September 7, 2012 at 12:55 PM
Penn State/ Virginia Defensive Matchups
Statistically, neither defensive line had a breakout effort in their first games of the season. Penn State’s line totaled just one sack and put little to no pressure on the quick-throwing Tyler Tettleton last week against Ohio. Virginia’s defensive line had zero sacks in its opener against Richmond and no lineman had more than five tackles. Expect both teams to put up bigger numbers this week, however, look for the Nittany Lions to win this matchup overall. After taking last week’s loss personally, senior defensive tackle Jordan Hill said the line is excited to face a pro-style offense, which will allow for more time to pressure quarterback Michael Rocco. Look for multiple sacks from Hill and a more collective effort from the Lion defensive line as whole.
Advantage: Penn State
With a combined 31 tackles against the Bobcats on Saturday, Penn State’s starting linebacker corps certainly left its mark on the box score. However, this year at “Linebacker U”, there might be more asked of this experienced group — likely the biggest strength of the team — than showing up on the stat sheet. Between Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, and Glenn Carson, none of these players were able to get "that big stop" in the fourth quarter when the Lions needed to get the defense off the field in the Ohio loss. This will likely be critical again tomorrow. Virginia’s linebackers, led by senior captain Laroy Reynolds, have made major strides to become one of the strengths of the Cavalier team as well. I see Reynolds causing some trouble in the Penn State backfield occasionally but, overall, the Lions will win out in this battle.
Advantage: Penn State
Cornerback Stephon Morris is recovering from an ankle injury he suffered against Ohio, but is expected to play. Morris is one of the anchors of this secondary, already the biggest question mark of the defense, and his absence would certainly make things interesting for the Lion pass defense. Similar to Penn State, Virginia didn’t record an interception in its season-opener. A very young group, the Cavalier back line will depend on sophomore free safety Demtrious Nicholson, who started all 13 games last season, making two interceptions as a true freshman. Whether Morris is cleared to play or not, look for the Cavalier secondary to win this matchup, making some big plays against McGloin and company on Saturday.