PSU (6-4; 4-2) comes home after a disappointing end in Lincoln, Nebraska to face an Indiana team (4-6; 2-4) hoping to rebound after a 62-14 blowout loss at home to Wisconsin. Penn State has NEVER lost to Indiana (15-0), but don’t let that fool you. This is an improved Indiana team from years past. What should we expect?
The Indiana game isn’t one many PSU fans circle on their calendars. Noon games prevent significant tailgating, usually slow to fill the stadium too. And to top it all off, students have all next week off for Thanksgiving break, meaning many will be heading home before the game. Should be plenty of empty seats on Saturday. At full capacity, Beaver Stadium is one of largest in the nation, 2nd only to the Big House. So even if several thousand below capacity, you’ll still have more people in attendance than almost any college or NFL game this weekend, the exceptions being Michigan, Alabama, and Texas all playing at home (OSU and Tennessee playing away games). There will also be plenty of cheap tickets available. I know I plan to find some hustler outside the stadium before game time to get myself a nice $10 ticket. You should do the same.
TE Kyle Carter and DT Jordan Hill both came into the game against Nebraska listed as ‘questionable’ and both saw action in the game. However, Kyle Carter suffered a hand injury in the Nebraska game (separate from previous injury) and now ruled out for the remaining two games of the season. Carter was the team’s second-leading receiver. Jordan Hill on the other hand has another week to recover and likely closer to 100% come Saturday.
Starting safety Malcolm Willis (knee) and special teams player Curtis Dukes (head) are both listed as day-to-day. I expect both will be ready to go come Saturday.
Defense – Secondary Test
Indiana offense features slightly more passing than rushing, which will be a test for the PSU secondary. Indiana WR Cody Latimer ranks 2nd in the Big Ten with 707 receiving yards. This will be a transition from the run-heavy Nebraska offense. Last week we saw McGloin match-up with dual-threat QB in Taylor Martinez. This week McGloin matches up with junior college transfer Cam Coffman. Indiana QB Cam Coffman has the 2ndbest completion percentage in the Big Ten (62%), behind that of Taylor Martinez. The Hoosiers are solid offensively, with Indiana throwing for nearly 300 yards per game, and putting up an average of 31.2 points per game. It’ll be interesting to see how the PSU matches up defensively. This is an Indiana team that has the most penalties (127) in the Big Ten. Look for the defensive line getting through the line and pressuring the QB.
I’ve really liked how well sophomore Deion Barnes has been stepping up – a quick DE already making a name for himself. Barnes had six tackles, including three for 13 yards in losses and one sack, in the Nebraska game. Look for him to pick up the pace in pressuring Coffman.
Offensive Line/Running Game
Wisconsin rushed for a program-record 564 yards against Indiana last weekend, in large part to dominating the line of scrimmage. With Zach Zwinak rolling up the yards, can the Nittany Lions also punish the Indiana front 7? Indiana has one of the worst ranked scoring defenses in the nation, giving up 32.2 points per game on average. Don’t be surprised if PSU comes out running the ball more.
Zwinak set a career high in rushing yards for the second straight week, including a 50 yard TD run (longest play from scrimmage this year for the Nittany Lions). I’m still wondering when/if we’ll see Belton back in the line-up – seems that Zwinak is the clear starter now with Zordich at the two spot, despite Belton being listed as #2 on the depth chart. I actually believe blocking ability has a lot to do with it given O’Brien’s style of offense. Zwinak and Zordich are both much bigger than Belton (over 30 lbs larger) and serve as solid blockers, providing McGloin with crucial pass protection when needed. By the way, will someone on the PSU staff please update Zwinak’s photo - everyone at home must think he’s some 14 year old kid, until they realize he’s more of a mix between a red-headed wolverine and grizzly adams.
1st half vs 2 half
PSU continues to dominate the 1st quarter, outscoring opponents 83-6. This would be a great stat to advertise if the 2nd half stats were actually similar. Unfortunately, PSU has been struggling to finish games. PSU has been outscored 56-6 in the 3rd quarter this season; 99-28 in the 2nd half. I suppose you could argue that these numbers are skewed since PSU eases up in the 2nd half after blowing some teams out in the 1st half (e.g. Navy, Illinois, Iowa, Purdue), allowing teams to put points on the board towards the end of the game. I don’t agree. PSU has NEVER been down going into half this season. Yes. That is correct. PSU has been up at half-time every single game this season, with the exception of OSU – they were tied. This says a lot about the coaching staff doing a great job getting the team prepared and ready to go each week, but it also says a lot about the coaching staff failing to make half-time adjustments and finishing games. The Nebraska game is a perfect example – up 20-6 at half, but lose 32-23. O’Brien did mention that he is still adjusting to the slightly longer half-time in college vs the NFL (20 min vs 12 min). Regardless of length, this is still my biggest issue with the team. Inability to finish.
Stud JUCO QB Jake Waters and his teammate RB Aaron Wimberly will be in attendance. Waters is an experienced QB that could come and compete for the starting position with true freshman Steven Bench and incoming recruit Christian Hackenburg. Ideally, O’Brien would like to redshirt Hackenburg his first year, leaving Bench alone at the QB position. Waters could provide the needed experience and depth.
Also, WR DeaSean Hamilton will be visiting. Hamilton has offers from many big programs and PSU still remains towards the top of his list. Too bad the recruits won’t get the ‘full’ experience with a low attendance game. Nothing a like ‘whiteout’ game to help sell the program…
Robinson McDuffie Engram
WR Allen Robinson is currently tied with All-Americans O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram in the single-season receptions record (63 catches). Both McDuffie and Engram also had successful NFL careers. Robinson only needs one more catch to break the record. Consider it done. Robinson also leads the Big Ten in receptions, yardage, yards per game, and TD catches. Best part? He is only a sophomore….
Matt McGloin only needs 328 yards passing to claim the single season record. At 41 career TDs, he is just 2 TDs away from tying the PSU record (held by Daryll Clark). McGloin also leads the Big Ten in passing yardage, completions, and passing TDs. Best part? An unranked walk-on, who outlasted 3 highly recruited elite QBs (K. Newsome, R. Bolden, P. Jones).
This is an improved Indiana squad under 2nd year coach Kevin Wilson. Don’t expect a PSU blow out like we saw for Illinois, Iowa, and Purdue. Indiana beat both Illinois and Iowa this season (yet to play Purdue), and nearly beat the Buckeyes (52-49). Unfortunately, Wisconsin came to town and embarrassed Indiana and removed any chance of playing in the Big Ten Championship. Now, Indiana is striving for a bowl game berth whereas the Nittany Lions are out to ‘show the world’, playing each game with a chip on their shoulder. Indiana’s offense will test the Nittany Lion defense, but when push comes to shove, PSU prevails.