Blue White Illustrated

December 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 31 of 67

3 2 D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M U nflappable through the first six games of the season, Penn State's defense was due for a wake-up call. That Indiana, not Ohio State, pro- vided it heading into the final month of the season came as a surprise. At Ohio Stadium on Oct. 21, the Buck- eyes were good, not great. Marvin Har- rison Jr., maybe the best player in college football this season, came up big for the hosts, catching 11 passes for 162 yards and, eventually, scoring a backbreaking touchdown. But, over four quarters, the Nittany Lion defense held firm, produc- ing a red zone stand and shutting down Ohio State's ground game for most of the afternoon in a 20-12 loss. The Hoosiers, having established themselves as one of the nation's worst offensive teams, were another matter entirely. Suffering a hangover the week after its visit to Columbus, Penn State allowed an uncharacteristic 90-yard touchdown pass to let the guests on the scoreboard first. Just two possessions later, the Hoosiers did it again, this time cashing in on a blown coverage to secure a 69-yard touchdown reception. Two plays, 2 touchdowns, and 159 yards. In the end, though, Penn State's de- fense delivered. Following a fourth- quarter interception by quarterback Drew Allar that gave Indiana possession at the PSU 21-yard line, the Lions sur- rendered only a field goal. Then, after the Lions had retaken the lead, sopho- more defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton sealed the game with a strip-sack-safety. In the end, Penn State passed its unex- pected gut check. "We just had some blown cover- ages that we haven't had," coach James Franklin said afterward. "We made some mistakes this week that are un- characteristic for us. You have to give Indiana credit, they did a good job. We went into that game thinking that their quarterback is a good player. I thought he played really well today, but that's essentially what happened. We blew some coverages and got caught when we blew them." The lesson, evidently, was learned. A week later against Maryland, Penn State returned to its core principles. That Stormy Weather NAT E BAU E R | N AT E . B A U E R @ O N 3 . C O M A high-flying Penn State defense encounters some turbulence in late October

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