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NITTANY NOTES: Lions-Hoosiers Breakdown


February 19. 2013 5:34PM
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We're now three weeks removed from that lasting image of a packed Beaver Stadium under the lights against Ohio State. Naturally that kind of atmosphere is impossible to replicate for a noon kick against Indiana, but it will be interesting to see the crowd situation for this game.


Thanksgiving break has started, and while the dorms will remain open this weekend for students who want to stay for the game, Penn State is clearly concerned about attendance, and the students in general.


Bill O'Brien started his campaign over a week ago on his radio show, practically pleading for people to come out and support the team, especially the seniors. The stands have been sparse for start of noon kickoffs earlier in the season, and it figures to be the same situation here. One imagines it will improve for the finale, a 3:30 p.m. start against a much better opponent.


But this one could be rough (in terms of attendance). As for the game itself...


--derek




 


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INDIANA

vs. PENN STATE

 


 


 


QUARTERBACK

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Matt McGloin will have plenty of great memories from what will be a record-breaking senior season. The second half of the Nebraska game won't be among them. Putting aside his opinions on the Matt Lehman touchdown-turned-fumble, McGloin struggled after halftime against the Huskers formidable secondary and the just as formidable wind gusts. The senior from Scranton still gave the Lions a chance to win in the fourth quarter before the offense short-circuited with the fumble call. Against the Hoosiers he may not throw as much because of Indiana's awful run defense, but he should still pick up PSU's single-season records for completions and attempts. He needs 330 yards to earn the yardage mark. Indiana's offense will use two quarterbacks -- junior college transfer Cam Coffman and true freshman Nate Sudfeld -- and the gameplan will be to throw, throw, throw. Indiana isn't particularly good in most areas, but this passing game is about as dangerous as anything the Lions have seen this season. That's not saying a ton considering the state of Big Ten quarterbacks these days, but the Hoosiers should put up some points. EDGE: PSU


 


RUNNING BACK

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Of all of the surprising stats to come out of this Penn State season, here's one near the top. Through 10 games, Zach Zwinak has more yards from scrimmage (842) than Silas Redd (831). Wouldn't have found anyone willing to bet on that back in August. Redd has more rushing yards, but Zwinak -- a former fullback recruit -- actually has 10 more catches this year, and the receiving yards put him over the top. Zwinak has topped 130 yards rushing in each of the last two games, setting a new career-high in both. It's entirely possible he pulls it off for a third straight week against this defense, which ranks 118th out of 120 FBS teams in the nation. Indiana will, from time-to-time hand the ball off, with junior Stephen Houston the top back. Houston gets plenty of snaps down near the goal line and has a decent success rate with nine touchdowns on the season. D'Angelo Roberts has also been in the mix for the Hoosiers. EDGE: PSU


 


RECEIVER

width=150One more grab for Allen Robinson will give him 64 on the season and the single-season Penn State record, passing O.J. McDuffie and Bobby Engram. That says as much about this new offense compared to the Paterno era as anything. But Robinson, a true sophomore, deserves plenty of credit for going from third-string afterthought to the focal point of the passing game in one year. As defenses have paid more attention to him, he began to fall off the pace for some other single-season records like receiving yards and receiving touchdowns, but he has remained effective all the same. Tight end Kyle Carter (wrist) is officially out for the season, but Penn State is still the national leader in catches by tight ends. Jesse James, Matt Lehman and Garry Gilliam are all valuable cogs in the offense. Indiana has a talented tight end of its own in Ted Bolser, but most of the work is done by slot receiver Shane Wynn, a frequent target on bubble screens and quick slants. both Kofi Hughes and Cody Latimer are credible deep threats on the outside for the Hoosiers. EDGE: PSU


 


OFFENSIVE LINE


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The Lions did a much better job against the Nebraska front four compared to the chaos Ohio State caused last month. Zach Zwinak had plenty of room and the seas parted on that 50-yard touchdown out of the blue in the first quarter. Pass protection was a bigger issue and junior Ty Howle saw more time than usual at left guard against the Huskers, especially after starter Miles Dieffenbach was beaten badly for a sack. That sack went for an 8-yard loss and set up the third-and-long play where McGloin was intercepted trying to make a play into coverage. Howle has a year of eligibility remaining and (assuming he sticks around) it will be interesting to see if he plays guard or replaces Matt Stankiewitch at center in 2013. The Hoosiers line has done a good job of keeping the quarterbacks clean, ranking second in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (12) but part of that is a function of the offense, which features plenty of quick passes and not much time for pass rushers to get in a hit. EDGE: PSU

 


DEFENSIVE LINE


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Not that anyone was questioning Jordan Hill's toughness before, but it should be emphasized what he did last week on a sprained knee. Hill certainly wasn't expecting to play most of the game, but after his replacement, James Terry, left the game because of cramping, Hill stepped in and played the rest of the way. Very impressive. Hill wasn't even listed on the injury report this week, though one imagines he'll still have his snaps limited. Deion Barnes continues to make his case for Big Ten freshman of the year and had three tackles for loss against the Huskers. Indiana's best two players on defense are likely tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black Jr. Bill O'Brien praised both this week as NFL-caliber players, though the duo has made more of an impact as pass rushers (4 sacks apiece) than providing a stout foundation for a run defense. EDGE: PSU


 


LINEBACKER

width=150Lost entirely in all of the drama around the Matt Lehman play last week was that Michael Mauti had made an outstanding play at the other end of the field just to set up that opportunity. Penn State's defense had been on the ropes for the entire third quarter and Nebraska was driving for the lead at the end of the frame. Mauti not only brought down Taylor Martinez on third-and-goal, he jarred the ball loose, allowing Stephen Obeng-Agyapong to recover. Had the Lehman score counted, it may very well have gone down as the play of the game and added to Mauti's lore instead of being a footnote in a lightly-read blog post like this. Here's a hunch that he'll add to it anyway in these last two games. Look for sophomore Mike Hull to have an especially big role in this one with the Hoosiers throwing so often. Indiana biggest problems are at linebacker and these guys are the main culprits in that atrocious run defense. Junior David Cooper has two sacks in the last three games. EDGE: PSU


 


SECONDARY

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Indiana's numbers against the pass, ranked in the top 30 in the country, are largely a product of teams not bothering to throw against the Hoosiers. But players like safety Greg Heban have turned in a solid year. Heban leads the Hoosiers in tackles and interceptions, as the former walk-on has turned into a decent playmaker. Penn State's secondary will be one of the keys to the game and can't revert back to the third-down woes from the beginning of the season (and to a lesser extent against Nebraska). It sounds less and less likely that safety Malcolm Willis will be able to go because of his knee injury, and that could be a significant loss. Jake Fagnano would likely start in his place, and the senior has had his struggles this year. Ryan Keiser and corner Jesse Della Valle have also gotten more work in practice this week and Adrian Amos is perhaps a failsafe option. But Penn State needs its corners to be able to come up and make tackles on the bubble screens and such, and true freshman Da'Quan Davis may not be the guy want in there in that case. EDGE: IU


 


SPECIAL TEAMS

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I actually get to write something different here for a change. Sam Ficken's turnaround has been one of the best signs for Penn State these past few weeks. The sophomore hit all three attempts at Nebraska in some tricky winds, and while he still hasn't made a kick from 40 yards this season, he's done exactly what the Lions have needed of him. And considering where his head was at during and after that Virginia game -- about as traumatic of a game as a teenage kicker can experience -- he deserves credit for a strong rebound. Even punter Alex Butterworth's consistency has improved. Neither guy will be appearing on the All-Big Ten team any time soon, but the Lions will take what they can get. The return games arguably are still Penn State's weakest points. Indiana kicker Mitch Ewald is 12-of-16 on the season, but one imagines that this game won't be decided by field goals. EDGE: IU


 


OUTLOOK

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This one will have a strange feel to it, as we haven't hit the emotions of senior day and the opponent comes in on its lowest note of the season. The Lions and their fans aren't exactly in a cheerful mood either after that Nebraska game and the annual meeting with the Hoosiers is one of the least anticipated on the schedule. Regardless of the crowd, the weather or any other ancillary details, this game will ultimately come down to Penn State's third-down defense. The Lions will be well-prepared for the Hoosiers' tempo because they see it from their own offense all year during practice. Of course Indiana's pace is considerably faster than Penn State's no-huddle, but the extra experience can help. All it may take are some early three-and-outs forced by the Lions defense and the process of wearing out the Hoosiers can begin. With both teams working out of the no-huddle, the defenses won't have much time to rest in between possessions, and Penn State's superior conditioning should pay off. Indiana's offense is better suited to cause problems for the Lions than most Big Ten teams, and if Willis can't go, the Hoosiers are going to find the end zone a few times in this one. But it's hard to imagine many scenarios where Penn State's offense sputters enough for this one to end in an upset. EDGE: PSU


 


PREDICTION: PENN STATE 38, INDIANA 24




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