Penn State Looks To Overcome Washington’s Defense
Four Things to Look for: 2017 Fiesta Bowl
1. Trace McSorley and the high powered Penn State offense against a solid Washington defense
Penn State looks to overcome Washington’s defense in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl as Trace McSorley and the Nittany Lions travel to Arizona. The junior quarterback passed for 26 touchdowns this season with eight interceptions. Washington has one of the top secondaries in the country, but has only recorded 13 interceptions on the season. With the injury to cornerback Jordan Miller, the Huskies have looked to safeties Taylor Rapp and Ezekial Turner. Rapp and Turner both have one interception on the season and Turner recorded two defended passes.
Furthermore, Rapp and Turner are listed at 6ft and 6ft 2in, respectively. McSorley should have a good match up with tight end Mike Gesicki and receivers DaeSean Hamilton and Juwan Johnson, all being over 6 ft. If the junior scrambler can spread the ball around, and keep the secondary on their toes, the Nittany Lion offense should do enough to outscore the Huskies.
2. Linebacker group without Manny Bowen
Penn State announced that linebacker Manny Bowen has been dismissed from the team. The already depth-lacking group will look to senior Jason Cabinda to step up and have a big game. Cabinda and co. will have their hands full with Washington running back Myles Gaskin. Gaskin is Washington’s offensive MVP and rushed for 22 total touchdowns on 1,282 rushing yards this past season. Cabinda will need to bring his leadership to a group that struggled toward the end of the season.
If the linebackers can get a solid push from Shareef Miller and the defensive line, against a young, inexperienced tackle in Luke Wattenberg, then the Nittany Lions should be in good shape to take Gaskin out of the equation. If the d-line for Penn State, that was once ranked high in the nation, cannot get back to early season form, it will be a long game for the Nittany Lions.
3. Struggling Penn State o-line vs. the No. 1 rushing defense in the country
Washington boasts the No. 1 rushing defense in the country. Penn State’s o-line must have their best game yet as Penn State looks to overcome Washington’s defense on Saturday. To help create holes for star running back Saquon Barkley, the o-line must stop Vita Vea. The second-best defensive tackle in the nation, Vea, will be especially bothersome to Connor McGovern and Brandon Mahon. The junior is a future first-round draft pick. He has 25 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss on the season. The Washington linebackers are the weak spot in the defense. If the o-line can keep Vea out of the backfield, the Nittany Lions and Barkley should put on a show that the Penn State faithful has become accustom to.
4. Washington standout Dante Pettis
The Huskies lost several receiver weapons to injury this season, but Dante Pettis remains a constant target for quarterback Jake Browning. Despite a leg injury, Pettis is expected to suit up for the 2017 Fiesta Bowl in Arizona. Pettis is the leading receiver for the Huskies by a large margin. He has 62 catches, where as the second leading receiver is nowhere close with 22. If Grant Haley, Christian Campbell and Amani Oruwariye can shut down Pettis, there is a good chance for the Nittany Lions to come out of Arizona with a win.
The Nittany Lion secondary is not the only unit that must be wary of Pettis. The Penn State punt team, highlighted by star punter Blake Gillikin, must suffocate Pettis early. Pettis is the NCAA’s all-time leader in punt return touchdowns with nine. While the punt team for Penn State has been solid all season, they must finish strong to keep Pettis out of the end zone.
The Nittany Lions will have their hands full with a talented Huskies team as Penn State looks to overcome Washington’s defense in the 2017 Fiesta Bowl. Both teams were plagued with injury this season. If Penn State wants to be the 2017 Fiesta Bowl champions they will have to play a full four quarters. Dating back to the Rose Bowl against USC a year ago, the Nittany Lions have blown important games late. Whether it is due to coaching calls, a lack of stamina, or not adapting well to situations, Penn State as a whole must finish the game. It will undoubtedly be close, so leadership at every position is key to winning this game.