The Penn State Nittany Lions have really struggled on defense this season. Even when victorious, the defense has struggled to stop opposing offense. For the season, the unit has given up 27.3 points a game and 388.1 points a game. In Saturday’s game against Minnesota, it looked like much of the same in the first half, but the defense stepped up and played solid to finish out the game.
The Nittany Lions had a tough time in the first half stopping the Golden Gophers on offense. Quarterback Phillip Nelson and running back David Cobb seemed to be able to do whatever they wanted. Through the first two quarters, Minnesota racked up 24 points and 241 total yards.
Things seemed to go from bad to worse when the Nittany Lions allowed Minnesota to sustain a long drive at the end of the second quarter. The Golden Gophers drove 74 yards and put seven points on the board with a touchdown pass by Nelson. The drive included three third-down conversions that Penn State was unable to stop.
The defense really struggled through the first two quarters, allowing the Gophers to convert seven of 10 third downs and two fourth downs.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, head coach Bill O’Brien and defensive coordinator John Butler were able to make some effective adjustments at halftime. The defense tightened up and made things difficult on the Gophers. Minnesota was unable to score any points after halftime and managed just 140 yards of total offense.
Linebacker Mike Hull, who avoided disaster by shaking off a knee injury that looked to be bad, led the Nittany Lions with nine tackles in the game.
The performance by the defense in the second half at Minnesota has to be a bright spot for the team. While the first half was very shaky, it’s good to see that adjustments were able to be made.
Sure, the loss hurts, but the fact that the defense showed it can play solid has to be a positive sign moving forward.
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