Bill O’Brien said he isn’t going to beg for students to show up for Penn State’s last two home games, but he does have a message for them.
“This is a football team led by a senior class that has had the choice whether to stay at Penn State or to leave Penn State. And they chose to stay,” O’Brien said. “So as fans, as students, can we not choose to support them in their last two games, eight quarters of football? I don't know, to me that's what I feel.”
The Nittany Lions (6-4, 4-2 Big Ten) final two home games come sandwiched around Thanksgiving break, which has student attendance for both contests in question.
As O’Brien mentioned, this team –– specifically its seniors –– has been through a lot in the last year. Tackle Mike Farrell, one of those seniors, said he expects a good crowd for his last two games at Beaver Stadium, the first of which is against Indiana (4-6, 2-4) at noon this Saturday.
“I’m looking forward to these next two weeks, and I know a lot of people are saying these two games are over Thanksgiving break, and we’ll see what kind of impact that makes,” Farrell said. “But those fans that have been with us the whole way, I expect that they’ll be with us these last two games.”
On the field, Indiana enters losers of six of its last eight contests. And while the Hoosiers have a quick attack and strong offense, they have the conference’s worst defense.
Indiana allows a Big Ten-worst 32.2 points and 445.8 yards per game, and last week the team’s defense was embarrassed on the ground by Wisconsin. In a 48-loss, the Hoosiers allowed 564 rushing yards to the Badgers.
Rushing defense has by no means been Indiana’s strong point this season as the team has allowed an average of 244 rushing yards per game — which ranks 118th of 120 Division I teams.
Even with the poor rushing defense, O’Brien still has his concerns about the middle of Indiana’s defensive line. The team has two defensive tackles, Adam Replogle and Larry Black Jr., who both have four sacks on the season.
“They have two inside tackles that are excellent players and they sack the quarterback,” O’Brien said. “When you have two inside tackles that sack the quarterback, that tells you right there that they're two good players because it's not easy to rush the passer from those positions.”
On offense, however, the Hoosiers have had success this season. Indiana’s offensive numbers almost exactly mirror its defensive statistics, as the team ranks third in the Big Ten in both points per game (32.2) and yards per contest (431.4).
The Hoosiers are led on offense by quarterback Cameron Coffman, who averages 214.7 passing yards per game.
Coffman is the signal caller in a fast-paced Indiana attack, which is something the Penn State defense has seen in games and on the practice field against the team’s no-huddle, “NASCAR” look.
“I think they’re one of the better teams doing it that we’ve seen so far this year,” junior linebacker Glenn Carson said. But we practice against it every single day in practice, so it’s something that the players are used to and comfortable with.”