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Badgers prepare to face QB they recruited in Indiana's Jack Tuttle

Badgers prepare to face QB they recruited in Indiana's Jack Tuttle

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Indiana Football

Indiana quarterback Jack Tuttle warms up before a game at Nebraska last season. Tuttle is expected to make his first collegiate start Saturday against UW. 

After making another big play in a season full of them, Indiana University quarterback Michael Penix Jr.’s stellar year ended abruptly.

Penix ran out of bounds after keeping an option run last week against Maryland, tearing his ACL in the process. He was in obvious pain, the sounds of which were picked up by TV cameras in the empty stadium. The gut punch of Penix’s injury was felt not only by the No. 10 Hoosiers (5-1), but by college football fans across the nation who just lost one of the most exciting players to watch this season.

“Having Mike go down is a crusher to the team, for sure, because Mike’s been through so much,” running back Stevie Scott III said Tuesday. “He helped this team win in so many ways. It’s a sad, sad feeling and my heart breaks for Mike because he’s been working hard this whole offseason. He wanted to play a full season with us and get us to what we have been trying to get to, a Big Ten Championship.”

The sympathy Indiana’s team feels for Penix had to be compartmentalized quickly, though. The Hoosiers travel to Camp Randall Stadium for Saturday’s game against No. 18 University of Wisconsin (2-1), which is coming off a bye week and looking to rebound after a tough loss at Northwestern two weeks ago.

With Penix out, Indiana turns to Jack Tuttle, a former four-star recruit with scholarship offers that included Alabama, LSU, Southern Cal and UW. Tuttle chose Utah out of high school, but transferred to Indiana after one semester with the Utes. Tuttle completed all five of his passes against the Terrapins last week, but the Hoosiers mostly ran the ball with him under center.

“Jack Tuttle is a special player, too. I know that he has not played a lot here, but he has a big-time arm and has tremendous football instincts and football IQ. He is extremely bright, but his greatest quality is his work ethic. He was the first guy to our walk-through this weekend and was doing drops on air. He did not even know if he was going to play a snap. As you could tell, when he entered the game, he was ready,” said Indiana coach Tom Allen, who has his team ranked in the top 10 of the AP Top 25 for the first time since the late 1960s.

Tuttle doesn’t present the dual-threat ability nor the mobility in the pocket Penix does, but Tuttle has a variety of weapons to work with to keep the Hoosiers dangerous. Scott is the reigning Big Ten offensive player of the week after scoring three touchdowns against Maryland, and he was a key factor in the team’s use of the Wildcat formation in the red zone.

Receiver Ty Fryfogle is having an All-Big Ten season, leading the conference in receiving yards (652) and receiving touchdowns (seven), while fellow receiver Whop Philyor (367 yards, two TDs) and tight end Peyton Hendershot (143, three) are threats as well.

“We are excited for Jack. Obviously, not the circumstances that you would want but we had a lot of confidence in Jack. He works really hard. He prepares his tail off. He has a lot of talent and he is ready,” Indiana offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan said. “He did a good job Saturday when he came in the game. He executed and did the things that we asked him to and helped our team win. We have a lot of confidence and faith in Jack and we are excited for him to have that opportunity. And we know that he will do a great job.”

Under Sheridan, a first-year OC, the Hoosiers rank third in the conference at 32.8 points per game. Indiana sits in second place in the Big Ten East Division, but if East-leading Ohio State has either of its next two games canceled or loses its next two games, Indiana can still represent the division in the Big Ten title game.

The Badgers defense — which leads the FBS in scoring defense (9 points per game allowed) and total defense (218.5 yards per game allowed) and ranks second in passing yards allowed (129.5 per game) — won’t have much tape to study to prepare for Tuttle. But UW defenders believe they’ll be tested by the Hoosiers’ backup.

“I don’t think it’s going to change too much. Obviously without Penix, we’re going to have to prepare for Tuttle to play, so we’re going to try to see what we think might be different with the offense with him in the game,” senior outside linebacker Noah Burks said.

“Overall, they’ve got a bunch of great athletes out on the field. We’ll come up with a game plan and stick to it.”

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