Penn State senior outside linebacker Brandon Bell missed a month this fall with an undisclosed leg injury, a stretch he could not possibly have enjoyed — especially not in his final collegiate season — except for one thing.
“It’s been interesting … kind of seeing the team grow, literally before my eyes,” he said during a conference call with reporters earlier this week. “While you’re playing you kind of can’t get the feel as much, so while I wasn’t playing I got to see it. Now I’m back. I can feel it even more. Just proud of a lot of guys that stepped up, and continue to step up. And just preaching to everybody it’s not over yet. We’ve got a lot to play for. I’m excited to see how it will turn out.” http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1726733-psu-football-recru...
He suffered his injury during a loss to Pitt the second week of the season, and missed the next four games. He returned to make a career-high 18 tackles in the upset of Ohio State, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week in the process.
He has 43 stops in five games this season for the Lions (7-2), who are No. 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings, No. 12 in the Associated Press poll and No. 14 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll. They will look to extend their five-game winning streak Saturday at Indiana (5-4).
“We’re just trying to be consistent, as much as possible,” he said. “Nothing is different, because we’re trying to not be up and down. We’re trying to be even-keeled throughout our whole process. We talk about trying to do more each week, take more, but our approach to that is kind of the same. Consistency has been our key, and will continue to be.”
The week before Bell was hurt, middle linebacker Jason Cabinda broke his left thumb in the opener against Kent State. He sat out five weeks, also returning against the Buckeyes. In the meantime, Brandon Smith, a one-time walk-on, emerged as a more-than-capable replacement for Cabinda, and others, notably sophomore Manny Bowen, made significant strides.
“With all the injuries that happened all over the team, nobody hung their heads the first couple weeks — like, ‘Oh man,’ ” Bell said. “Everybody just looked to themselves and just said, ‘I’ve got to step up.’ Everybody wanted to step up, and they did that.”
The Lions figure to be favored in their last three games — besides the Hoosiers, they visit Rutgers (2-7) and host Michigan State (2-7). A 10-2 finish is on the table, as is a significant bowl, and the idea now, Bell said, is to remain consistent.
“We have even more to play for, than we ever have, each week,” he said. “The stakes get higher. We’re always going to get the best out of every team. Just being Penn State, that’s always been the case. Every game we’ve got to come to play, just keep the consistency.”