NAVY: Lion Defense Making Things Happen

Ted Roof's charges came up big in Penn State's easy victory over the Midshipmen Saturday. The unit forced four more turnovers and improve on third downs.

Rips, tears, strips and sacks.

No, we're not talking about clothes.

Rather, they are the materials that have been key to Penn State's defensive improvement the last two weeks. The Nittany Lions have forced a combined eight turnovers -- four in each of their last two outings -- in what has quickly become a staple of coordinator Ted Roof's defense.

“Ted called a heck of a game, and the kids played really well,” head coach Bill O'Brien said after Penn State's 34-7 demolishing of Navy Saturday.

After their opening loss to Ohio -- a game that changed after a sure-fire interception went through safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong's hands and resulted in a Bobcat score -- O'Brien and his defensive unit spoke strongly about the need to force turnovers, starting the next week against Virginia.

Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they talked the talk and walked the walk.

Obeng-Agyapong redeemed himself in the first quarter against Virginia, recovering a fumble, the first of four turnovers the Lions defense would force against the Cavaliers. It was the more of the same Saturday at Beaver Stadium, this time starting with Obeng-Agyapong.

In the middle of the first quarter, Obeng-Agyapong hit Navy QB Trey Miller and forced a fumble. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill recovered. O'Brien said his players are just doing what they are trained to do.

“We practice that at the beginning of every practice,” he said. “We work on stripping the ball, stripping it after a sack, tip ball drills, how to recover the football, and rules related to turnovers. We emphasize all of that. It's always emphasized to our kids, and they've done a great job of being alert of that.”

Saturday saw another new twist for the defense. With Penn State up 27-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, Navy running back Noah Copeland dropped a handoff from newly inserted quarterback Keenan Reynolds. Linebacker Mike Hull scooped up the ball and rumbled 74 yards for a touchdown.

It was State's first scoop and score since 2009.

“It was awesome,” Hull said. “It was a gift, basically. I picked it up … and I took off.”

But it was not just turnovers the Nittany Lions were seeking vs. Navy, but third down stops, too.

After allowing 9 of 15 conversions in the loss to Virginia, Penn State bared down against Navy, stopping the Midshipmen on two of their three third-down attempts in the first quarter and 11 of 15 overall.

“We were better on third downs today, so there were some opportunities created because of their style of play,” Roof said. “But we did a nice job on third down. We're rushing the passer a lot better and getting more turnovers, so we need to keep doing that.”

Over the last two weeks, Penn State has racked up seven sacks, six fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

“I just want our guys to keep a great attitude and work every day to get better,” Roof said, “and focus on the next opponent and get ready to play and play physical.”

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