Laying it on the Line

Penn State veteran tackle Landolt believes O-line play will be the key to Saturday's matchup with the Buckeyes.

Entering the season, Dennis Landolt knew it would take time for the Penn State offensive line to jell.

After all, the Nittany Lions were replacing a trio of All-Big Ten starters on the line. Meanwhile, the two returning starters -- Landolt (right tackle to left) and Stefen Wisniewski (right guard to center) -- both changed position in the off-season.

It took a switch at left guard and three different right tackles for the offensive line to finally become a cohesive unit. Gone were LG Matt Stankiewitch and RT DeOn'tae Pannell, replaced by Johnnie Troutman and Nerraw McCormack, respectively. When McCormack sustained an ankle injury, he was replaced by Ako Poti.

The same line has started the last four games, as the Nittany Lion offense has hit its stride heading into this week's showdown with Ohio State at Beaver Stadium. This is how Landolt hoped things would play out.

“I knew we had the ability to be a good line and get things done,” he explained. “But a bunch of guys hadn't played yet, so I wasn't sure when it was going to happen. But I think the newer guys have come along real well.”

Landolt said in a game at Illinois -- with the fourth of five different line combination the Nittany Lions have used -- the offensive line finally came together.

Against the Illini, Penn State rushed for 338 yards, a season-high. In the four games prior to Illinois, Penn State averaged 127.25 rushing yards per game. In the last five games, the Nittany Lions have averaged 225.8 yards on the ground.

Landolt was hesitant to attribute the success to finding a unit that has five consistent starters.

“I think it helps a little bit, [because] you get used to playing with the same guys,” he said. “But I've said this before -- we move guys in and out in practice. Last year we were fortunate to not have anybody get hurt, and that's a real rare thing. So we have to get ready for guys to get hurt. We're all used to seeing different guys in there.”

Even if completely healthy, Penn State could have its hands full with the Buckeyes' strong defensive front. Landolt compared it to one the Lions faced earlier this season -- Iowa's.

“There are definitely some similarities there,” Landolt said. “They have some big players. They're strong. They play well.”

When asked for a key to the game, Landolt focused on the obvious.

“When you have two defenses the caliber of ours and Ohio State's, it's almost always a situation of whoever's O-line does the best job of controlling the defense is going to win,” he said. “With two defenses like that, it's going to come down to which O-line does the best.”

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