STATE COLLEGE — Statistics show that Indiana could provide Penn State’s defense with its most difficult challenge of the season on Saturday.
Cornerback Jordan Lucas and safety Adrian Amos are convinced those numbers are accurate as the Lions (3-1) prepare for their Big Ten opener on the road. The Hoosiers (2-2) lead the Big Ten with 547 yards per game and sit just behind Ohio State, scoring 44.5 points per game.
Quarterback Nate Sudfeld has run the IU show to a Big Ten-best 348.5 passing yards per game, and his 81 completions, 1,146 passing yards and 11 touchdowns engineered from an up-tempo offense have the Nittany Lions focused.
“Indiana has the No. 1 passing offense in the Big Ten and that’s going to raise a lot of eyebrows,” Lucas said. “This week we have to prove we can stop the pass and we have to shut them down. Their wide receivers are tall and they can run well. And their quarterback can get the ball to them, so we just have to play good defense.”
The Hoosiers are 30-for-60 on third down conversions and 4-for-10 on fourth down. They average 7.2 yards per play, and four receivers have at least 14 catches.
Ball control and time of possession were issues in losses to Navy and Missouri. As such, Indiana coach Kevin Wilson wants running back Tevin Coleman to be more of a factor against Penn State. Coleman has rushed for 397 yards on 56 carries.
Indiana has not defeated Penn State in 16 tries and it hasn’t won more than four Big Ten games in a season since 1993. With both teams coming off bye weeks and both sharing similar offensive strategies, Amos understands all that is at play.
“They play very fast and try to get a lot of plays off in the game,” Amos said. “They make you play in space. But we see our own (up-tempo) NASCAR offense every day in practice, and it’s not as big of an adjustment. Indiana runs plays and gets up to the line as fast as any team.”
Plus, the frenetic pace is something Penn State saw from Central Florida during its 34-31 loss to the Knights last month. That game featured a number of missed tackles by Penn State defenders, something Amos, who has played multiple positions in the defensive backfield, used as a learning tool.
“At the cornerback position, things happen,” Amos said. “The defense as a whole didn’t play well that game; it wasn’t just the secondary or the linebackers. We lost as a team. You just have to play the next play. Every week you’re just going to get better.”
No better place to do that than in Bloomington, right?
“This week is a big week for us as a whole,” Lucas said. “It’s our first Big Ten game and we want to go 1-0. This week is going to mean a lot coming out against the No. 1 passing offense in the Big Ten.”