INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Stevie Scott III ran for two second-half touchdowns and Logan Justus made four field goals Saturday to help Indiana get past Ball State 34-24.
The Hoosiers have won 14 of their last 16 season openers.
Ball State has lost five of its last six overall and six straight against Big Ten foes and three in a row against the in-state Hoosiers.
Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. had a roller coaster day in his starting debut. He led the Hoosiers to a field goal on their first possession and hooked up with Nick Westbrook for a 75-yard touchdown on the second series.
Then things got rougher. Penix was picked off on each of his next two series and the Hoosiers didn’t reach the end zone again until Scott’s 4-yard TD plunge to open the third quarter. That made it 23-10.
Ball State answered with a 45-yard TD pass from Drew Plitt to Walter Fletcher.
Scott scored on a 2-yard run with 13:47 remaining and a 2-point conversion pass from David Ellis to Peyton Hendershot gave Indiana a 31-17 lead.
The Cardinals made it 31-24 on Yo’Heinz Tyler’s 36-yard touchdown catch with 6:28 left before Justus sealed the victory with his third career-long field goal of the game, a 50-yarder with 2:15 to go. Justus made a 48-yarder in the first quarter and a 49-yarder just before halftime.
Scott carried 19 times for 48 yards.
Indiana: The Hoosiers got what they needed — a win — but know they must make dramatic improvements before facing No. 5 Ohio State in two weeks.
Ball State: Plitt played well and the Cardinals were better than expected after winning only 10 games in coach Mike Neu’s first three seasons. And while they didn’t take advantage of all their opportunities, it was a promising start for Neu’s team.
Penix showed a little bit of everything Saturday.
At times, he looked picture perfect. At others, he made poor decisions and poor throws. And some dropped balls didn’t help.
He was 8 of 11 with 144 yards, one touchdown and one interception in the first quarter. The finally tally: 24 of 40, 326 yards, a second interception and seven carries for 67 yards.
Penix became the fourth Indiana freshman to top 300 yards in a single game and finished with the second-highest yards passing in a starting debut behind only Antwaan Randle El (386) in 1997.
Indiana: The Hoosiers intercepted Plitt with 1:14 to go, extending their streak of consecutive games with a turnover to 19 and their streak of consecutive games with an interception to 11. Indiana started Saturday with the nation’s second-longest streak of games with a turnover.
Ball State: Receiver Riley Miller had his six-game streak with a touchdown catch end.
Indiana: Westbrook had three receptions for 103 yards, Whop Philyor caught six passes for 66 yards and Hendershot had four catches for 69 yards.
Ball State: Plitt was 26 of 41 with 208 yards, two TDs and one interception in his first start as Ball State’s full-time starter. Caleb Huntley ran 22 times for 81 yards and one touchdown. Justin Hall had six catches for 39 yards.
Indiana: Opens its home schedule next Saturday against Eastern Illinois.
Ball State: Hosts Fordham next Saturday.