Closing in on completing its twentieth football season as a member of the Big Ten, Penn State has done many things within that time period, but losing to Indiana is not one of them.
The two squads have met fifteen times, and regardless of location, weather, or overall condition of the program, the final result was the same each game and very few of the contests were even close. Tomorrow at Beaver Stadium, the Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2) will attempt to continue this unbeaten streak against the Hoosiers (4-6, 2-4) that dates back to November 6, 1993.
Coming off a controversial and frustrating loss to Nebraska, a home game against this Indiana team could be exactly what the doctor ordered for a Nittany Lions team looking to get back on track and guarantee a winning record this season. Still, while past history suggests this will not be much of a challenge, this is not your awful Hoosiers team of 2011 that finished the season 1-11. The Hoosiers already have two conference wins and just missed beating Michigan State and an undefeated Ohio State earlier this year. They have been playing the Nittany Lions tougher over the past few seasons and will look to end the winless streak tomorrow.
Let’s take a look at some of the important Indiana players who will attempt to pull off the upset tomorrow:
Cameron Coffman #2 — Three quarterbacks have seen action for the Hoosiers throughout the season. Tomorrow, it will be this sophomore signal-caller getting the start. Coffman’s numbers are impressive, completing 62% of his passes on the season and throwing for 12 touchdowns compared to 6 interceptions. He and his receivers could present a matchup problem for the Nittany Lions’ banged up and potentially depleted secondary.
Cody Latimer #3 — Speaking of receivers, this sophomore from Dayton, Ohio will be one of Coffman’s favorite targets tomorrow. Latimer has over 700 yards on the season so far along with 5 touchdown receptions. He is averaging 81 yards per game over the past three contests including a 3 touchdown performance against Iowa two weeks ago.
Stephen Houston #12 — This junior running back has 9 touchdowns on the season and is also a threat out of the backfield as a receiver, finding the end zone 3 times on receiving touchdowns as well. Last week, he was held to a season low 10 rushing yards against Wisconsin and has not scored yet in the month of November. The Nittany Lions will try to keep it that way tomorrow.
Larry Black Jr. #97 and Adam Replogle #98 — The Hoosiers have 24 sacks so far on the season, and their two interior linemen are a big reason why they have been so successful. Black and Replogle each have four sacks apiece and have also combined for 18 tackles for loss. Bill O’Brien made it clear in his Tuesday press conference that he is very concerned about facing them.
David Cooper #42 — The man in the middle on the Hoosiers defense, this sophomore linebacker is second on the team with 71 tackles. He also has 2 sacks and a fumble forced on the year and will be looking to stop Zack Zwinak from having another fantastic game on the ground.
A few things to look for on the Penn State side of things:
Running game — There are two big stories here. Zwinak is searching for his third straight 100-yard game on the ground while Bill Belton is just searching for multiple carries for the first time in three games. In the second half last week, the Nittany Lions got away from the power running game at times and will look to get back to it tomorrow.
The Secondary — This is a bad week for an already thin position group to be dealing with injuries. For all of the problems that the Hoosiers have endured, they boast a good air attack with 21 touchdown passes on the season. Stephen Obeng-Agyapong is playing through a shoulder injury while Malcolm Willis’ status is up in the air with a knee issue. Jake Fagnano and Ryan Keiser will likely see more time if Willis cannot suit up.
Sam Ficken — The much-maligned kicker early in the year has really turned his season around. Ficken has made his last 6 field goal attempts and is 8 for his last 9 overall with the last miss coming on a kick that was partially blocked against Iowa. He will try to keep the streak alive tomorrow afternoon.
Milestone Watch — Two of the driving forces behind the Nittany Lions offense could re-write the record books at Beaver Stadium tomorrow. Allen Robinson just needs a catch to break the single-season record of 63 receptions by Bobby Engram and O.J. McDuffie. Matt McGloin needs 3 touchdown passes to break Daryll Clark’s career mark of 43.
This game has the potential to feature some entertaining plays as two of the better passing offenses in the Big Ten do battle. The Hoosiers will try to use that strength to make things happen through the air against a depleted Nittany Lions secondary, but if the Blue and White avoid playing down to competition, their streak should be safe for another year.
By The Numbers: The Hoosiers have been scored on first in three straight games which could bode well for a Nittany Lions squad that has been on the board first in every game except the victory against Purdue.
Blast from the Past: One of the closer games in this series dominated by the Nittany Lions was a 22-18 victory in Bloomington in 2004 that snapped a five-game losing streak for Joe Paterno’s squad. With two minutes to go, the Hoosiers set up on the Nittany Lions 2-yard line. They would attempt to run the ball on four straight plays but could not find the end zone as Paul Posluszny, Calvin Lowry, and Cameron Wake all made big plays to keep Hoosiers running back Chris Taylor out of the end zone. The victory would be the start of an 8-game winning streak that carried over into the resurgent 2005 campaign.