PSU awaits word on LBs as Buck­eyes loom

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

STATE COL­LEGE » Com­ing off their big­gest win un­der head coach James Franklin with some ex­tra rest, Penn State play­ers have had plenty of time to con­tem­plate their loom­ing game against No. 2 Ohio State.

Dur­ing the open week­end, they watched as Wis­con­sin nearly top­pled the Buck­eyes (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten) on Satur­day. But the Nit­tany Li­ons will need to use their own ap­proach to stop Ohio State’s fourth-ranked scor­ing of­fense backed by the third-ranked scor­ing de­fense in the na­tion.

“Wis­con­sin played them ex­tremely well,” Franklin said. “But they are tra­di­tional pro-style, pound-you of­fense and then their de­fense is play­ing so well that it al­lows them to play that and not have to drop back and throw the ball and do things like that. Ob­vi­ously that’s a dif­fer­ent style than we’re play­ing right now. So that film for our of­fense isn’t overly valu­able.”

Penn State’s of­fense has im­proved and the run­ning game was ex­plo­sive with 372 yards against Mary­land, but Ohio State has been con­sis­tently great nearly all sea­son. With quar­ter­back J.T. Bar­rett lead­ing the way, the Buck­eyes are av­er­ag­ing more than 516 yards of of­fense, 300 yards on the ground.

It’s not a fa­vor­able matchup for the Nit­tany Li­ons who are still un­sure if start­ing lineback­ers Ja­son Cabinda and Bran­don Bell will play. They’ve missed the last five and four games, re­spec­tively, and as of Tues­day had not been cleared to prac­tice. Franklin did say vet­eran play­ers who re­quire less prac­tice can be cleared later in the week, how­ever.

“We know they are im­por­tant to this team,” cor­ner­back Grant Ha­ley said. “They have a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence that they bring to the ta­ble.”

Get­ting Bell and Cabinda back would be big boosts. They both helped limit Ohio State’s of­fense the last time the teams met at Beaver Sta­dium. That 3124 loss in dou­ble over­time was the clos­est Penn State’s come to beat­ing Ohio State in the 11 years since the Nit­tany Li­ons’ last home win in the se­ries. Penn State is 0-4 since they won a mem­o­rable game where fans stormed the field in 2005.

Since that game, Penn State has gone 11-25 against Top 25 teams and 0-9 against top 5 teams. Four of those losses to top 5 teams have come to Ohio State.

“They know this is a big game,” Franklin said. “We don’t need to tell them that. They un­der­stand how big this game is. They see it all over so­cial me­dia and ev­ery­thing else and walk­ing around town and on cam­pus and from their fam­i­lies and ticket re­quests and all those things. They get it.”

By Tues­day af­ter­noon, stu­dents who camp out­side their en­trance to the sta­dium had tents set up nearly to the road, an­other in­di­ca­tion of the game’s grav­i­tas. It prompted Franklin to men­tion the game’s at­mos­phere and ex­pressed his de­sire for fans to show up and be heard.

Ur­ban Meyer quipped ear­lier this week about the planned white-out, where ev­ery­one in the 106,572-seat com­plex wears white.

“We have an­other tough task, a team that’s 4-0 at home,” Meyer said. “I called it — the last two times, wish they saved the white outs for other games, but I guess they used it for our game. It’s one of the top five at­mos­pheres, again, in col­lege foot­ball.”

Ha­ley has felt the ground rum­ble with white-out crowds in the past. He and his team­mates will try to main­tain the pulse at their feet by slow­ing the Buck­eyes’ rush­ing at­tack and dis­rupt­ing Bar­rett’s time to ex­tend plays with his feet.

“We need to make them a one-di­men­sional team,” Ha­ley said. “We ob­vi­ously need to stop the run, quar­ter­back runs, es­pe­cially.”


Ohio State quar­ter­back J.T. Bar­rett (16) scram­bles against Wis­con­sin dur­ing the first half Satur­day in Madi­son, Wis.

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