When Penn State takes the field tonight, it may line up across from a team that closely resembles it.
The Nittany Lions will face in-state opponent Bucknell at Jeffrey Field.
The strength of both teams is defensive play, with the Bison and the Lions both ranking in the top 20 nationally in goals against average. Earlier this year, the Lions went 505 minutes without allowing a goal, the longest such streak in the Big Ten .
“Bucknell is always a tough game,” defender John Gallagher said. “They always come here fired up and ready to play”.
The Lions (7-4-2, 2-1-1 Big Ten) have historically dominated the Bison (5-4-4, 1-1-2 Patriot League), compiling a 58-8-4 record since they first played in 1930.
However, the Bison have had recent success against the Lions, posting a 2-1-1 mark since 2008, with both wins coming at Jeffrey Field.
The Bison, which rank 15th in the country with a .71 goals against average, could pose a problem for a Penn State team that has struggled offensively of late. Sunday’s 2-1 victory over Michigan State was the first time the Lions scored multiple goals in a game since the middle of September.
With playmaking midfielder Minh Vu likely to miss his second consecutive game after sustaining a concussion against Akron, the Lions will need to look to other players for offensive opportunities..
Gallagher said he will be looking to put crosses and shots into the box from his outside-defensive position.
“I feel the need to get forward and help out the attack,” he said.
Senior forward Hasani Sinclair said the Lions need to run at the Bison and be as dangerous and relentless as possible in order to build on the offensive progress established in the Michigan State match.
But like the Lions’ offense, Bucknell’s has struggled as well. During their current five-game winless streak, the Bison have only scored two goals.
Yet that isn’t changing Penn State’s strategy.
“It doesn’t matter how many goals a team comes into a game with. We’re going to take the same approach and try to keep them to none,” defender Brian Forgue said. “I think we can find a lot of success if we focus on keeping the ball on the floor and making them chase.”