After providing Penn State with multiple scoring opportunities, Eli Dennis went down with a broken leg in the 58th minute against Bucknell on Wednesday at Jeffrey Field.
Dennis, one of two starting center backs, has played a significant role in the defensive line after defender Martin Seiler suffered a knee injury that kept him out of both the Michigan State and the Bucknell games.
Dennis stepped in after Seiler was injured during the first half against No. 11 Indiana and was crucial in hindering the Hoosier offense. With Seiler out of the lineup indefinitely, the defense could have had to make some serious changes, but fortunately the redshirt sophomore has helped keep the team afloat - something coach Bob Warming has taken notice of.
“Eli’s been great. He’s picked up a bad injury unfortunately,” he said. “He stepped in for Martin, who had a knee problem and was scheduled to start right before the Michigan State game, and Eli’s come in and done really well.”
Although the team has experienced an offensive resurgence recently, the defense has been carrying the team by keeping the goals against total at 11. The 6-foot-2 senior has played in a total of eight games this season and has turned his supporting role into a leading one.
Dennis’ absence could cause the team to completely reorganize their defense. For example, in the game against Bucknell, Akil Howard had to step in to cover the center back position even tough he normally plays on the outside.
However, Gallagher has full confidence that traditional substitutes such as Howard can contribute to the back line.
“He’s a big physical back and wins almost everything in the air,” Gallagher said. “His physical presence will definitely be missed, but we have guys who can come in off the bench and contribute, as well.”
Dennis’ presence extends beyond the defensive line. He proved his versatility by applying pressure on Bucknell’s defense with four headers off corner kicks. Even though only one of those was a shot on goal, he created plenty of opportunities in the box.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, a broken leg can take anywhere from six to eight weeks to heal, and rehabilitation could potentially take longer. With this injury, Dennis will most probably miss the rest of the season and any postseason play.
With two big games coming up against Northwestern and Ohio State, the team will have to rely on players coming off the bench to play pivotal roles to be able to compete.