Nittany Lions Return Home to Host High-Scoring Hoosiers

Story posted November 14, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Jason Shawley

Just one week after relinquishing a 14-point halftime lead at Nebraska, Penn State will return home to face a struggling Indiana team. The Nittany Lions felt confident halfway through their game last weekend that they would leave Lincoln with their seventh win. Sloppy second half play as well as a controversial call midway through the fourth quarter highlighted the Nittany Lions’ collapse.

With the loss to Nebraska, Penn State lost all hope of a Leaders Division title. Ohio State remained unbeaten with a win over Illinois, clinching the division title with just two games left. Wisconsin has clinched a berth and will represent the Leaders Division in the Big Ten Championship Game, despite currently sitting in a second place tie with Penn State. Neither Penn State nor Ohio State is eligible for the championship game or any postseason game this season in light of NCAA sanctions.

Despite having a 4-6 overall record this season, Indiana’s offense will be a focal point of Penn State’s preparation throughout the week. The Hoosiers have put up 31.2 points per game, which is ranked 44th in the country. The Penn State offense will try to take advantage of a sub-par Indiana defense which has surrendered 32.2 points per game, 93rd in the country.

Penn State’s defense has been outstanding all season long. Giving up just 18.6 points per game, Ted Roof’s squad ranks 20th in the nation and is led by senior linebacker Michael Mauti, who leads the team with three interceptions. Adrian Amos is the only defensive back that has an interception. The sophomore corner is having a strong season for the Nittany Lions, recording 40 total tackles and 0.5 sacks.

Quarterback Matt McGloin had one of his weakest outings of the season on Saturday, completing just 48.6% of his passes against Nebraska’s defense. Despite a disappointing performance in Lincoln, McGloin has far exceeded expectations this season. Each of the last two years as a half-season starter, McGloin completion percentage was just under 55% and totaled 22 touchdowns and 14 interceptions before this season. This season, McGloin has thrown 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The fifth-year senior quarterback has completed 60.7% of his passes for 2,676 yards.

Though McGloin has had a fantastic season, he hasn’t done it all on his own. He has received great contributions from his wide receivers, primarily Allen Robinson. The sophomore receiver has stepped up this season following the graduation of last year’s top target Derek Moye as well as Justin Brown’s transfer to Oklahoma.  In ten games this season, Robinson has caught 63 passes for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. Penn State’s top receiver had his biggest offensive output of the season in a game against Navy earlier in the season, catching five passes for 136 yards and three touchdowns.

McGloin may be looking Robinson’s way a lot more throughout the last two games following the announcement by Bill O’Brien that tight end Kyle Carter will miss the rest of the season with a dislocated wrist. The freshman, who had been added to the Mackey Award watch list for the nation’s top tight end just a few weeks ago, has been one of McGloin’s favorite targets this season.

Throughout the last two seasons, fans have seen minimal production from the tight end position. Carter has been a welcomed surprise and has solidified a position that will be utilized frequently in Bill O’Brien’s offense, similar to what he ran as the offensive coordinator under Bill Belichick for the New England Patriots. Carter has 36 receptions on the season, accumulating 453 yards and two touchdowns. In Carter’s absence, Penn State will need backup tight ends, namely Matt Lehman, Jesse James and Garry Gilliam to step up.

Penn State will likely try to maximize production from their running game against a suspect Indiana defense Saturday. It will be important to get the ground game going early to take pressure off the passing game, especially in Carter’s absence. Led by leading rusher Zack Zwinak, the Nittany Lions have cycled many backs through the rotation, trying to emulate the production they’ve gotten from the departed Silas Redd in recent years. The team has received contributions from Bill Belton, Michael Zordich, Derek Day as well as Curtis Dukes.

Neither Day nor Dukes have received carries in recent weeks. Their contributions came early in the season during the absence of Belton, who was the team’s opening day starter in the backfield. Belton is second on the team in rushing this season, accumulating 258 yards on 60 carries. He trails only Zack Zwinak who has been the primary back for the majority of the season. Zwinak has 686 yards on 138 carries in eight games.

Putting points on the board has been the one thing that Indiana has been able to do with consistency this season. Unfortunately, the give up points just as easily. The Hoosiers have averaged 293.2 passing yards per game as well as 138.2 yards on the ground. In the midst of their five game losing streak to Ball State, Northwestern, Michigan State, Ohio State and Navy, the Hoosiers have put up no less than 27 points. Against the undefeated Buckeyes, Indiana put 49 points on the board, but gave up 51.

The Hoosiers have received contributions from many people offensive this season, mainly their quarterbacks. Sophomore Cameron Coffman has been the main guy for Indiana, though freshman Nate Sudfeld as well as sophomore Tre Roberson have seen limited action and have been effective. Coffman has thrown for 1,932 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions this season while completing 62% of his passes.

Indiana has also received contributions in the running game as well. Stephen Houston leads the team with 583 yards and nine touchdowns, though D’Angelo Roberts, Tevin Coleman, Isaiah Roundtree as well as dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson have also contributed on the ground.

The focus for Indiana this week will be slowing down the Penn State offense. The key for the Hoosiers is to get a pass rush on Matt McGloin and forcing him into bad decisions, which he has been known for in the past.

The focus for the Nittany Lions is very similar - to stop the Hoosiers’ high-scoring offense. Their offensive output has been the only thing keeping Indiana in games this season, and if Penn State can slow play the physical brand of defense that they’ve shown all year long, they have to like their chances against a shaky overall football team.

Kickoff is at noon on Saturday at Beaver Stadium. Listen in at psucomradio.com for complete coverage as well as the pregame show leading up to kickoff.

Jason Shawley is a junior majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email jts5353@psu.edu.