After missing last week’s game against Army West Point, and the second game of the season against Buffalo, Brandon Bell was happy to be back in his strong-side linebacker spot.
However, being forced to watch games from the sidelines, and listening to the coaches, gave him a new perspective on the game.
“Kind of see what the coaches see,” Bell said. “You see things a lot easier, actually, reading an opposing offense. Just trying to learn, always learning, taking in everything.”
Bell finished the game with one solo tackle and assisted on two more stops.
“Brandon’s a very confident guy,” middle linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “He’s a guy that gives us a lot of energy and he’s a guy who makes big plays. He makes big plays all the time.”
Offensive lineman Andrew Nelson, who is widely regarded as the most versatile player on the unit, also returned after missing the last several weeks of play.
He started at right tackle against Indiana, part of an offensive line that included Paris Palmer at left tackle, Wendy Laurent at center, Brian Gaia at right guard and Brendan Mahon at left guard. Laurent started in place of Angelo Mangiro, who did not play Saturday after suffering an injury last week against Army.
The line gave up four sacks for a total of 13 yards, but still was able to push open holes for Hackenberg’s two rushing touchdowns and 154 yards on the ground for Penn State’s total attack, which was missing its top two running backs.
“Obviously I was a little rusty,” Nelson said. “But at the end of the day, you got to do your job from start to finish and I think that was kind of my mindset.”
Penn State never usually displays play cards on the sidelines during games, but this week, the Nittany Lions had large cards out with cryptic messages on them, one of which said “If you’re reading this, you know what to do.”
Indiana notably uses the cards during the game. Head coach James Franklin said his own team’s use of them might have been a little “paranoia” on his part.
“We found out that they spend a lot of time trying to figure out your calls on the sideline,” he said. “That’s kind of the word on the street, and those signs allow us to get our plays in, along with signals to get our plays and numbers with wristbands to get our plays in. So we just want to make sure that we have three different ways to call our defenses and just to make sure.”
Penn State also uses a wide variety of hand signals on defense, combined with verbal checks and wristbands.
Backup quarterback Trace McSorley saw the field for the first time this season, late in the fourth quarter.
He completed one pass for four yards, to Gregg Garrity, and had one carry for five yards.
For the first time this season, Penn State will leave the state. The Nittany Lions next head to No. 1 Ohio State for an 8 p.m.meeting next Saturday with the Buckeyes.
With an opponent like Indiana this week, and Ohio State following, there is a natural inclination to take a look ahead, but Nittany Lion players after the game said it’s not hard to stay focused on the current opponent when they are immersed in game plans and film study.
“During the week,” defensive tackle Austin Johnson said, “when you’re practicing for one team, you really don’t think about it besides that team, watching film on that one team.
“I wouldn’t say it’s hard to do, not to look ahead. It’s what you’re trained to do.”