The Penn State Nittany Lions are traveling to Bloomington, Indiana on Saturday to take on the Indiana Hoosiers. This game features two young coaches with two young quarterbacks. The Hoosiers’ third-year coach Kevin Wilson and his sophomore quarterback Nate Sudfeld will play host to the Nittany Lions’ second-year coach Bill O’Brien and his freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg.
The home team runs a spread style offense and Sudfeld is a true dual threat quarterback who can burn the Lions with both his arm and feet. The Visiting lions execute a pro style offense which features Hackenberg’s large stature and even bigger arm.
For coach O’Brien’s team to escape Indiana with a victory, there are few keys that they must focus on, and no. 1 is containing the Hoosiers on the ground. This means limiting the yards by running backs Tevin Coleman and Steven Houston. These two backs are viable threats for the Hoosiers and can help control the tempo of the game.
But more important to the Hoosiers’ rushing attack is the threat of Sudfeld as he exits the pocket. Sudfeld has a good sense about when to tuck the ball down and where the first down marker is located. The Lions must contain Sudfeld, funnel him inside and attack him as a ball carrier, and not miss an opportunity for an open-field tackle against the quarterback.
Defensive players are too often caught waiting for a running quarterback to get to them instead of bringing the tackle to the quarterback. The Lions need to treat Sudfeld like they would any other ball carrier.
On, offense the Lions need to establish their running game. All preseason and even the majority of this young season, much of the attention has been given to the Lions’ passing attack while the rushing game has gone relatively unnoticed. When things get rough for a young quarterback, there is no cure quite as effective as a capable running game.
It is imperative that the Lions establish their rushing game as a viable threat early in the game so that they may revert to it if Hackenberg begins to struggle.
Penn State makes a lot of plays on defense. The key to this game will be their defense. If they play like they are capable of playing, they will keep the Lions in the game all day. If they fail to live up to expectations, they will be forcing a young quarterback to lead the team to a victory from behind, on the road, in his first Big Ten game.
That is not what O’Brien wants for his promising young quarterback. Look for the Lions to quickly take the rushing game away from Indiana. Once they have done so, they should become ball hawks. When Sudfeld puts the ball up, the Lions need to go and get it.
Their secondary is capable of making plays on the ball. If they keep the ball out of the Hoosiers’ hands and in the hands of Hackenberg, that ball will eventually find the hands of one of the best receivers in college football, Allen Robinson. If Robinson has a big game, the Lions can steal this game on the road. If the Hoosiers manage to contain him, they should start off Big Ten play 1-0.