Penn State Football’s Defense Secures Third Shutout Of The Year
Penn State’s defense has gotten used to this.
On a day when the offense stole the show, Manny Diaz’s group had another stellar outing and recorded its third shutout of the season during Penn State’s 42-0 victory over Michigan State in Ford Field.
Despite the zero on the scoreboard at the end of the day, the defense didn’t start out great. On Michigan State’s first possession of the game, the Spartans amassed 46 yards over eight plays and were within striking distance of the red zone before safety and Detroit native Jaylen Reed jumped in front of a pass at the Penn State 29-yard line, stopping what ended up being the Spartans most successful drive of the day.
“Getting an interception early like that, it kills the quarterback’s confidence,” Reed said postgame.
The interception did just that. Before the interception, Michigan State quarterback Katin Houser had 51 yards through the air on the first drive. After the interception, Houser had 37 for the rest of the game.
The confidence-killing interception was Reed’s second of a stifling season that saw multiple players on the defense put up low numbers in almost every statistical category due to the sheer dominance of the group. Despite the fact that everyone is making a tiny dent on the stat sheet instead of a select few dominating the stats, James Franklin said the locker room chemistry is great and no one is getting selfish.
“I think there’s a difference between buying into statistics and buying into really good football,” Franklin said postgame. “The reality is, when you do your job and your teammate does their job, the plays that are supposed to come to you will come to you.”
Everyone on the defense did their job Friday, as the Spartans ended with 88 passing yards and -20 rushing yards without taking a snap in the red zone.
Defensive end Adisa Isaac led the defense with seven total tackles, including one sack and 1.5 tackles for loss, and was an integral part of Michigan State’s rushing game’s troubles during the second half of the contest. Linebacker Abdul Carter also played lights out on Friday and finished with two sacks on the night. Carter, however, has come to expect this high level of play from the defense.
“It’s not surprising,” Carter said. “That’s how we train. It’s our defensive mindset.”
Isaac wasn’t surprised to hear the defensive number either but believes that in order to continue performing at such a high level, the defense has to establish this type of play as what’s expected from the team.
“Everybody’s just focusing on what they have to do to be the best version of themselves,” Isaac said. “It all comes together when we play as one unit.”
Penn State’s defensive line has been dominant all season, and the Nittany Lions capped off the 2023 regular season with a seven-sack and 12 tackle-for-loss performance en route to its third shutout.
Penn State’s first shutout came during the White Out against Iowa before it held UMass scoreless in early October. Penn State also went 10 straight quarters inside Beaver Stadium without allowing a point. After Penn State’s final game, both Isaac and Carter believed that this was becoming the standard for Diaz’s unit. With the first shutout coming in late September, though, it seems like this has been the standard all along.
Diaz’s contract with Miami runs out this year, and if the coordinator doesn’t end up finding a head coaching job that fits his expectations, he’ll surely be in for a pay raise before the start of next season at Penn State. For now, though, Penn State’s defense is focused on getting better, especially in the lead-up to a potential New Year’s Six Bowl Game, and the momentum built from a performance like that of Michigan State couldn’t be more helpful.
“This is great,” Reed said. “We pride ourselves on everyone’s work. It doesn’t matter who it is. Anytime you’re getting a goose egg like that, it’s a great thing.”
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