Penn State finds themselves in another tough spot after losing to a team they felt they could compete with this season. Just like after their loss to Ohio State, the Nittany Lions have to pick themselves up off the mat after losing to Michigan last Saturday.
The first game after losing to the Buckeyes didn’t go so well, as the Indiana Hoosiers came to town and held a late lead in the game.
Rutgers will look to do the same on Saturday.
While many people might not feel this way, it’s an important game for the Nittany Lions. Finishing with 10 wins compared to eight or nine looks much different for recruits, bowl game possibilities and overall health of the program.
To avoid losing to hungry and upset minded Rutgers team, the defense will have to carry the burden again.
Here are the defensive keys to victory.
Stop the Run
It’s no secret what the Scarlet Knights want to do on offense. They prefer to line up and bludgeon the opposition with their rushing attack. Averaging 169.6 yards per game on the ground, Rutgers ranks 50th in the country in rushing offense.
Penn State has done a much better job of stopping the run this season after it was an emphasis of the coaching staff during the offseason. But after a demoralizing loss last Saturday and against a team who won’t go away from it, this game is going to be a gut check for the defense.
Stopping Rutgers’ rushing attack is a must for Penn State to win.
Limit the Quarterback
This seems like an obvious statement, but it heavily applies when talking about how to stop Rutgers. Their quarterback, Gavin Wimsatt, is what makes this offense go even in the limited success they’ve had.
He is the second leading rusher on the team with 409 yards for the year. Wimsatt uses this to free up their passing attack where he has a passer rating of 105.5 on the year.
Now, he won’t sit back there and carve up a defense with his arm. He’s completing under 50% of his passes, has less than 1,500 yards and has thrown for just eight touchdowns. But if Penn State can limit what he can do with his legs and turn him into a one dimensional player, they’ll have success shutting down Rutgers.
When Penn State has dominated the other teams on their schedule, much of that has come from their ability to force turnovers. The Nittany Lions have the best turnover margin in the country with 15.
The takeaways are also balance with 10 fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions so far this season, so it doesn’t matter how the Nittany Lions get the ball from their opponent as long as they do.
Statistics would say that Penn State is likely to intercept a pass more than force a fumble as Rutgers has only three lost fumbles this season and has throw six interceptions. But however they come, it’s a major key to ensuring Penn State leaves the game as winners.