Five Things We Learned: Indiana
The Penn State Nittany Lions followed up their thrilling win at Iowa last weekend with a drubbing of the Indiana Hoosiers Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium, 45-14. The win moved Penn State to 5-0 on the young season and 2-0 in the Big Ten.
This week’s game was part of Penn State’s “Generations of Greatness” celebrations. The team wore different patterned uniforms, played in white cleats instead of black and had numbers decaled into the side of each helmet. Multiple people in Penn State football history were honored during the game, including former Nittany Lions linebacker and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jack Ham.
It’s hard to pinpoint five exact things that can be taken away about this Nittany Lion team from the game as there were too many important story lines to explain in detail. Here are the five most important things learned from the Indiana game.
1. The offensive line still has work to do.
The Nittany Lions only ran for a team total of 39 yards. That’s right. With Heisman favorite running back Saquon Barkley and All-Big Ten quarterback Trace McSorley, the Nittany Lions mustered 39 yards on 27 carries. Barkley finished with just 56 yards rushing, while McSorley ran 16 times for -19 yards.
The offensive line had problems all day, allowing five sacks and almost never giving McSorley a clean pocket or time to pass. Indiana used multiple blitzes to fool the line. The offensive line has been up and down, but this game showed they still have a lot to fix to be consistently solid and allow two of the best runners in the conference to run wild.
2. Penn State will need to find a replacement for Mike Gesicki.
Gesicki left in the second quarter after taking a shot to his upper body and did not return. If Gesicki misses time, that’s a serious part of their offense gone. The Lions will need to replace the production of Gesicki. Will Juwan Johnson step up like he did against Iowa? Will DaeSean Hamilton play more like the nine catch, 122 yards and three touchdown performance he had today? Will Barkley have an even more expanded role in the offense?
3. The defense has shown no signs of stopping their dominance.
The Penn State defense has been spectacular to start 2017. They rank among the top schools in all of FBS in total defense, points allowed and rushing yards per game. After Penn State went up 28-0 in the first quarter, Indiana rattled off two touchdowns to head into the break down just two scores.
With all the momentum swinging in the Hoosiers’ favor, the Blue and White defense stood tall and clamped down. They didn’t allow any points in the second half and helped blow the lid off the game. If the defense can continue to be this dominant against additional Big Ten competition, the Nittany Lions will become an even more complete team.
4. Barkley continues to prove he is amazing.
An opening kickoff touchdown to set the tone? That’s special, but he followed it up with a fourth quarter touchdown pass to Hamilton. He failed to reach the end zone in the rushing or receiving departments, but on special teams he kicked off the game with a spark and he fooled Indiana (and the rest of Beaver Stadium) with a passing touchdown on an outside sweep.
What can this man not do? Give him the Heisman.
5. Special teams is the real MVP so far.
It could be Barkley. It could be McSorley. It could even be a specific position. It’s not. Special teams have been so critical, effective and efficient to begin the season and it’s gone underappreciated. They have three touchdowns to start: Barkley’s kickoff today, Nick Scott’s fumble recovery today and DeAndre Thompkins’ punt return back in Week 1. Punter Blake Gillikin has been superb this whole season, today punting six times for a combined 279 yards. That’s a whopping 46.5 yards per punt average and elite numbers. Against Iowa last week, Gillikin frequently pinned the Hawkeyes inside their own 10 and 20 yard line to start drives, one punt putting Iowa in such bad field position at their own goal line that Penn State forced a safety on defense right after.
In today’s game, if it weren’t for the heroics of Scott and Barkley on special teams, it would have been a tied ballgame 14-14 heading into halftime because the Penn State offense was sputtering. Who knows what would have happened then. Doesn’t matter because the special teams came to play.
Matthew Harvey is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and history. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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Senior / Broadcast Journalism and History