Forget about that mid-game lull on offense that had some scratching their heads and forget about the special teams’ blunders. Those can both be easily fixed. Maybe it’s time we pay attention to the cow pastures, roads, and infrastructure of in-the-middle-of-nowhere Happy Valley, as long waits and lack of patience on Saturday seem to have dominated social media the day after the Homecoming game instead of what actually took place on the field. What did take place was a 35-7 beat down on Purdue by our Nittany Lions, now officially ranked No. 10 in the latest AP poll as we slowly make our climb into the playoff conversation.
Sean Clifford and crew raced out to a 28-7 lead before fans even had time to blink, but it’s the defense I really want to talk about today. After all, WE ARE…PENN STATE, aren’t we? We are where fancy offenses can come and go but LBU and a stout D always rule the roost! What we have on our hands is the making of a D that may be as good as the one we had when Poz, Lee, and Connor roamed the sidelines. Maybe better. Maybe, I said. In fact, on Saturday our D was so savage they stacked up 10 sacks on the afternoon and held the Boilermakers to a paltry 106 total yards of offense. It was the most sacks recorded in a single game since the days of Lavar Arrington, Courtney Brown, Brandon Short and the rest of that top-ranked D from 1999.
With Purdue’s best playmaker and starting QB both on the sideline in street clothes, Brent Pry unleashed the hounds from the opening kickoff and never eased up. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and no escape inside the Lion’s Den during this home sweet Homecoming game. As the competition slowly upgrades week-to-week, our defense is becoming more and more ferocious.
The leader of our sack attack wasn’t everybody’s preseason All-American Yetur Gross-Matos but instead, the junior speed demon from Philly who man’s the other side of the D-Line: Boom Shaka-Laka Toney has reaped the rewards as opponents continue to double team Gross-Matos. He was a bonafide nightmare that made the Boilermaker backfield his own personal living room and for his effort, not only did he notch three sacks on the day, but earned this week’s Game Ball as well!
On offense, Clifford accounted for 4 touchdowns in the first half before losing his mojo. KJ and Jahan Dotson alternated spectacular catch-and-run clinics. Nick Bowers has proven to be a beast of an alternate at tight end and Pat Frieirmuth pulled one in for a touchdown. The LawnBoyz were somewhat quiet all told but once again true freshmen Noah Cain almost single-handedly drove a stake in Purdue’s heart with his fourth-quarter touchdown drive that may have very well separated him from the rest of the pack.
Aside from the trifecta Boom Shaka-Laka put on Purdue, Gross-Matos eventually broke through those double teams to record two sacks of his own. Lamont Wade came in like a heat-seeking missile, and Micah ‘Stix City’ Parsons collected the first sack of his career. Big Fred Hansard did the boogie-woogie, and the combo of Antonio Shelton/Rob Windsor wreaked havoc inside all day long, racking up half sacks of their own.
All is calm now in the Valley with a trip to the cornfields of Iowa later this week. The Hawkeyes took one on the chin at Michigan last weekend and will be hungry for some redemption after losing 10-3 in a knockdown, drag-out, defensive struggle. Nothing comes easy in the Big Ten this time of year and a road trip to Kinnick Stadium will be the first leg in a gauntlet that will separate the men from the boys in 2019. 5-0 is nice and all but going 1-0 this week is what really counts. Buckle up tight, Nittany Nation, the journey has just begun!