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Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs Dominate Line Of Scrimmage Against Purdue

Penn State football’s defensive line put together one of the most impressive single-game performances by any defensive front in the nation on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions totaled 10 sacks in their 35-7 victory over Purdue at Beaver Stadium. As the offense consistently struggled to get much of anything going for most of the second half, Penn State’s defensive line controlled the tempo and flow of the game by consistently disrupting the Boilermakers’ passing game, but the unit was far from one-dimensional.

As a team, Purdue finished the day with -19 rushing yards. King Doerue led the charge with 26 yards on 11 carries, and Jackson Anthrop managed to post a pair of 10-yard runs. However, quarterback Jack Plummer’s -65 yards on 14 carries quite literally put the Boilermakers’ rushing total in the negatives.

Getting sandwiched by Shaka Toney and Yetur Gross-Matos probably doesn’t feel great. (Photo: Matt Sniegowski | Onward State)

“Defensively, we’re doing some special things right now,” head coach James Franklin said postgame. “It starts up front. When your defensive line can stop the run, pressure the quarterback, get 13 tackles-for-loss and 10 sacks, and hold someone to -19 yards rushing, we’re playing championship-level defense.”

A big part of the defensive line’s suffocating performance was how well Shaka Toney played. Although Toney made just four tackles, three of them were sacks — a similar breakout-type performance to the one he had against Indiana last season.

Toney’s excellent speed and ability to shed blocks both contributed to his big day at Beaver Stadium. However, Franklin noted a different part of his game that may get overlooked when he’s frantically chasing helpless quarterbacks as they try to scramble away from danger.

“Not only does he have great quickness and speed, but he also is a very, very smart football player. He’s one of the more cerebral players we have,” the head coach said. “And he’s a guy that’s able to anticipate and combine his athletic ability to his mental approach to the game. I do think he set the tone — when you can beat someone like that, it gets in your head.”

Toney and Jack Plummer got to know each other very well on Saturday. (Photo: Matt Sniegowski | Onward State)

Toney is one part of the defensive line, which is affectionately known as the Wild Dogs. Led by position coach Sean Spencer, the Wild Dogs are one of the closest, tightest-knit groups of players in all of college football.

Whether they’re going out to dinner, seeing a movie, or just hanging out, the Wild Dogs spend every day together. Toney used the word “brotherhood” to describe the group, and one literal way they do this is through their dog-tag routine.

All of the Wild Dogs have their own personalized dog tags, and before every game, all of those are thrown into a bucket. Each Wild Dog then pulls out a dog tag, and that’s who they’ll play for during that contest.

Sean Spencer unveiled his new Wild Dogs ink at Penn State’s media day in August. (Photo: Mikey Mandarino | Onward State)

The idea was inspired by Carl Ohlson, Penn State’s assistant athletic director for performance psychology who served in the military and earned the Lieutenant Colonel ranking before his retirement in 2014.

“In the military, they do that. Carl Ohlson talked to us about how meaningful [dog tags] are,” Toney said. “They identify who you are, and that’s really your brother in the military. We feel the same way here. We salute and appreciate them, and we don’t mean any disrespect in any way — we feel that our relationship is just as powerful as theirs.

“It’s all about us, and our brotherhood is at an all-time high right now, he added. “If it’s one of us, it’s all of us — there’s no individuals right now. It makes you want to player harder. You look at the guy across from you and know what he’s gone through. We play for each other.”

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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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