EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Often times, a statistical analysis of a football game doesn’t tell the whole story. However, one glance at the defensive stats after Penn State’s win over Syracuse on Saturday says a lot.
At the top of the list of tackles you’ll find defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, which in itself is a rarity at Linebacker U. The senior from Johnson City, N.Y., recorded nine tackles, eight of them solo. Included in those were three for loss, including a sack.
That line is idicative of a defense that did what it needed to do, especially in critical times, to help deliver a win.
“In the end, our defense bailed us out, played a helluva football game,” coach Bill O’Brien said.
In particular, the defensive line delivered, starting with Jones.
“They did a great job. Having guys like that on the field, it really helps the linebackers out tremendously,” linebacker Glenn Carson said. “The offensive line can’t get off double teams as fast when they’re struggling with the big guys like that up front. I’m really happy with how they played.”
Jones, at 6-foot-3, 318 pounds, celebrated a career high in tackles.
“I can’t stop. I can’t be happy with one game. I’m hungry for the next game,” he said. “I think we all just got after it. We all wanted to play relentless today. I feel like everyone fired out to the ball, trying to make plays. At the same time, the defense bent but didn’t break.”
While others, like defensive end Deion Barnes, might have more acclaim, Jones said the unit leans on each other to get the job done.
“We tell each other, we’re only going to be as good as the guy next to us. I’m not going to be good if Deion’s not good, and vice versa. We’re not going to be good unless everyone on the front line’s good,” he said.
Junior Kyle Baublitz got the start over Austin Johnson and recorded one tackle, but clogged the middle so that others could swarm to the ball. He said earning the start was a landmark for him.
“It was big. Working hard pays off,” he said. “There was still a lot of pressure because Austin’s got a lot of talent and he’s right behind me, so I can’t slack off.”
On a day that featured temperatures in the 80s and high humidity, the line was able to stay fresh because of coach Larry Johnson’s rotation.
“We just had a good rotation. A lot of guys rotated. We’re experienced players and we made plays,” Baublitz said.
Clearly, the leader who made the most plays was Jones. He said he was especially pleased to finally break through for a sack on Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen in the fourth quarter.
“It felt good because early on in the game he was just (throwing) quick passes. I give a lot of credit to the secondary because that was a coverage sack. They really tightened down the coverage and played great man-to-man and I got to squeeze in there and get the sack,” Jones said.
“I could hear coach J in the back of my mind saying, ‘strip sack,’ but when I came up the ball was right there but I didn’t want to lose the sack, so I took it down with me. I was just happy I got back there and made a play.”
On this day, Jones made the most.