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Penn State’s Front Seven Manipulates Indiana Offense In Thorough Win

A week after allowing 452 yards of total offense in the team’s 44-31 loss to Ohio State, Penn State’s defense crushed any fleeting hopes that Indiana would stay competitive.

“Last week we felt that, as a defensive line, we didn’t get to the quarterback enough,” defensive end Nick Tarburton said after the game. “That’s kind of fueled us – watching that film.”

As the Nittany Lions’ Sean Clifford and the offense rolled, the Hoosiers dusted off three different quarterbacks in a futile attempt to change the momentum of their eventual 45-14 destruction.

Outside of an early miscue that saw Indiana starting quarterback Jack Tuttle throw a wide open touchdown, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz’s squad mounted a near perfect campaign. To say the Hoosiers were rendered one-dimensional is to undersell the defense’s stranglehold on the game.

Indiana was unable to convincingly run the ball, managing just 65 yards on 34 carries (averaging out to a whopping 1.9 yards per rush). Whether it was because of their run troubles or their ballooning deficit, the Hoosiers began leaning on the passing game – to no avail.

The Nittany Lions’ front seven overpowered their opponents in the trenches. Penn State lived in Indiana’s backfield in the first half, collectively racking up six sacks. When the game script called for a pivot to the air attack, the imprint of those six sacks remained impactful.

“They was getting the ball out pretty quicker,” defensive end Chop Robinson said. “Because they knew we was getting to the quarterback fast.”

Robinson’s observation was accurate, and it had reverberating effects on the defensive stat sheet. Although the Nittany Lions generated zero second-half sacks, their pressure (both tangible and phantom) forced three second-half interceptions.

In the third quarter, pressure from linebacker Kobe King and Robinson forced the Hoosiers’ backup quarterback Brendan Sorsby out of the pocket and into a hurried throw. Cornerback Kalen King’s tight coverage punctuated the play with a Penn State takeaway – the defensive back’s first of his collegiate career.

“I’ve been waiting on this moment since my first college game,” Kalen said. “I finally got it out of the way, so hopefully this turns into a chain reaction.”

Later in the third, after Indiana made its second quarterback switch of the game, third-string quarterback Dexter Williams was leading a threatening push when Diaz’s penchant for “havoc plays” reared its head again.

Linebacker Jonathan Sutherland pressed through the offensive line on a blitz. When Sutherland came free in the backfield, Williams tried to preemptively release the ball but the Nittany Lion deflected the ball. In a classic tip drill, freshman defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton ensnared the first interception of his career.

Mikey DeAngelis | Onward State

In the fourth quarter, it was defensive tackle Coziah Izzard’s turn to force the Hoosiers’ hand. Breaking the interior, Izzard forced a screen pass before the play materialized. As a result, cornerback Daequan Hardy pulled in the Nittany Lions’ third takeaway and put the team in immediate scoring position.

Kyra Cunningham | Onward State

Entering the game, Indiana’s quarterback situation was unclear. Regardless, Diaz made sure his defense was equipped for whatever Hoosiers head coach Tom Allen threw at it.

“We watch all the quarterbacks,” Robinson said. “Whatever one was coming out there, we knew what type of player they was.”

With each new quarterback, the defense knew it would have to adjust its strategy.

“No. 5 [Williams] was a pretty speedy quarterback. They said he was a true freshman,” Robinson said. “He was doing pretty good out there, but with him, I know we had to maintain the pocket more.”

The end result of Diaz’s weeklong preparation was a boon. Indiana’s trio of quarterbacks combined for just 131 yards in the air.

The defense’s game-long manipulation of Indiana’s tactics created a cushion. Although the offense didn’t necessarily need it Saturday, as the season continues and the last stakes remain, the front seven’s persistent production may be the difference between a 10-win season and another lackluster year.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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