Nittany Lions Staying Level Headed After Sweeping Through Non-Conference Play
No. 5 Penn State rolled from the opening drive of its 56-0 win over Georgia State on Saturday — moving to 3-0 after a trio of easy wins.
The Nittany Lions are aware of their stature in the grand scheme of college football at the moment, but that isn’t the focus as tougher challenges are ahead in Big Ten play.
“We could definitely be something serious,” senior safety Marcus Allen said. “We just got to keep working hard and keep being honest with ourselves as far as corrections that we need to correct. That comes tomorrow, just got to be honest with everybody and just get to work — never, never get too hot. Stay level headed.”
Penn State has not run into many, if any, issues during its wins so far this season.
Offensively, the team is scoring an average of 47 points in its contests so far. Defensively, the Nittany Lions have two shutouts — its first time recording a pair of shutouts in a season since 2007 — and have given up just one touchdown.
Overall, everything is clicking.
“I just like the chemistry we got, how we’re playing,” redshirt sophomore defensive end Shareef Miller said. “We’re feeding off each other, so that’s real good.”
One of the biggest factors in Penn State’s ability to put up such higher-scoring games comes from the defense forcing turnovers and giving the offense great field position.
Of Penn State’s nine forced turnovers this season, five came Saturday against Georgia State.
“We preached on that all training camp,” Miller said. “In the offseason, we were like ‘we need more takeaways.’ We get three-and-outs and stuff like that, but we want to be a defense that gets takeaways. That’s the main goal.”
Compared to previous years, the Nittany Lions have increased depth to fall back on.
Head coach James Franklin has preached about his team’s “two-deep” and “three-deep” qualities at many positions, but that depth must start to show if injuries start creeping up — like it did today after starting defensive end Torrence Brown was carted off the field.
“I don’t know anything about his injury, but [Brown] went down. A lot of younger guys got to step up. We’re about to go into Big Ten play,” Miller said. “I think they did real well tonight. I’m real excited and happy for them, but they got to pick it up.”
No matter how good the Nittany Lions have looked on the field so far this year, the fact of the matter is they have played teams that have combined for just two wins (both against FCS opponents) in their eight games so far this year.
For Franklin, there is still a lot to work on if Penn State is going to reach its potential.
“You’d love to see a little bit more sacks,” Franklin said. “On offense, I think we’ve got to consistently got to be able to run the ball a little bit better. We got to be able to sustain our blocks longer. And then special teams, I think we just need to continue to refine what we’re already doing.”