Defense Reigns Supreme As Penn State Blanks Indiana
In a season where Penn State’s ever fluctuating offensive unit can’t seem to find its identity, Bob Shoop and his defense serve as the team’s lone constant. Regardless of what happens on the other side of the ball, be it positive or negative, Shoop’s unit can be counted on to produce week in and week out. Against an Indiana team that nearly defeated No. 1 Ohio State last weekend, Penn State’s defense did just that, blanking an offense that posted 27 points against the Buckeyes in a lopsided victory that seemed sealed from the start.
Quarterback Zander Diamont, the man who nearly vaulted his team past the reining national champions, came out guns blazing against the Nittany Lions as he took a number of shots downfield in the game’s early moments. Those deep attempts went to no avail, however, as a result of the resounding effort shown by Penn State’s defensive secondary.
“Our motto is NTO: No Takeoff, and like I said, we played with a lot of confidence back there today,” safety Marcus Allen said postgame. “Me and Jordan Lucas always talk about playing with a certain swagger back there, and not allowing anything deep. Each week when we practice, we want to take steps forward, making sure we focus on making calls and just getting the finer points down. Today was the product of all the work we’ve put in.”
Defensive end Garrett Sickels, whose bruising sack ultimately relegated Diamont to the sideline, shared a similar sentiment. The common theme amongst the team’s defensive leaders was successful game-planning, proving that Shoop and his defense will be prepared to face anything, regardless of the opponent’s skill set.
“Our preparation this week allowed us to be familiar with what Indiana was gonna show us, and that helped us succeed today,” Sickels said postgame. “We prepared more for Diamont, so when the backup came in we didn’t really know what he was capable of. A big thing for us has been endurance, especially against a team that runs as up-tempo as Indiana. We ran a lot of plays in practice this week, and were just ready for what they were gonna bring.”
Indiana was certainly without some of its top weapons, including quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard, but that didn’t deter Penn State’s defensive unit in terms of preparation throughout the week.
“We just have to go out and practice, and let the coaches worry about business like that,” Lucas said regarding the injury statuses of both Howard and Sudfeld throughout the week. “At practice, Sudfeld isn’t out there, Howard isn’t out there, so when it comes to game time, we watch enough film where we analyze them, so we know what they can do. If they’re playing, they’re playing. In practice, you can’t duplicate those players.”
A common trait shared amongst members of Penn State’s defense is attention to detail in preparation. Despite uncertainty surrounding the statuses of some key Indiana players, the Lions were able to remain stout and confident, something that showed throughout the game.
It’s traits like those that will become increasingly important as Penn State prepares to face Ohio State next Saturday in one of the marquee Big Ten matchups of the season. If the Lions want any shot against the Buckeyes, they’ll have to showcase the same intensity both on the field, as well as on the practice field in preparation.