The first two games of the season had Stephen Obeng-Agyapong a little down on himself, at least in the eyes of his roommate, Stephon Morris.
Obeng-Agyapong — a redshirt junior safety — missed a golden opportunity for an interception in the Nittany Lions’ season opener against Ohio, when a ball he tipped landed in the hands of a receiver and went for a touchdown. The following week, he was part of a secondary that couldn’t come up with vital third down stops in the second half.
However, the tides turned for Obeng-Agyapong (that’s pronounced O-bing AJAH-pong. And yes, it all fits on the back of his uniform) in Penn State’s third game of the season. Obeng-Agyapong made nine tackles — a career-high — and forced a fumble in the Lions’ triumph against Navy last Saturday.
Morris said Obeng-Agyapong was smiling and back to his old self after the game.
“If he goes against the offense like this the next [nine] games, he could be an All-American,” said Morris, a senior safety. “It’s a confidence booster for him. You could tell that play against Ohio, his confidence was shaken.”
The Bronx, N.Y., product said not dwelling on what could have been in the first two weeks helped him thrive against Navy.
“It's always tough when you have opportunities to make plays and you can’t make them,” Obeng-Agyapong said. “It’s hard on you, but you have to have a short memory. You have to go on to the next play.”
Obeng-Agyapong’s play has paid off as he has won the job as Penn State’s starting strong safety. He started the summer as the No. 2 at the position and was listed as the co-starter with senior Jake Fagnano when the season started.
At his weekly press conference Tuesday, coach Bill O’Brien said Obeng-Agyapong’s effort against the Midshipmen was the best he’s seen from him. The first-year coach added the safety is “one of those players you really enjoy coaching.”
“He works extremely hard in practice. He plays through injuries. He’s a tough tackler,” O’Brien said of Obeng-Agyapong. “He’s improved his play in space, just a fun guy to be around.”
The fumble forced by Obeng-Agyapong came on a hit against Navy quarterback Trey Miller in the second quarter, and it was the first time the 5-foot-10, 207-pound defensive back has made someone cough up the ball in his collegiate career.
“I was just pretty much trying to play fast and things happen,” Obeng-Agyapong said of his game against Navy. “Things worked out for me, plays came my way, and I pretty much made them.”
Penn State’s secondary wasn’t tested all that much against Navy and its triple option. Navy ran the ball 60 times in 83 offensive plays, and many times it was Obeng-Agyapong up near the line of scrimmage to help make stops.
Obeng-Agyapong said one of his strengths is filling the box, and other defensive players are taking notice.
“I feel like [members of the secondary] held their own and did what they had to do against Navy,” defensive tackle DaQuan Jones said. “Stephen Obeng had a great game, and we feel like there are a lot more to come.”