another interception in the following drive before settling down, leading the Hoosiers on a pair of field goal drives to allow Indiana to take a 16-10 lead into halftime. Justus connected on all three of the first-half field goal attempts for the Hoosiers, including a 49-yarder just before the end of the half.
Indiana extended its lead to 23-10 in the third quarter when Scott scored on a 4-yard touchdown run. Ball State cut Indiana’s lead to 23-17 later in the third quarter, when running back Walter Fletcher bounced off a missed tackle and scored on a 45-yard catch and run from Plitt with 8:34 left in the quarter.
Plitt finished 26 of 41 for 298 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
—Field Level Media