By: Thomas Frank Carr
- Big Day For Allen
Marcus Allen could have another big day for the Penn State defense today. Short on linebackers, the Nittany Lions will need to stuff the box with as many bodies as they can. Last week Allen did an exemplary job flying downhill from his safety position and closing off lanes for Minnesota ball carriers. The Nittany Lions still gave up 200 yards rushing on the day, but Allen helped keep the Gophers in check.
He will have to do that again today if the Nittany Lions want to shut down the Maryland rushing attack. Perry Hillis and one of six backs will get the rock today and won’t let up until the final whistle. Allen could be in double digit tackles today if the Nittany Lions defense is on the field for an extended period of time.
A big addition this week would be the return of Malik Golden. Troy Apke did a good job in replacement of him last week, but he doesn’t bring the same strength and tackling power to the position as the redshirt senior. Golden is nursing various injuries this season and hopefully will be ready to go on Saturday.
- Rain, Rain Go Away
The same issues that threatened the Nittany Lions last week will present themselves again this week Penn State. If the game is sloppy and rainy, it becomes a huge advantage for the Maryland offense which almost runs the ball exclusively. Perry Hillis is a tough, physical quarterback but is a very poor thrower. If Maryland can dig into the soft ground and negate the Penn State speed on defense, it could be a long day on defense.
On offense, Penn State relies on throwing the ball almost exclusively at point this season. If the ball is slick and hard to handle…well, you know what happens.
- No Sack and Attack
The offensive line hasn’t given up a sack in two consecutive games, which is a vast improvement for the maligned group of protectors. They still are struggling to open hole in the running game though. In order to take the next step, they need to become a more balanced unit. Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern have progressed very well so far through five weeks of the season. They have given Trace McSorley the ability to step up into the pocket and deliver throws downfield.
If they can’t open holes in the running game (which is unlikely to magically happen) they need to continue to have a strong performance protecting McSorley.
- Manny in the Middle
One of the bright spots on defense over the past couple of weeks, has been Manny Bowen. Bowen has shown the instincts and speed to be a force at linebacker. Last week he hit Minnesota quarterback Mitch Leidner three times, twice forcing a bad pass that resulted in a punt. He’ll have to man the middle this week if Brandon Smith isn’t available to play after sustaining a nasty hit last week. Bowen will still be able to blitz from the inside, but it does limit his options.
With Bowen probably playing Mike linebacker today, that means that Koa Farmer will see more time at linebacker this week, and may even start. Farmer is still getting used to the position, after transitioning from safety. Yes he did well last week, but he might struggle in a full-time starter against a predominantly rushing attack. Along with that, Von Walker will most-likely see the field today as well.
- Set the Pace
The reality is that Maryland doesn’t have the playmakers to keep up with the Penn State attack when it is running at full steam. It’s not an offense that can make big plays when put behind. Head coach James Franklin installed a ‘chaos’ period to begin practice this week to try and get his team to start faster on Saturdays. The idea is that the players (and coaches) don’t know what’s coming so they have to be prepared for anything. It also means that they get competing earlier in practice. The idea is that they will hopefully do the same on Saturday. If they can do this, Maryland doesn’t stand much of a chance.
Playing with a lead for most of the game will really help the Nittany Lions on their way to beating their second undefeated team in two weeks.