Outside of its losses to Big Ten powerhouses Michigan and Ohio State, No. 11 Penn State’s defense has dominated.
The latest evidence occurred in blowout wins over Indiana and Maryland and the visiting Nittany Lions will attempt to put the clamps on Rutgers on Saturday in Piscataway, N.J.
Penn State (8-2, 5-2 Big Ten) allowed 85 points and 1,015 yards in the losses to the Wolverines and Buckeyes.
Since the Oct. 29 loss to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have outscored Indiana and Maryland by a combined 75-14 margin. In those games, the defense totaled 25 tackles for loss along with 13 sacks, resulting in Penn State yielding a combined 330 yards.
“Once we see one guy with a high motor, we’re like, ‘Let’s all match his intensity,'” defensive end Adisa Isaac said. “And that’s what we do. I feel like our chemistry has grown every single game this year and it’s paying a lot of dividends for us.”
Abdul Carter led the way with seven tackles against Maryland to compensate for Curtis Jacobs missing the game due to injury. Carter is second on the team with 44 tackles and also second with 3 1/2 sacks.
It has been a group effort, says Penn State coach James Franklin.
“If you look at our rep count on defense, it’s way down compared to last year and maybe the year before because we’re rotating so many guys,” he said Tuesday. “I think that’s why you’re seeing our defense play fresh and still being disruptive and getting better.”
Franklin is seeking his 100th career coaching win and Penn State is seeking consecutive shutouts for the first time since 1996 and the first time ever in Big Ten games.
In Saturday’s 30-0 rout of the Terrapins, the Nittany Lions started fast on both sides of the ball. The defense had five sacks in the first half and running back Nicholas Singleton rushed for 113 of his 122 yards and scored a pair of TDs before the break.
Rutgers (4-6, 1-6) has been outscored 110-38 during its current three-game losing streak. After getting blown out by Minnesota and Michigan, the Scarlet Knights were competitive in a 27-21 loss at Michigan State last Saturday.
Kyle Monangai ran for 162 yards while Gavin Wimsatt threw for a career-high 236 yards with two touchdowns. Those individual performances were negated by Rutgers committing 14 penalties for 108 yards, including three on special teams.
“We got a lot of young guys involved in it but sometimes you get some mistakes,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, whose team averages 8.4 penalties per game “That goes with the territory. We’re getting better. All of those things will be something to build upon, but it certainly hurts when you’re building.”
Penn State is 30-2 all-time against Rutgers and has won the last 15 meetings, including a 28-0 win last season. The Scarlet Knights have scored seven or fewer points in each of the last seven meetings.
–Field Level Media