Penn State Linebackers Step Up When Needed In White Out Win
Penn State football hardly put together its best defensive performance of the year in Saturday’s nerve-wracking victory over Michigan.
In fact, Brent Pry’s unit was averaging 259.7 yards allowed per game heading in to the White Out. It gave up 417 yards to the Wolverines. The defense also allowed 141 rushing yards — 81 of them to Zach Charbonnet — and three scores on the ground. If you’ve been paying attention to the Nittany Lions this year, you’ll know that run defense has definitely been a major strength of the team.
Penn State allowed 53.8 rushing yards per game and just one touchdown on the ground throughout its first six games of the season. While Saturday’s performance clearly wasn’t one to write home about, the group definitely stepped up when they needed to.
Two players who were constant factors throughout the night were Micah Parsons and Cam Brown. Parsons led the team with 14 total tackles while Brown finished just behind him with 10 of his own, along with a team-high two quarterback hurries. The pair was key in making open-field tackles against an offense that was focused on throwing short passes and letting receivers and running backs make plays in space.
Franklin described Penn State’s victory pretty accurately in his postgame press conference Saturday night.
“Guys made plays when they needed to,” Franklin said. “It was a chess match all night long, but at the end of the day, our guys were able to step up and make plays.”
The Nittany Lions clearly made plays when they needed to, as the game came all the way down to a goal line stand on 4th down with the ball at Penn State’s own three. Parsons could’ve done without the drama in the final few minutes, but he’s happy with the win nonetheless.
“I didn’t want the game to be that close at all,” Parsons said. “I was definitely upset we gave up 21 points, but we’re going to fix some things at our meetings tomorrow.”
While it was definitely a nail-biter of a final defensive possession, the sophomore linebacker added how the team has plenty of experience with those situations.
“It was a four-minute drill. We practice that every Tuesday,” Parsons said. “Coach Franklin makes sure we practice those situations and we knew we had to get the ball back to the offense and finish on our terms, which we did tonight.”
While it wasn’t a banner performance for them, Saturday’s victory proves just how talented Penn State’s defense truly is just a bit more than halfway through the regular season. Many teams would be pleased with allowing 21 points to the No. 16 team in the country, but the Nittany Lions — a unit which hadn’t allowed more than 13 points in a game coming to this point — this wasn’t necessarily up to their standards.
No matter what the stats say, Penn State’s defense remains as one of the team’s best attributes.
“I think you guys can see it. We can feel it — this brotherhood that we have right now on the defensive side of the ball is tremendous,” Parsons said. “Every great fight ends up on the ropes, but it’s how you fight back that matters.”
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