Written By Sammy Jacobs (@Hoosier_Huddle)
The Indiana Hoosiers (4-1, 0-1) are trying for their first ever win at Beaver Stadium on Saturday when they take on the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-1, 1-0) at noon. IU is coming off a heartbreaking 34-27 loss to Ohio State that ended a four game with streak, while PSU has notched four straight victories since dropping the season opener at Temple. If IU is going to leave Happy Valley with a smile they will need to do the following things:
1. Continue to Win the Turnover Battle
Indiana sports a +9 turnover margin and has forced 11 turnovers through five games so far this season. In order to win any game on the road winning the turnover battle is huge.
Forcing turnovers may be easier said than done, as Penn State has been very good at protecting the ball as they have just three turnovers in five games despite being fairly inept of offense.
Linebacker Marcus Oliver and safety Jonathan Crawford have shown that they has noses for the ball and will be major factors if the Hoosiers are going to steal possessions from the Nittany Lions.
2. Pressure Hackenberg
Coming into the 2015 season Christian Hackenberg was a potential top-10 NFL Draft, now he is struggling to complete passes against inferior opponents. He was sacked 10 times, that’s right 10, in the opener at Temple. If the Hoosiers want to get in his head they are going to have to be in his face all afternoon. Hackenberg is easily frustrated and has been seen berating his offensive line and teammates on the sideline when he struggles. If the defense can play like they did last week against the Buckeyes, the Hoosiers should be just fine.
3. Don’t Become One-Dimensional
The Hoosiers are dealing with injuries to their top two offensive players in quarterback Nate Sudfeld and running back Jordan Howard. Both players are likely game time decisions. If IU is without one or both of them they cannot get stuck being one-dimensional. Backup quarterback Zander Diamont showed last week he is capable of making passes and make big plays with his feet. If Jordan Howard is out, but Sudfeld plays IU has to find a running game with Devine Redding, Ricky Brookins (if he is healthy) or Andrew Wilson and Alex Rodriguez. IU can make it difficult for the PSU defense by staying balanced and not letting them key on just one aspect of the offense.
4. Take The Crowd’s Soul
It’s homecoming this weekend at Penn State and there will be 107,000-plus fans screaming inside Beaver Stadium, so silencing them may be difficult. However, this has not been the best 4-1 Penn State in history. If the Hoosiers can come out and score early they can suck the soul out of the crowd. Even more important than the first score are the second and third scores. If IU can race out to a two or three score lead this crowd will get awfully nervous and quiet.
5. Get Something Going on Special Teams
Penn State has a great defense and points may be hard to come by for Indiana, so getting a big play in the kick and punt return games could be huge. Mitchell Paige has proven to be a play maker on punt returns, but the Hoosiers could use a spark on kickoff returns. Any extra yards the special teams unit nets will go miles in the effort for the Hoosiers to bring back a win.