After a difficult and trying loss at Nebraska, Penn State returns to Beaver Stadium for the final homestand of the season. This week, the Lions will be taking on the Indiana Hoosiers, a team, up until last week’s game, that had a shot to win the Leader’s Division. After last week’s dismantling by the Wisconsin Badgers, the Hoosiers are left playing for their bowl lives. Indiana must defeat both Penn State and next week’s opponent, Purdue in order to become eligible.
Penn State, while ineligible for post-season play, also has something to play for in Saturday’s contest; they are one win shy of clinching a winning season in coach O’Brien’s first year. While many Penn State fans may find a winning season to simply be unacceptable, I feel that with all that the current team has been through, a winning season is truly remarkable! In fact, Joe Paterno didn’t even enjoy a winning season his first year (1966: 5-5).
Penn State and Indiana haven’t exactly shared a storied tradition that other Big Ten teams like Ohio State, Michigan, or even Nebraska have shared with Penn State. In fact, the Nittany Lions have never lost to the Hoosiers (0-15) since joining the Big Ten in 1993. While the series may be one-sided, many of the games have held their intrigue until the final few moments. Arguably the most important Penn State win of the early 2000′s took place at Indiana in 2004. Tom Bradley’s defense came up with an epic goal line stand to preserve a 22-18 win. That game coupled with a win over Michigan State the following week helped propel the Lions the Orange Bowl the following season.
Make no mistake, the Hoosiers are no pushovers! They have talent at nearly every skill position on both sides of the ball. On offense, the leader of the group is sophomore quarterback Cameron Coffman. He came off the bench to replace the injured Tre Roberson is week #2. Since then Coffman has shown the rest of the conference what kind of talent he is in Bloomington. The Hoosiers rushing attack is spearheaded by Stephen Houston who has over 580 yards rushing and 9 scores on the season. On the outside, Indiana possesses some skilled receivers. Player like Cody Latimer, Shane Wynn, and Kofi Hughes, not to mention All-Big Ten TE candidate Ted Bolser. On the year, those four have combines for nearly 150 catches, over 2,000 yards receiving, and 16 TDs. With numbers like those, it’s little wonder why Indiana leads the Big Ten in passing offense!
On defense, the Hoosiers strength is up the defensive middle. On the defensive line they are led by senior DT Adam Replogle. If the name rings a bell, that’s because his brother Tyler (2010 graduate) was a stand-out linebacker for the Hoosiers. Alongside Replogle is fellow DT Larry Black, Jr. On the season, both have combined for 7.5 sacks and 18.0 tackles for loss. At the linebacker spot, Indiana has features a player that ranks in the top 16 of the Big Ten in tackles. Sophomore David Cooper has 71 tackles on the season. Look out for him flying around Saturday afternoon. In the defensive secondary, Indiana’s two free safeties, junior Greg Heban and sophomore Mark Murphy, are very good at tackling. Heban is the leading tackler for the Hoosiers (71) and leads the Big Ten in tackles for defensive backs, while Murphy has added 59 tackles of his own.
Penn State will certainly have their hands full when the Hoosiers come to Happy Valley this weekend. They can not take this team for granted or they will rue the day! In order for the Nittany Lions to come out this game victorious, continue reading to find out my keys to the game.