D’s “thin blue line” will decide last three games
The hits just keep coming for Penn State’s beleagured defense. Dallastown’s Ben Kline is the latest casualty, as the marquee position at Linebacker U loses another scholarship athlete. Ben tore a pectoral muscle against Minnesota, apparently on the second play of the game, played the rest of the contest with it, but now will undergo surgery and wait till next year to return to the field.
While the Lions D held Minnesota scoreless in the second half, and it was the offense that uncharacteristically struggled, also getting shut out in the final 30 minutes, the worry for Bill O’Brien and company is still when the other team has the ball. Zach Zwinak looked like the Zach of last year, and if Bill Belton can shed the fumbling gene he has inhereted from Zwinak, those guys can be a formidable one-two running punch.
Freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg had a bad game. He couldn’t find star receiver Allen Robinson, and had that fumble pulling out from center that chocked off the last gasp at the Gopher two-yard line. Everybody has bad games. I’ll still take Hackerberg and O’Brien’s offense on any given Saturday.
The defense is the issue. Scholarship restrictions and injuries have left this unit extremely thin–hence the “thin blue line” temptation. Kline’s injury just adds to this mess.
Penn State should be able to beat Purdue at home. The Boilermakers are just plain bad. But, for the final three contests–after Purdue, PSU is home against Nebraska and at Wisconsin–how well the defense is able to stick its collective finger in the dyke will probably determine whether any more games end up in the W column this season.
The Lions have overcome severe odds to put a competitive team on the field these past two years. The lack of scholarship players on defense is just one more, but the normal attrition of a season has made it a high hill indeed to climb.