Big Ten Notebook | Indiana QB Michael Penix Jr. plans to return to field this season

Penix Jr. has suffered right sternoclavicular and two ACL injuries since he arrived at Indiana in 2018.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. prepares to throw the ball during a football game between No. 18 Iowa and No. 17 Indiana at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers 34-6. Penix threw for 156 yards.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. has dealt with injuries throughout his college career. In his three years as a Hoosier, Penix has suffered season-ending injuries every fall.

Penix sustained season-ending ACL injuries in both the 2018 and 2020 seasons. In 2019, Penix hurt his right sternoclavicular joint, ending his year. The sternoclavicular joint connects the clavicle to the sternum.

Now, Penix is dealing with an AC joint ailment in his left throwing shoulder, per Sports Illustrated. He started the Hoosiers’ first five games of the season — including Indiana’s 34-6 blowout loss to Iowa at Kinnick Stadium Sept. 4. Since then, Penix has missed Indiana’s last five games.

Penix is determined to return to the field again this year and avoid ending a fourth consecutive season with an injury.

“I’ve been working extremely hard to try to get back on the field as soon as I can, but I’m making sure I follow all the safety precautions that the trainers are giving me, too,” Penix said on his Nov. 2 podcast with Hoosier linebacker Micah McFadden and Sports Illustrated reporter Tom Brew. “That’s the plan I’m working toward, to play again this year, and I’m doing a lot every day to make sure I can get back to where I want to be.”

Indiana has just two teams left on its schedule: Minnesota and Purdue. The Hoosiers will play the Golden Gophers at home and the Boilermakers on the road. 

If Penix is to get back on the field this season, he has two weeks to get healthy enough to play because Indiana is not bowl eligible this season. The Hoosiers’ overall record is 2-8 in 2021.

“We’re going to continue to evaluate that,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said Monday of Penix’s health and ability to play. “I hope so. But I don’t know. Obviously, that window is closing with each passing day . . . Obviously, he practiced last week and see how much more he’ll be able to practice this week and see how he’s feeling. Want him to feel great about it and want him to be 100 percent ready to go if that’s the direction we go.”

While Penix has been hurt, the Hoosiers have played backup quarterbacks Jack Tuttle and Donaven McCulley. Tuttle is a junior and McCulley is a true freshman.

The Hoosiers’ production in the pass game hasn’t dropped off much in Penix’s absence, statistically. Penix threw for 939 yards, four touchdowns, and seven interceptions in Indiana’s first five games. In the five contests Penix hasn’t participated in, Tuttle and McCulley have accumulated a combined 881 yards, four touchdowns, and five interceptions.

Penix, who has played just 20 college games,  still wants to compete again this season — even if the Hoosiers aren’t bowl eligible and their offensive production hasn’t lacked without him.

“It’s obviously hard as a football player growing up and always playing football,” Penix said of his injuries in an interview with Sports Illustrated Oct. 6. “Not having that opportunity at the moment, it’s hard sometimes. It can be frustrating. But I feel like everything happens for a reason. I’m just going to attack my rehab, and whenever that opportunity comes up to play again, I take full advantage of it and I’ll come back healthy.”

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