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Penn State Finds Right Fit At Linebacker

After weeks of rotating defensive players, coordinator Brent Pry finally seemed to settle on his desired starting 11 during Penn State’s 27-26 loss to Ohio State.

The defense, which looked shaky at best during the first month of the season, showed much improvement for the first 55 minutes of the game.

Although the unit gave up two back-breaking touchdowns late in the fourth quarter, it looked far different from the defense that struggled to put away Illinois and Appalachian State. Penn State allowed fewer than 400 yards of offense and only 27 points. Prior to those two touchdowns, Ohio State had only 228 total yards and 14 points.

Three linebackers – Jan Johnson, Cam Brown, and Koa Farmer – finally emerged as the rangy, sideline-to-sideline players who many expected them to be entering the season. The trio led Penn State in tackles in the game, registering 19 combined total tackles. Only one other linebacker even had a tackle.

Koa Farmer

Farmer’s speed was on display all night. The converted safety flew around the field for eight tackles after totaling only 10 during the first four games of the season. He also broke into the backfield for a key tackle-for-loss.

Jan Johnson

Johnson leads the team with 29 tackles. He looked most impressive during the White Out while directing the defense and making checks at the line of scrimmage to counter Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Ohio State neutralized this advantage during its two fourth quarter touchdown drives, as the Buckeyes overpowered the Nittany Lions with an up-tempo attack.

Cam Brown

Brown came onto the scene for the Nittany Lions during this game two years ago, when his blocked punt sprung the Nittany Lions to a comeback for the ages. With six tackles, a pass deflection, a near-sack, and what was almost another blocked punt, the junior re-asserted himself on Saturday.

At 6’5″ and 223 pounds, Brown is a nightmare to prepare for. His athleticism and long arms allow him to make plays against the pass or on special teams with deflected passes or dives at punters.


The Nittany Lions were a play or two away from winning this past weekend, and it shouldn’t have even been that close. Fortunately, the outlook for the rest of the season surprisingly looks much brighter after this game than before it, because at least now we know that this defense can step up and support the offense against quality opposition.

This team should be favored in the rest of its games this regular season, and if the Nittany Lions want to find themselves in the top four come December, they’ll need to avoid any other slip-ups the rest of the way.

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About the Author

Mitch Stewart

Mitch is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism from Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to his role with Onward State, Mitch talks about all the #sprots on Penn State's CommRadio. To contact Mitch, feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected], and if you really don't value your social media accounts, follow him as he yells on Twitter about Penn State basketball @mitchystew.

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