STATE COLLEGE — Lost in the avalanche of yards and points Penn State unleashed in a lopsided win over Eastern Michigan was the solid performance of its defense.
Eastern Michigan’s only score in the 45-7 loss Saturday came on a defensive scoop when the ball slipped out of the hands of Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg at his own 11-yard line.
Other than that, the Nittany Lions stifled the Eagles’ offense.
“They’re playing very well right now,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “There’s some veteran guys over there that have played a lot of football for us, which is good. I haven’t had the opportunity, obviously, to watch the film yet, but I’m very pleased with our defense.”
Eastern Michigan managed just 183 total yards, a meager 61 on the ground for 1.7 yards per carry.
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones led Penn State’s stout defensive line for the second week in a row. Jones was the second-leading tackler against EMU with nine stops, one fewer than linebacker Glenn Carson’s 10. He had a team-leading nine stops in last week’s win over Syracuse.
Six of Penn State’s top eight leading tacklers on Saturday were defensive linemen. That list included Jones, tackle Austin Johnson (6), end C.J. Olaniyan (4), tackle Kyle Baublitz (4) and tackle Brian Gaia (4).
Carson was the first to credit Jones.
“I have been fortunate with such great linemen in front of me,” he said. “I am happy that we have such good, big guys in front. It really helps the linebacking corps.”
Defensive end Deion Barnes is an admirer, too.
“His work ethic is crazy,” Barnes said. “I have learned (from DaQuan) to give it your all and have fun. He is out there smiling after everything, dancing before we get out there to play.”
So far, the Nittany Lions have allowed 12 points per game. Against Syracuse, the offense gave the opposition short fields (the 43-yard line and the 1-yard line) for its scoring drives.
Through two games, opposing offenses are averaging 221.5 yards of total offense a game and a paltry 66 yards rushing.
Defensive coordinator John Butler said stuffing the run starts with Jones.
“DaQuan Jones is a great player. He was in a little bit of the shadow of Jordan Hill for a long time,” Butler said. “But he has taken his game to the next level. He has played very physically.
“As long as he continues to do that, I think it’s going to be a challenge for other teams to run the ball against us.”