Player Spotlight: Jason Cabinda
Hell hath no fury like the white-out crowd at Beaver Stadium. The rickety collection of steel beams and rails shake as Ohio State’s offense has one last opportunity.
With 1:10 left on 3rd down and 10, JT Barrett tries to prevent the biggest upset of the college football season from Ohio State’s 42-yard line. The crowd’s deafening volume drowns out his signals to the Ohio State offensive line.
The ball is snapped. Barrett drops back and scans the field. Pressure immediately comes from the left side of the pocket, forcing the Heisman hopeful to shuffle right.
Penn State defensive end Evan Schwan takes an inside cut on Ohio State’s right tackle. The tackle tracks the end, exposing the vulnerable Barrett. Linebacker Jason Cabinda loops around the traffic created by Schwan and sacks the quarterback for a 13-yard loss.
The Richter scale overrides as the crowd loses their minds. Cabinda raises his heavily casted hand in the air as the upset becomes a reality.
However, the major upset never seemed to distant to Cabinda.
“We entered with the mindset that we expected to win that game. That's how it was. It was no fluke or anything like that for us,” Cabinda said. “Week-in and week-out, we expect to win the game as long as we execute.”
Cabinda had been out since the loss Pittsburgh. In his (and Brandon Bell’s) absence, Michigan was able to put up 49 points on the depleted Lion’s defense. Walk-ons found themselves in the starting roles and players were being pulled from other positions to add some semblance of depth to the linebacking corp.
“All of those guys were so willing to learn and so willing to step up and make big plays,” Cabinda said. “I think that's the biggest thing about the linebacker room is the pride of the linebackers is just so great.”
Throughout the weeks, the walk-ons grew more confident, including LB Brandon Smith, who recorded 14 tackles in the victory over Maryland.
After a bye week, Cabinda was cleared by the medical staff, signified by a tweet that exclaimed his freedom. Now, Penn State has their starting linebackers back and experienced backups.
“It was just a matter of having that veteran presence back. That gives us a lot of confidence,” Cabinda said. “I was able to be back and put guys where they need to be and command our defense again, which felt awesome.”
All of that converged to hold Ohio State’s capable offense to only 21 points, its lowest scoring game since the beginning of last season.
Cabinda went to Hunterdon Central High School in New Jersey. There he excelled at football and basketball, being named a top 100 football prospect and receiving all-area honors for basketball. He played both running back and linebacker, having over 1200 rushing yards his junior and senior season. His senior season, Cabinda got appendicitis, forcing him to miss four games. However, the multi-position player was still able to put up 17 touchdowns.
Cabinda also had success in the classroom, being on the high school’s honor roll for three years.
In his freshman year at Penn State, Cabinda was one of the three freshman to start a game. His 17 tackles earned him an honorable mention Big Ten All-Freshman Team by BTN.com, according to GoPSUSports.com.
Cabinda carried that momentum into his sophomore year, averaging 7.7 tackles a game and earning honorable mention All-Big Ten team.
Although his junior season has been interrupted by injury. He was vital the massive upset over Ohio State. Penn State fans are giddy, for the first time in years, about the future of this season. However, Cabinda has made the mindset of the team explicitly clear.
“Right now, all the focus is on Purdue and for us. It's a Super Bowl every single week,” Cabinda said. “I think for us, taking that mentality and knowing that whatever you did the week before kind of isn't enough.”
Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.