PSU safeties ready to step up

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Travis John­son

STATE COL­LEGE >> As an in­com­ing fresh­man, Penn State safety Mar­cus Allen fig­ured his tran­si­tion to col­lege football would be grad­ual.

Then he low­ered his shoul­der against bull­doz­ing 240-pound team­mate Zach Zwinak in a pre­sea­son prac­tice and Penn State coaches re­al­ized im­me­di­ately they could de­ploy the gutsy rookie as a weapon in the box. A few weeks later, he was creep­ing to the line to pop Ohio State’s equally vi­cious Ezekiel El­liott.

“I felt as though if I could hit Zwinak, I could hit any­body. That’s a truck­load,” said Allen, now a ju­nior. “Ezekiel El­liott, one of the best run­ning backs out there. So hav­ing good con­tact with him gave me more con­fi­dence that I could play in this league.”

The Nit­tany Lions (2-2, 0-1 Big Ten) will need more of that from Allen and fel­low safety Ma­lik Golden against Min­nesota (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten) and its twoheaded rush­ing at­tack as Penn State grasps for mo­men­tum in a sea­son that’s soured quickly thanks to a long list of in­juries.

Now with­out all of its start­ing lineback­ers, Penn State has al­lowed 326 rush­ing yards or more in two of its last three games, is com­ing off an em­bar­rass­ing loss to No. 4 Michi­gan and faces the con­fer­ence’s fifth-best rush­ing of­fense on Satur­day.

As young­sters in front of them have whiffed again and again, Allen and Golden have com­bined for 57 tack­les. They’ll have their eyes on Min­nesota’s Rod­ney Smith and Kobe McCrary who’ve helped the Go­phers rush for just over 228 yards per game.

“You talk about miss­ing tack­les, well, typ­i­cally your lineback­ers are the unit that make the ma­jor­ity of your tack­les,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “And we’ve lost our three starters.” THIRD-DOWN WOES >> Lineback­ers Ny­eem Wart­manWhite, Bran­don Bell and Ja­son Cabinda en­tered the sea­son with 57 com­bined starts. Wart­man-White is out for the sea­son and Bell and Cabinda are out for this game.

Their re­place­ments — Manny Bowen, Jake Cooper and for­mer walk-on Bran­don Smith — have just seven com­bined. The in­ex­pe­ri­ence has shown on third down where op­po­nents are con­vert­ing nearly 40 per­cent of the time.

BRUCE KLUCKHOHN — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Min­nesota’s Kobe McCrary rushes 50 yards for a touch­down, trailed by In­di­ana State line­backer Justin Hornsby, left, and de­fen­sive back Phil Wil­son. Penn State will look to stop Min­nesota’s two-headed rush­ing at­tack of Rod­ney Smith and McCrary on Satur­day.

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