Buckeyes Give PSU D Plenty to Study

Ohio State's high-powered offense presents challenges for the Nittany Lion defense. Glenn Carson and company are watching hours of film to prepare.

Penn State middle linebacker Glenn Carson is a film-room junky. Says he watches “well over 10 hours” of video during any given game week.

Not to be outdone, cornerback Jordan Lucas says he watches “probably two and a half hours” a day.

It's Ohio State week, and the presumably bleary-eyed defenders are getting an eyeful.

Carson said the video of the Nittany Lions' 35-23 loss to OSU last October in Beaver Stadium is particularly valuable, in that it puts things in context, shows many of the same players facing off last year that will meet Saturday night in Columbus, etc.

And with PSU idle last Saturday, Lucas was among those watching the TV broadcast of Ohio State's 34-24 victory over Iowa. That also has some worth, in that it shows how the Buckeyes are playing at present.

Of course, all that film work also shows the enormity of the task facing the Lions' defense. Watch last year's game, and Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller can be seen moonwalking out of a tackle before completing a spectacular one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter (to say nothing of his back-breaking 72-yard TD pass in the fourth period).

Watch last week's game, and OSU running back Carlos Hyde can be seen absorbing an apparent killshot from Hawkeyes safety Tanner Miller in the fourth quarter -- one that knocked the 242-pound Hyde sideways, backwards and every which way -- before righting himself and continuing to the end zone to complete a 19-yard TD run, putting the Buckeyes ahead to stay.

So yeah, the meeting with the No. 4 Buckeyes -- 7-0 and winners of 19 straight -- is a potential horror show, especially for a defense that has allowed 84 points in two Big Ten games to date.

Naturally, neither Carson nor Lucas views it that way.

Carson, the Lions' top tackler (49), says he watches extra film of each opponent to “see what their main plays are, what their go-to plays are, their gotta-have-it plays,” as well as to gauge the individual strengths and weaknesses of each player.

But in this game, as in any, he said, “It really comes down to tackling fundamentals. When you get out there you don't want to overthink. At the same time you kind of want to react and play tough, hardnosed football. That's really what's going to get it done.”

Lucas echoed that.

“We want 11 hats to the ball every time,” he said. “That's our goal on Saturday.”

Miller is the Buckeyes' “energy source,” according to Lucas. Also “one of the top five players in the country,” in the estimation of Lions coach Bill O'Brien.

As Carson said, “He makes nothing plays into huge plays.”

That was the case on that run against PSU last year, when on a read option he placed the ball in Hyde's lap, then withdrew it as Lions defensive end Sean Stanley leveled Hyde. Miller then darted right, backtracked to avoid a hit by Gerald Hodges, took advantage of an apparent hold by a teammate on Michael Mauti and launched himself into the end zone.

“That play alone just shows Braxton's athleticism,” Carson said, “and how important it is to have fundamentals when tackling breaks down and how important it is to have a solid tackle on him.”

Miller has missed the better part of three games this season with a knee injury, though Kenny Guiton excelled in his place. Overall Miller has hit 69.6 percent of his passes, for 831 yards and eight touchdowns. He has been intercepted twice. He has also rushed 75 times for 335 yards (4.5 a carry). He has yet to score a TD on the ground.

Carson said Miller is “very similar” to Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, who enjoyed a big day against the Lions two weeks ago, in PSU's 43-40 quadruple-overtime victory. Same elusiveness. Same quickness. Same ability to hurt an opponent with the run or the pass.

“What raises a lot of difficulty with Braxton is being able to contain him -- not letting him get out of the pocket and run around,” Carson said. “That's where he continues to make plays. … We have to make sure we continue to contain him and make sure he doesn't scramble out of the pocket and make those big plays.”

Hyde missed the season's first two games because of a disciplinary suspension, but has hit his stride of late, carrying 50 times for 317 yards and five scores the last two weeks, in victories over not only Iowa but Northwestern. Overall he has gained 443 yards (6.2 a carry).

“He definitely knows how to use his body,” Lucas said.

As he showed on that run against Iowa. When asked for his impression of that play, Lucas said, “I didn't have any impression on it, because plays happen. In football, big plays, X plays, they're going to happen all the time. It's just going to be a regular game. If something like that happens against us, we just have to line up and play the next play. I don't really think anything of things like that.”

Regular game? Not really. Lucas, having never played in Ohio Stadium, has consulted with older teammates and ex-teammates, and they have assured him it's “a crazy atmosphere.”

“A lot of guys on the team, we look forward to that,” Lucas said.

That would appear to include Carson, as some of his best games have come against the Lions' toughest opponents. He had 14 tackles last year against Nebraska, 13 against Wisconsin. The year before, he had 11 stops against OSU and Alabama.

“I just really like playing on a big stage,” he said. “I like when I know that the game's going to be a blood bath, and it's going to come down to the very end. I think that's when I play my best.”

He can only hope he has company Saturday from not only Lucas -- “one of the better football players on our team,” O'Brien said -- but others. Carson further hopes that the Lions start faster than they did coming out of their previous bye week, when they were steamrolled by Indiana.

“We can't be hesitant,” he said. “We've got to play loose. Coming out of the last bye I think we were a little bit flat on the field. It took us a while to get going. This week I think we're really focused. We have a really tough, big opponent, and we're really excited for this game.”

Excited, Lucas said, even though there remains no chance of postseason play. Not this season. All they have is the here and now, the opponent in front of them.

“One of our main goals is just to be the best at everything we do,” he said. “We know what we can't play for, but we know we have a lot of things we can play for. We play for this university and just our own pride and dignity. We want to be the best, and we want everybody else to know that.”

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