With the Little Lions outscoring opponents 120-30 in their first three football games, State College’s offense has been the center of attention.
But as the Little Lions (3-0) look to stay undefeated against Mechanicsburg (0-3) on Friday at Memorial Field, the defense flies under the radar — and continues to pummel the opposition.
“We’re definitely a dominant force,” defensive tackle Kam’ron Walker said.
Walker might be on to something.
The Little Lions have allowed 430 yards total this season, roughly 143.3 yards per contest. For comparison, State College’s offense has 1,141 yards entering Week 4.
State College has shut down both the run and pass, too, allowing 2.79 yards per rush and 4.3 yards per passing attempt.
Granted, the opposition State College has faced so far has been less than challenging. J.P. McCaskey, Hollidaysburg and Mifflin County’s combined record at this point is 3-7.
Without too much of an offensive threat to deal with, Little Lions defensive coordinator Mike Snyder said he and the coaching staff haven’t needed to show their hand this early in the season.
His players are generating pressure without any intricate blitzes or stunts.
“We haven’t really needed to do much,” Snyder admitted. “They’ve created a lot of that on their own.”
That burden begins with the Little Lions’ front four. Walker and Drew Linnes on the interior with Jackson Heasley and Peyton Edwards at defensive end have caused opposing offenses fits.
State College has 21 tackles for loss and nine sacks through three games.
“All four of us are pressuring the quarterback,” Walker said, “and we’re pressuring the running back, either forcing him outside or making him pick a new hole.”
Walker, Linnes, Heasley and Edwards have two tackles each behind the line this season, and when the quartet aren’t dragging down ball carriers, they’re setting up the second level.
As Walker mentioned, the unit is forcing running backs right into the arms of their linebackers like Pete Haffner and Josh Ruffner, who lead the Little Lions with 16 and 15 tackles, respectively.
Plus, it’s not just the skill of the defensive line that’s a nuisance.
“They’re all pretty big,” Snyder said. “The way to handle them is to double-team, but they can’t double-team everyone.”
That constant pressure has made life a little easier for State College’s secondary.
Senior cornerback Aziz Salamy, who normally matches up on the opponent’s top wideout, said all three levels meshing and communicating well is the key to State College’s defensive success.
Salamy, Paul Olivett, Keaton Ellis and Mark Wess make up a secondary that has helped limit opposing quarterbacks to a 47.5 percent completion percentage to start the 2016 campaign.
“Our secondary has done a really good job of locking down receivers and forcing teams to run the ball,” Salamy said. “If we buckle down, I think we can shut down any wide receiving corps in our league.”
To top it off, their defensive coordinator trusts them moving forward.
Snyder might not have shown too much as far as blitzes go, but when he needs to — perhaps this weekend against Mechanicsburg, but definitely against Carlisle the following weekend — he knows he’s got a reliable safety net behind his front seven.
“We have a secondary that we feel allows us to do that, to bring some pressure,” Snyder said. “As we get into the Mid Penn (Conference), we can dial it up.”