Hoosiers will need to be almost perfect to stop Nittany Lions
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Although No. 4 Penn State needed a touchdown pass in the final seconds last week to keep its dream of a playoff berth alive, the down-to-the-wire game hasn’t shaken the Nittany Lions’ confidence.
“We consider ourselves the best offense in the country,” offensive lineman Ryan Bates said. “We know how special we can be with the offensive threats we have.”
The top two among them, running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley, have been focal points for opposing coaches for a while now. It’s no different for Indiana coach Tom Allen, whose Hoosiers (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) will try to slow the Nittany Lions (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten) at Beaver Stadium on Saturday.
Allen has seen plenty of Barkley and McSorley in the past week and knows his banged-up defense will have to have a near-perfect game plan to take away Penn State’s best options.
Barkley racked up 358 yards on 43 touches against Iowa and leads the country with 253 all-purpose yards per game.
“(Barkley’s) making runs that are impressive, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield,” Allen said. “And the quarterback is just, man, McSorley is just special. He’s just got that moxie that you want in a quarterback and that core confidence and that belief.”
It showed up when McSorley led a final two-minute drive ending with a dart over the middle to Juwan Johnson for the game-winning touchdown.
Even though he had his offense replicate the two-minute drive in practice, Penn State coach James Franklin would rather not have to watch another come-from-behind series in the waning moments.
He’s glad his team has the experience to bank on, however.
“We’ve just got to be a little bit better,” Franklin said. “We’ve got to be a little bit sharper. We’ve got to sustain blocks a little bit longer. That was probably the difference on Saturday.”
Penn State’s offensive line still may have some issues as starting right tackle Chasz Wright’s status is questionable. He missed the Iowa game with an unspecified injury.
Other things to watch in Saturday’s game:
HURT HOOSIERS: Indiana has a much longer injury report and a bunch could miss another game after sitting out last week’s 52-17 win over Georgia Southern.
According to Allen, the Hoosiers could likely be without starting cornerbacks A’Shon Riggins and Rashard Fant, who are both dealing with unspecified injuries. Defensive linemen Nate Hoff and Juan Harris, wideout Donavan Hale, running back Mike Majette, offensive lineman Simon Stepaniak and defensive back Marcelino Ball are all also questionable, according to Allen.
Linebacker Kiante Walton had surgery on an unspecified injury earlier this week and will be out indefinitely.
THE OTHER BACK: While plenty of excitement swirls around Barkley, the Hoosiers are pretty hyped for their own talented back.
Freshman Morgan Ellison turned heads in camp and finally got the chance to do so in a game when he ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns in his first career start.
“(He’s) playing the way — after fall camp — the way he convinced me he could play,” Allen said.
NEW DUDS: Penn State’s uniforms have seen minor tweaks and changes over the years, but the Nittany Lions’ plain blue and white scheme, finished off with black cleats, has largely remained unaltered.
This weekend, they’ve been given an overhaul.
The Nittany Lions will wear uniforms that use elements from past editions including helmet numbers, sleeve and pants stripes and grey face masks. Players are looking forward to one change in particular — an accessory worn only once, by the 1979 team in the Sugar Bowl.
“We’re pretty excited about the white cleats, definitely,” tight end Mike Gesicki said. “Just because, obviously, you know, here at Penn State, we’re wearing black cleats every single day, every single game.”