Indiana scored its first win over a top-10 opponent in 33 years by letting its opponent score.
Up 21-20 with under two minutes left, No. 8 Penn State forced a turnover on downs deep in Indiana territory, and with the Hoosiers down to only one timeout, the Nittany Lions could have used up most or all of the clock. But Devyn Ford raced untouched toward the end zone and, realizing his mistake a split second too late, fell in for a touchdown and a 28-20 lead.
Indiana then proceeded to drive 75 yards, scoring with 22 seconds left and converting the tying two-point attempt on a nifty Michael Penix Jr. run.
Indiana coach Tom Allen acknowledged that the Hoosiers wanted Ford to score.
"We have a signal to our defense to let the opposing team score," he said. "So we made that call. I was surprised. I was hoping he wouldn't go down at the 1-yard line."
Penn State coach James Franklin said the plan was to stop short of the goal line.
"We went through that situation this week [in practice]," he said, "and we went through that situation on the sideline, and obviously we could've handled it better. What we wanted to do was get as much as you can and get down."
The tying drive was the Hoosiers' longest of the day. Penix's previous 10 pass attempts before the drive had resulted in just one completion and two sacks.
"It gives you tremendous confidence, when you come back like we did," Allen said. "Just think about the whole sequence of events that happened there at the end, late in the fourth quarter. Since I've been here, we found ways to lose those types of games. This game, we found a way to win. That's why it's so powerful to have that kind of finish and just to find a way to win."
Before the game could go to overtime, however, Penn State was gifted a lifeline, recovering a botched squib kick attempt at the IU 49. The Nittany Lions quickly gained 8 yards, but Jordan Stout's 57-yard field goal attempt came up just short. Once in overtime, Penn State scored on a 9-yard pass from Sean Clifford to Parker Washington, then Indiana responded in kind with a 9-yarder from Penix to Whop Philyor.
Allen then elected to end the game with a two-point conversion attempt. Penix scrambled to his left and leaped toward the end zone pylon. It was called a successful conversion on the field. On replay, it appeared the ball had hit out of bounds before it touched the pylon, but it was inconclusive whether it had crossed the plane of the goal line first. Upon further review, the call stood.
That the game was close at all was due to an opportunistic Hoosiers team taking advantage of uncharacteristic Penn State mistakes. The Nittany Lions lost three first-half turnovers and committed 10 penalties, and kicker Jake Pinegar missed two field goals after missing only one in all of 2019. Penn State outgained Indiana, 488 yards to 211, but the Hoosiers made far fewer devastating mistakes.
"They played well, and we didn't," Franklin said. "Not a good combination."
It was a great combination for the Hoosiers, who hadn't beaten a top-10 team since Oct. 10, 1987, against Ohio State. They had come agonizingly close in recent years, losing by a touchdown or less to such a team four times in the past five years.
"One play to win it," Allen said in reference to the two-point conversion try. "We've been close, and I'm sick and tired of being close. I just decided, 'We're going.'"