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Penn State Defense Shows Vast Improvement In Tackling Against Kent State

No. 11 Penn State took down Kent State 63-10 thanks to a dynamic offense and solid defensive effort on Saturday afternoon.

The Nittany Lions showed improvement in many areas, but the team’s tackling on Saturday afternoon was much better than it was in victories over Appalachian State and Pitt.

Head coach James Franklin said that his team was laying far too many shoulder-to-shoulder hits in the open field when simply wrapping up the ball carrier would get the job done. This wasn’t an issue in Saturday’s game, as the defense put together its most consistent performance of the year.

As a team, Penn State tallied 71 tackles on Saturday, 15 of which came in the backfield for a loss of yardage. The front seven in particular recorded seven(!) sacks throughout the game, including a team-leading two from true freshman Jayson Oweh and established starter Shareef Miller.

Tariq Castro-Fields has played his way into Penn State’s starting lineup during the team’s non-conference slate of games.

Cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields made three tackles on the afternoon, but none were more impressive than the one he made early in the game on the sideline. The receiver he was guarding made a catch after running a well-executed comeback route, but No. 5 wrapped him up immediately and smashed him down to the turf for a short gain.

Castro-Fields was satisfied with the defense’s performance, particularly after his position group’s preparation for the game.

“I think we did way better tackling,” he said. “I know that’s something we emphasized [at practice]. As far as corners, we did a lot of drills tackling-wise, so I think we did [improve during the game].”

No. 5 praised Cam Brown in particular and the defensive line as a unit for the job they did to suppress Kent State’s high-tempo offense. He said that cornerbacks’ lives are much easier when the front seven is able to get to the quarterback and disrupt an offense’s momentum.

Defensive captain Nick Scott thought his team did well in the tackling department throughout Saturday’s game and limiting Kent State’s explosive plays.

“I thought we did a good job,” Scott said. “We did a good job of getting guys on the ground, when necessary. We limited their explosive plays, I think we only held them to 215 yards of total offense. We did a real good job in the run game, held them to 40 yards, which is a testament to our tackling.”

Yetur Gross-Matos continued the strong start to his season with two tackles-for-loss and a sack against Kent State.

The Fairfax, VA native said that defensive end Shareef Miller and the rest of the defensive line stood out to him during Saturday’s game and was impressed by the unit’s ability to get to the quarterback throughout.

Running back Miles Sanders also praised Penn State’s defense for the improvement it made and said the group gaining valuable experience is a big reason for the improvement.

“Way better,” Sanders said of the team’s tackling. “The whole defense is doing a hell of a job. We’re a young team, so a lot of guys are gaining way more experience and getting more comfortable.”

The defense will try to build off of Saturday’s strong performance when No. 11 Penn State (3-0) opens Big Ten play with a road game against Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday. 

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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