Preparations for Indiana ramped up on Sunday. Penn State‚??s other battle for today‚??s game against the Hoosiers publicly began a week earlier.
Beating the Hoosiers is first on Bill O‚??Brien‚??s mind today. Not far behind that on the priority list is keeping fan interest in the Nittany Lions high and sending his seniors off on a high note.
The Penn State coach began beating the drum a week ago on his radio show to encourage students in particular to come out for today‚??s game against the Hoosiers, and next week‚??s finale against Wisconsin.
O‚??Brien followed it up this week by crystallizing his argument.
‚??I‚??m not going to beg anybody to come to the game,‚?Ě he said. ‚??But I‚??m going to tell them this: This is a team that has been through unprecedented situations. This is a football team led by a senior class that has had the choice ‚?? had the choice ‚?? whether to stay at Penn State or to leave Penn State. And they chose to stay.
‚??So as fans, as students, can we not choose to support them in their last two games? Eight quarters of football? I don‚??t know. To me, that‚??s what I feel. I think this is a team that‚??s poured its heart and soul into this season. ‚?Ľ I would hope and I would expect that our students and our fans understand what this team has been through ‚?? what they did to commit to each other, to commit to this university, to stay together ‚?? and come support them in their last two games, especially this senior class.‚?Ě
Today marks a trouble spot on the schedule the Lions could see coming months ago. Indiana is typically one of the least enticing draws on the schedule. Classes at Penn State have halted for a week-long Thanksgiving break and, though dorms will remain open this weekend, many will choose to head home as early as possible for the holiday.
Add in the recent developments of a noon kickoff ‚?? rarely a good sign for attendance ‚?? and a frustrating loss to Nebraska last week, and it‚??s not surprising to see headlines on the program‚??s official website such as ‚??Team Deserves Packed House in Final Home Games.‚?Ě
If last week had gone a bit differently, there might have been a bigger spotlight on this game. Along with the Lions‚?? loss to the Huskers, Indiana was slaughtered by Wisconsin, 62-14. Had the Hoosiers won, they would have had the inside track to a berth in the upcoming Big Ten title game.
At 4-6, now the Hoosiers are just trying to become bowl eligible, needing to win their final two games. Their plan of attack today will be to air it out against a Penn State secondary that has rarely been tested this season and will likely be without starting safety Malcolm Willis (knee).
‚??Offensively, they run a very, very fast tempo,‚?Ě O‚??Brien said. ‚??I mean, ultra fast. And they try and run between 90 and 100 plays in a game, so that‚??s a huge challenge for our defense this week and special teams.‚?Ě
Second-year coach Kevin Wilson is known for his success as an offensive coordinator, most recently at Oklahoma, and will try to wear out the Lions defense.
Averaging just under 300 yards through the air per game, good for 26th in the nation, Indiana sports the most productive passing attack the Lions have faced all season. Previous Big Ten opponents have ranged from average (Purdue, 61st) to terrible (Iowa, 94th; Ohio State, 98th; Illinois, 105th; Northwestern, 110th).
Of help to Penn State‚??s defense is that the unit has faced plenty of up-tempo, no-huddle looks in practice, courtesy of O‚??Brien‚??s offense. That preparation will be key.
‚??Yeah, absolutely,‚?Ě linebacker Glenn Carson said. ‚??It‚??s something we‚??ve been doing since the first day of camp. There‚??s not a day we don‚??t (practice against the) no-huddle.
‚??We‚??ve seen it before. We‚??re absolutely ready for it.‚?Ě