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Penn State didn’t have much time to process the shock of the heartbreaker in Minneapolis. The Nittany Lions faced a scrappy Indiana squad that walked into Beaver Stadium, confident that it could win. This game followed an emotional loss, a formula that historically sees Penn State following it up with a sloppily-played setback. Coupled with being the week before Ohio State, and this game had the makings of a trap game. Credit the coaching staff with getting the team’s mind right to withstand the stiff challenge from a solid Hoosier team. The game wasn’t the cakewalk it seemed it would be in the preseason, but it feels satisfying that Penn State could again not be at its best and come away with a gritty 34-27 win.


Defense

Defensive Player of the Game

LB Jan Johnson

Johnson had a key fumble recovery on Penn State’s first punt of the game that led to a score. He added 6 tackles to augment a defense that kept Indiana at arm’s length most of the day.

Indiana averaged 34 points a game coming into the week, so Penn State’s defense held the Hoosiers relatively in check on the scoreboard. Indiana QB Peyton Ramsey had 371 yards on 75% completion with a QBR of 83.5. The Hoosiers couldn’t run the ball on Penn State and were rendered one-dimensional from the outset. The Lions only got to Ramsey twice for sacks but recovered two fumbles. After a shaky start that saw Indiana throw the ball all over the field, DC Brent Pry tightened up his unit in the second quarter. They sank into a prevent when Penn State took a two-score lead in the third quarter, which allowed the Hoosiers back into the game.

Penn State Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry

After dominating opposing offenses in September and October, Brent Pry’s defense has shown some flaws the past 2 games.


Special Teams

This grade is more to highlight the consistency of the punt and kick coverage units, not just this week but over the last few. Indiana had nothing on punt returns and only one 28-yard kick return. Penn State got next to nothing in the return game themselves, but P Blake Gillikin had another solid day with 2 punts downed inside the 20. The punt coverage unit also snuffed out a strange-looking fake punt attempt that looked like only half the Indiana team knew was coming.

Special Teams Players of the Game

K Jake Pinegar

After a rough season in 2018, Pinegar was perfect again today, realizing all possible special teams points for the Lions. His consistency has been instrumental in Penn State’s success this season.


Offense

Offensive Player of the Game

QB Sean Clifford

Clifford averaged nearly 8 yards/completion on 179 yards. Cliff threw a bullet TD pass to TE Nick Bowers and ran for 2 more, including a 38-yarder. Clifford played best when his team needed a game like this, and he atoned for the 1 mistake (a lost fumble) by picking up key first downs with his legs all day. Clifford’s play has stifled any concern that the Nittany Lions would miss the running ability from the QB position after Trace McSorley’s departure. He put the team on his back, leading them on an epic 18-play, 9-minute drive, and scoring the final touchdown defeat a confident Hoosiers group.

None of the numbers jump out from the day’s performance, but the offense is best measured today by the eye test. QB Sean Clifford again had around 50% completion, WR KJ Hamler and TE Pat Freiermuth led the team with 84 combined receiving yards and 2 receptions apiece. RB Journey Brown had 100 yards on 21 carries, but over 1/3 came on a single run. This game was mainly won by the leaders on the team refusing to fold after heartbreak. A week after a 3-interception performance in a loss he took on his shoulders, the best player on the field this day was the QB.

Penn State RB Journey Brown

With Noah Cain sidelined with injury for the second-straight week, Journey Brown led the Lions in rushing with 100 yards on 21 carries.


Coaching

A game that had the feel of Penn State correcting mistakes they made against Minnesota, the coaching staff was certainly no exception. HC James Franklin has improved his in-game countermoves this season and limited the negative impact of a secondary Indiana seemed obsessed with exploiting. The best thing the coaches did in this game was stifling the negative intangibles in motivating the team to get up for this game.

There were plenty of learning opportunities in this game, and entering Columbus in the conference’s [new] annual game of the year, Penn State needs to play its best game of the year if it hopes to knock off the Buckeyes, who had a bye week of sorts against Rutgers. The Nittany Lions are more tested than OSU, whom themselves have a huge rivalry game against a Michigan team no one wants to play right now. Penn State still finds itself in the driver’s seat, controlling its destiny to reach the CFP. With Minnesota losing in Iowa City, Penn State is still in great shape for the Rose Bowl regardless of the result next week. The future is bright in Happy Valley, and next week will tell the tale for how bright the present can be.

About the Author:

Eric Mayhue


Eric Mayhue is a contributing author and commentator at PSU Zone. An avid sports fan, Eric can talk for hours about the Penn State Nittany Lions of past and present. When he's not cheering on the blue and white, Eric stays active in the internet marketing community and enjoys superhero movies and video games.

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