Indiana gets rare Big Ten road win, on doorstep of bowl eligibility

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – For the first time since 2007, Indiana is one win from bowl eligibility before Halloween.

A late Reese Taylor interception sealed a 34-28 win, in what had been a back-and-forth affair across 3 1/2 fraught hours in suburban Washington D.C. Here are three reasons why:

For subscribers:IU can dream unusually big tonight, and Peyton Ramsey is a big part of the reason why

Indiana Hoosiers running back Stevie Scott III (8) reacts after scoring a first quarter touchdown of the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

Hoosiers hang on admirably

Injuries, penalties and big plays mounted against Indiana on Saturday, but the Hoosiers didn’t budge. For that, they moved just one win from bowl eligibility, the earliest in a season they’ve reached five wins since 2007.

Michael Penix’s exit could have deep-sixed IU offensively, but Peyton Ramsey dug in and handed the Hoosiers hard yards when they needed them. Stevie Scott tore off a handful of critical second-half runs. A patchwork offensive line made mistakes but played through them.

Defensively, Kane Wommack got his unit organized after a rough first half. The Hoosiers allowed just one score in the game’s last two quarters, and only 144 total offensive yards. Indiana got better pressure on quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome, and improved against the Terrapins’ explosive plays. Juwan Burgess’ force-and-recover fumble late in the fourth quarter set Indiana up to salt the game away.

It wasn’t always pretty. For IU, Big Ten road wins rarely are. But despite Penix’s injury, and a number of more minor health problems on defense, the Hoosiers dug in and found a way to win the kind of game they’ve spent the last two seasons losing in frustrating fashion.

Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) throws from the pocket during the second quarter of the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium.

Penix goes down

Appearing to come up wobbly after a scramble on the last play of the first quarter, Michael Penix eventually gave way to Peyton Ramsey, heading to the injury tent and then the locker room. He never returned, with his injury undisclosed as of the end of the game.

Ramsey performed dutifully in his absence, throwing for 193 yards and rushing for 46 more. He marshaled an offense that wasn’t quite as explosive but still managed multiple important, long touchdown drives.

But Penix’s departure, coupled with Whop Philyor’s unusually quiet afternoon (two catches, six yards), robbed the Hoosiers of a lot of the downfield threat their offense relied upon through the first half of this season.

Indiana can’t contain Leake

Javon Leake, statistically one of the most explosive offensive players in the Big Ten this season, lived up to his billing Saturday.

Leake entered play averaging 9.5 yards per carry and while he didn’t quite manage that, he still spent the afternoon running around an Indiana defense that struggled to corral him effectively. A 60-yard second-quarter touchdown run was the big highlight, but the Terrapins got Leake loose on the edges and up the middle. He finished with a career-high 158 yards rushing, with two touchdowns.

His performance was particularly important for Maryland with Anthony McFarland sidelined through injury. Leake kept the Terrapins ahead of the chains on offense, and kept IU on its heels for all four quarters. But his late fumble helped Indiana ice the game.

Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.