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Penn State’s Defense Holds Strong Despite Brutal Loss In Season Opener

Penn State football fell to Indiana 36-35 in an overtime heartbreaker in its season opener Saturday.

Despite giving up 36 points, Brent Pry’s defense held strong for the majority of the game. The unit came up with multiple stops throughout the game that gave opportunities to Kirk Ciarrocca’s offense.

The defense held Indiana to just 211 total yards of offense for the game, including just 87 yards in the first half. Overall, the group totaled three sacks, one interception, and one forced one fumble in what was a solid performance.

Michael Penix Jr. was held in check for most of the game, as he completed just 53% of his passes and totaled 170 passing yards.

Additionally, the Nittany Lions’ defense held Indiana running back Stevie Scott III to 20 carries for 57 yards (2.9 yards per carry).

Early in the first half, redshirt freshman cornerback Joey Porter Jr. came off the edge and sacked Penix to force a three and out.

“I was just seeing an open lane,” Porter said. “I was like ‘I just have to make the hit.’ It felt good, I’m not even gonna lie.”

Of the 17 points the defense allowed in the first half, 10 of them came off of turnovers from Penn State’s offense, including one turnover inside Penn State’s own five-yard line that led to a Scott rushing touchdown.

In the second half, Indiana struggled to get anything going offensively until late in the fourth quarter. Time and time again, Penn State’s defense came up with stops to give the ball back to the offense.

After Sean Clifford’s 60-yard go-ahead touchdown to Jahan Dotson to put the Nittany Lions up 21-20, Penn State’s defense was back on the field needing a stop. Defensive end Shaka Toney dominated the drive, sacking Penix twice and leading the defense to a fourth down stop.

Toney was a difference-maker this game, as he totaled seven tackles, two for a loss, and two sacks as an anchor for the defensive line.

As we now know, Devyn Ford scored immediately after the stop to give Penn State a 28-20 lead. This left Indiana just over a minute, and Penix led the Hoosiers right down the field, scored a touchdown, and converted on the two-point conversion that would ultimately send the game to overtime.

In overtime, Indiana responded to Penn State’s opening drive touchdown with one of its own, and then converted on a controversial two-point conversion to end the game.

Porter believes the defense played well overall, but needs to lock down in those big moments at the end of the game.

“We just need to make those plays in those tight moments,” Porter said. “That’s the thing, that’s what we need to work on.”

Safety Lamont Wade echoed Porter’s sentiment, praising the effort and physicality of Penn State’s defense, but also mentioning the few mistakes that the group did make.

“I feel like we played hard,” Wade said. “I feel like we played with a lot of effort, played with a lot of physicality. We made one too many mistakes that either we were out of line, either out-leveraged or whatever. They come back to bite you.”

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is suddenly Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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