During Penn State’s walkthroughs on Fridays, defensive coordinator Bob Shoop will gather his unit for a minute or two to talk about sudden-change situations.
His players are drilled to expect opponents to take shots and go for the quick score when they take the field. The opposing offense is looking to build on the momentum of a turnover. Shoop talks to the defense about shutting that momentum down.
When the defense takes the field, there is one goal.
“When you’re in a sudden-change mentality, it’s three-and-out — no options,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said.
“Three-and-out,” safety Marcus Allen said. “Got to get a three-and-out.”
The Nittany Lion defense faced two sudden-change situations Saturday, crushing Indiana’s momentum both times in a 29-7 victory at Beaver Stadium. Both sequences came in the first half with the game tied, and Shoop’s unit got off the field quickly both times. It was a crucial part of another strong effort by the defense as the Hoosiers put together just one drive longer than 40 yards — an eight-play, 65-yard march.
Indiana quarterback Zander Diamont finished that drive with a 12-yard touchdown run, tying the game 7-7 with 4:11 left in the first quarter. The Hoosiers recorded four first downs on the drive before Diamont’s touchdown run.
After Devine Redding rushed for three yards to convert on third-and-1, Diamont rushed for 10 yards and connected on passes of 14 yards and 17 yards with Isaac Griffith to set up the score.
“There’s no such thing really as a perfect day,” Cabinda said. “You’re never going to have a day where every single drive is three-and-out for the whole day. The offense is going to get their yards at some point, and that was kind of the drive that they had.”
The Hoosiers tried to build on that momentum with an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff.
Will Dawkins recovered the kick for the Hoosiers.
Penn State linebacker Brandon Bell said he was caught off guard by the play.
“It was a bold move,” Bell said.
But Bell wasn’t concerned.
“Our defense is ready for anything,” Bell said.
Bell described the unit as a mature group that was well prepared for the sudden-change situation.
Indiana’s offense took over at its own 49-yard line. Penn State’s defense was ready to get a three-and-out and get its offense back on the field.
On first down, Diamont hit Simmie Cobbs for a 5-yard gain. On second down, Redding was stopped after a 1-yard gain. On third down, defensive tackle Anthony Zettel deflected a Diamont pass at the line of scrimmage.
Indiana punted the ball to DeAndre Thompkins, and the Penn State offense started its next drive.
“They can’t get a first down and obviously they can’t score,” Cabinda said. “It’s as simple as that. It’s about taking the momentum that they just got from that interception or that fumble recovery, whatever it may have been, and switching the momentum right back in our favor.”
The Nittany Lion defense was soon back on the field after another sudden change, when running back Mark Allen lost a fumble to end the ensuing drive.
The Hoosiers picked up a first down after a pair of runs by Andrew Wilson.
But the defense then stopped Wilson for a loss of one yard on first down. Defensive end Garrett Sickels flew in from behind Diamont for a sack, setting up third-and 15. A screen pass led to fourth-and-8 and another Indiana punt.
The Hoosiers offense couldn’t generate momentum against the Penn State defense.
The Nittany Lion offense started to click to take a 19-7 halftime lead en route to the 22-point win.
“It gives the offense momentum to get right back into their game plan to get into the end zone to score,” Allen said. “That shows them that they can put themselves on our back. We’re gonna carry them, we got ‘em.”