When Miles Dieffenbach got twisted around, the weight of a teammate falling on top of his legs in March, it was a potential career-ending sentence for the senior guard.
He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) on the play. That was in March. Eight months ago, Dieffenbach’s season was over. On Saturday it resumed. Dieffenbach returned to the field for three series against the Hoosiers. He entered the game in the first half at his regular left guard spot where he played two series and returned in the second half for a few plays at right guard.
“The plan going into this was to get him one or two series in the game and then hopefully build some confidence and go from there,” Franklin said.
Dieffenbach was not available afterward but spent some time riding a stationary bike on the sideline during the game. Franklin said the next step will be to see how Dieffenbach feels on Monday.
Seeing Dieffenbach back, suited up wearing his familiar No. 65 was an uplifting sight for his teammates. He’s been around the team’s facility mentoring the team’s younger linemen and has been practicing in scrimmages for the past few weeks.
“Miles is a guy that means a lot to me and to see him out there and interacting more now as a player whereas throughout the season I think he sort of took more of a coach role,” quarterback Christian Hackenberg said. “Seeing him now, he’s back, he’s a player. Being able to talk to the rest of the linemen, get what they’re feeling, being able to operate with them, I think that’s awesome and he loves it and we’re excited about that.”
Win it for Keiser
Ryan Keiser remains under the watchful eyes of doctors at the Hershey Medical Center where he’s recovering from multiple surgeries to repair a torn bowel, suffered during practice before the team’s game against Ohio State.
He may as well have been with his teammates inside Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Franklin said a handful of seniors along with a few coaches visited the injured safety on Thursday and brought one of his jerseys to Bloomington. After the Nittany Lions’ victory over the Hoosiers, the team posed with Keiser’s jersey in the locker room and took a picture. They planned to send it to him as soon as they got back.
“This game, our whole mindset was we’re playing for Keis,” senior safety Jesse Della Valle said. “We’re going out and playing for 23 and he’s just such a great teammates. We went down and visited him this week and all he wanted to talk about was the game against Indiana and about the team and how the team was preparing and things like that. So we definitely wanted to get that win for Keis. We played well and I think he would be pleased with the way we played.”
With Dieffenbach back, Penn State made use of four guards during the game. Brian Gaia and Brendan Mahon started at right and left guard, respectively. Dieffenbach also played both sides and Derek Dowrey played left guard.
Dowrey was a part of the line — along with center Wendy Laurent, Gaia and tackles Andrew Nelson and Angelo Mangiro — that opened a big hole for Bill Belton to spring 92 yards for Penn State’s lone touchdown on the afternoon.
“When I broke free, I was excited,” Belton said. “The line did a great job up front. All the credit goes to them.”
Della Valle intercepted his first pass to end the second quarter. The senior safety reached up and made a nice snag of a desperate Zander Diamont heave along the sideline.
Bill Belton’s 137 rushing yards made him the first Nittany Lion running back to eclipse the century mark this season. Meanwhile, his 92-yard touchdown run in the second quarter was the longest such play in program history and the longest scoring run in Memorial Stadium history. It was only the third 90-plus-yard score in Penn State history.
Wideout DaeSean Hamilton moved into third on the single-season receptions list with two catches against the Hoosiers. He now has 64 catches. Ironically, Saturday was Hamilton’s lowest output of the season.
Former Penn State standout and current Indianapolis Colts center A.Q. Shipley attended the game with former Nittany Lion quarterback Anthony Morelli.