Jason Cabinda came up with it about 10 minutes before the Nittany Lions took the field against then-No. 2 Ohio State.
Fellow linebacker Jake Cooper noticed how the partial club cast on Cabinda’s left hand gave his teammate full mobility of four fingers, but encapsulated the thumb, holding it in place.
If Cabinda clenched his four fingers into a fist and held his hand up, it looked like he was giving a thumbs-up.
So of course after every major play Cabinda made — and there were quite a few — he gave a cast-created thumbs-up to the rowdy Beaver Stadium crowd.
“The thumbs-up was funny,” Cabinda said Wednesday with a laugh.
It was a welcomed sight for Penn State fans and coaches alike; after missing a combined nine games due to injury, Cabinda and Brandon Bell were back at linebacker, wreaking havoc on the Buckeyes.
The duo combined for 31 tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks en route to helping the Penn State defense seemingly transform into the fierce unit Big Ten foes are accustomed to facing.
Having Bell and Cabinda back in the mix was clearly crucial for production purposes, and the two were itching to get back on the field.
Cabinda said he injured his hand on the second play in the season opener against Kent State and played through the pain, and thought he’d be back for the Oct. 8 win over Maryland, but he incurred a setback.
Bell suffered his injury during the Sept. 10 game at Pittsburgh, and, like Cabinda, finished the game hurt, which “might not have been a good idea.”
From that point forward, he heard the same thing over and over.
“Guys were always asking me, ‘When are you coming back? When are you coming back?’” Bell said.
He was happy to no longer have to answer that question with an unsure shrug.
Still, Bell and Cabinda learned a thing or two biding their time as their respective injuries healed.
For Bell, he realized that nothing affects him quite like football does.
“Nothing makes me more sad, nothing makes me more happy,” Bell said.
The senior offered a wry smile.
“Even with the ladies,” Bell continued. “Things like that kind of get me in trouble when you don’t have the same emotions toward everything else as I do football.”
Thankfully for Bell, he wasn’t totally removed from the game. He and Cabinda essentially served as assistant coaches while injured.
“That was different,” Bell noted. “I got to kind of see it more from their point of view, their aspects, and I was just proud of all the young guys that stepped up no matter the circumstances.”
Meanwhile, Cabinda has thought about a coaching career after his playing days are behind him, whenever that is.
The experience gave him a new perspective — dissecting the game without a helmet on.
“Being able to kind of sit back, you get to go into coach mode and see how offenses are attacking you,” Cabinda said. “Being right there next to Manny (Bowen) and Coop and those guys as soon as they have a question in practice or whatever it may be, and try to help those guys out as much as you can is what I went through during that time and what I learned about myself.”
Cabinda was cool with turning in the figurative headset for pads, though. He’s got plenty time ahead of him if he wants to pursue coaching.
You only get so many chances to face the No. 2 team in the country on home turf.
So when he and Bell were cleared to play, they couldn’t have been happier.
“It was tough sitting out, there’s no doubt about it,” Cabinda said. “You want to be out there, and you want to be making plays alongside your brothers.”
It was tough sitting out, there’s no doubt about it. You want to be out there, and you want to be making plays alongside your brothers.
Bell echoed those sentiments.
“It was everything honestly,” the senior said. “Just to be out there, back up your teammates.
“My teammates are the only thing that kept me sane the last few weeks.”
Now, hitting is what keeps the two sane.
If Saturday was any indication, Bell and Cabinda are back doing what they do best.