PSU keeps Eagles without offensive TD
UNIVERSITY PARK – Although a quick glance at the scoreboard suggested Penn State’s defense broke once and gave up a touchdown, it actually held its ground for 60 minutes and pitched a shutout.
Eastern Michigan’s offense was dominated and only netted 61 rushing yards and 122 passing yards, with the lone touchdown coming off a Christian Hackenberg fumble that was picked up and returned 11 yards by Hunter Matt for six points.
While Hackenberg and the offense struggled in the first quarter with two punts and the costly fumble in the first three drives, the defense took pride in holding the fort, according to senior linebacker Glenn Carson.
“Coach [Bill] O’Brien preaches all the time, it’s all about complementary football,” Carson said. “Those three-and-outs are critical. It’s important to keep the offense on the field and give them an opportunity with good field position to score.”
A large part of the strong defensive play, which included allowing only 11 first downs, belongs to the linebackers led by Carson and linemen that make up the front seven.
O’Brien said the group is playing well and acknowledged them not allowing a touchdown.
“There’s some veteran guys on there that have played a lot of football for us, which is good,” O’Brien. “I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the film yet, but obviously very, very pleased with our defense.”
The man spearheading the defensive line is trimmed-down defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, who said he lost 20 pounds since last year.
Jones registered nine total tackles and a sack that pushed the Eagles back 7 yards.
Defensive coordinator John Butler said Jones was a little bit in the shadow of Jordan Hill and Devon Still in the past years, but the senior is breaking out now.
“He has taken his game to the next level, played very physically,” Butler said. “So as along as he continues to do that, I think it’s going to be a challenge to run the ball.”
Butler also said Jones is a large man who can take on the double teams, and if he continues to play like he has thus far in the young season, he will have a “long future playing football after Penn State.”
As far as the double teams go, Jones said he has seen the same amount of them this season as he did last, but he added he just has to pick it up and play even harder.
“I can’t stop my production because teams are doing that to me,” Jones said. “I have to go out there and find a way to win and make plays.”
O’Brien said Jones has improved his strength and conditioning, and the coach noted he’s sad Jones is a senior, but he is a great representation of Penn State.
While Jones is making the most of his final season, another bright spot on the defensive side of the ball came from sophomore linebacker Nyeem Wartman. He tallied six total tackles and showed his skills in pass coverage by breaking up three attempts.
The 6-foot-1 Philadelphia native said the coverage the Nittany Lions implement uses the linebackers in pass protection, and he went on to say the coaches teach them well with that technique.
O’Brien was high on Wartman after the game and said he is an instinctive player who has a bright future.
“Before it’s all said and done here at Penn State, he’ll make a lot of plays here,” O’Brien said. “He’s a guy that works extremely hard on the practice field. He’s a tough, resilient Pennsylvania guy.”
The linebacking core has been stout through the first two games of the season, but what may be more impressive is the linebackers are doing it largely without senior Mike Hull.
Hull did not play against Eastern Michigan, and Butler said he had no idea whether the Canonsburg native will play against Central Florida next week.