Earlier this week we talked about where Penn State goes after the loss at Michigan. The first thing that this team needs is a win as Penn State takes on Minnesota in Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions have several things in their favor entering this matchup. The first, and maybe most important, is that this game is the White Out this year. With the Ohio State game being the noon game on FOX, Penn State opted to have the night game against the Gophers double as Homecoming and the infamous White Out.
Keys to the Win as Penn State Takes on Minnesota
The Nittany Lions cannot afford to take a loss against the Gophers this week. With last week’s loss at Michigan and then Ohio State looming on the schedule, Penn State needs to end the White Out with a win. The first two keys to this one revolve around the run game. Getting it started and stopping it. Let’s take a look at how the Nittany Lions can get back to a balanced offense with their rushing attack.
Get the Running Backs Involved
The Penn State rushing attack was non-existent against Michigan a week ago. Starting quarterback Sean Clifford was the leading rusher. This cannot happen with the talent that the Nittany Lions have in the backfield. When the running backs are involved Penn State’s offense is much more productive. This was evident a week ago just by looking at the number of first downs the Nittany Lions had. If you didn’t look, it was low. Too low to waste words on here. The Gophers come into this game on a two-game losing streak and in those two losses the Minnesota defense has allowed two consecutive 100-yard rushing games. Who were those opponents? Purdue and Illinois. To put this into perspective, Penn State allowed the Boilermakers only 61 rushing yards during the first game of the season. Purdue rushed for 160 yards against the Gophers two weeks ago.
The Nittany Lions need to find a way to move the ball downfield and that will start with the rushing attack. Getting that part of the offense going will allow Clifford to find receivers, and hopefully some tight ends, as the game progresses. Further, this will allow the Penn State defense to get a breather, something they didn’t get a week ago, and keep Mohamed Ibrahim off the field. Speaking of Ibrahim, let’s talk about the next key to winning this game. Stopping the run.
The Run Defense
The Nittany Lions were embarrassed by the Wolverine running backs a week ago. Not only did Blake Corum run all over them, but so did Donovan Edwards. Edwards has 307 rushing yards this season and 173 of those were earned against Penn State. This defense has only given up two 100-yard rushing games this year. One to Auburn and then against Michigan. However, the defense found a way to limit Tank Bigsby to 39 rush yards. They need to do that to Ibrahim again this weekend. He is explosive and has the ability to put up numbers. So far this season Ibrahim has rushed for 694 yards and nine touchdowns through six games.
Penn State needs to redeem itself this week against the run and force the Minnesota quarterbacks to throw the ball. Collectively amongst them, the Gophers’ signal callers have thrown seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. Another wrinkle to the passing game is Tanner Morgan likely being out this weekend after leaving the game against Illinois with a head injury. The two QBs behind Morgan have not thrown a single touchdown pass, have combined for 10 completions, and have thrown two interceptions through five games this season. The likely starter, if Morgan can’t go, is Athan Kaliakmanis. Kaliakmanis is the one responsible for those two interceptions we mentioned. If he is in the game, the Penn State defense needs to force the young quarterback to throw the ball and allow the strong secondary to do what they have been doing all season long.
The Nittany Lions will be playing the game after their first loss of the season in their home stadium, under the lights, in front of a sold-out crowd, during homecoming, and most important at the White Out. Penn State should use this to its advantage. If one of the inexperienced Minnesota quarterbacks needs to play, use the White Out to overwhelm them. Embrace the chaos that the White Out causes and let the crowd fuel the energy. This can only happen if Minnesota doesn’t quiet 107,000 people. If Penn State can keep the crowd in the game, the Gophers likely won’t know how to handle it.