Cabinda Carries On “Linebacker U” Tradition With Commanding Performance Anchoring The Middle
Sophomore middle linebacker Jason Cabinda made his collegiate debut five games into Penn State’s 2014 season, a 29-6 Homecoming loss to Northwestern that saw the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder record eight total tackles (three solo). It was apparent from that point that Cabinda possesed a characteristic not typically found in freshmen: leadership.
Cabinda seemed to be in line for a redshirt last year, but a wrist injury to Nyeem Wartman-White forced him into the lineup that week against the Wildcats. Ironically, another injury to Wartman-White, this time of the season-ending variety, opened the door for Cabinda to take on even bigger leadership role early in his career. And boy, did he ever deliver.
Cabinda’s Week Five performance in the Nittany Lions’ nail-biting 20-14 win over Army West Point this past weekend showed just how much the Flemington, N.J. native has developed over the past year. Cabinda led all players with 14 total tackles (six solo), a career-high. From the looks of it, that gaudy stat sheet wasn’t enough to satisfy No. 40 as he added two sacks — the second sealing the game for Penn State — and a forced fumble against the Black Knights.
Cabinda now leads Penn State’s defense in three categories with 37 total tackles (14 solo), four pass breakups, and four passes defended.
Cabinda offered some insight into his thought process during Army’s last drive after Saturday’s contest, courtesy of GoPSUsports.com. “It was on us at that point, 20-14, if they scored a touchdown and kicked the extra point that’s basically the game there. So I think it was awesome to get that stop…”
Cabinda’s presence in the middle has provided much-needed comfort and consistency for a defensive unit plagued by injuries to key starters like Wartman-White, Brandon Bell, Jordan Lucas, and Marcus Allen.
Another important aspect of Cabinda’s game is his versatility. Starting the season on the outside, Cabinda won the confidence of Defensive Coordinator Bob Shoop in the scramble to replace Wartman-White at the Mike, a position that requires a strong vocal presence.
Those leadership intangibles proved vital in the Nittany Lions’ quest to slow down Army’s unorthodox triple option offense. While defending such an offense calls for a heavy emphasis on assignment football rather than calling out keys and adjusting pre-snap, Cabinda was nonetheless a huge part of Penn State’s efforts to corral the Black Knights’ rushing attack.
Cabinda’s confidence was beneficial in more ways than one, as it helped to free up fellow ‘backers Troy Reeder and Manny Bowen for a combined 10 tackles on yet another soggy afternoon in Beaver Stadium.
Penn State’s hardest-hitter knows he’ll play a big role in the Nittany Lions’ fortunes the rest of this season and beyond, but if Cabinda keeps up this kind of production, he could find his name next to the all-time greats who have forged their legacies at “Linebacker U.”