Penn State’s defense shined in the 31-7 victory vs. Northwestern on Saturday. The game started out looking like a familiar 11 a.m. snoozer that many fans feared. The Lions received the opening kickoff and drove down the field, but on fourth down, Trace McSorley was stopped short of the sticks. Northwestern took over and promptly drove right down the field with the wind at their back. The drive was highlighted by a fourth down conversion of their own, taking the ball down to the Penn State 10. After a holding call on first down, Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson was sacked by Curtis Cothran for a loss of eight. The Wildcats were then stopped for no gain on second down.
Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the 28-yard-line, and a potential 45-yard field goal attempt. A safe play to improve the kicking situation seemed to be the logical call. The Nittany Lion defense had other ideas, coming up with the play that set the tone for the game.
Northwestern lined up with three receivers to Thorson’s left, and Justin Jackson in the backfield. Penn State rushed four defensive lineman on the play.
Jackson, who initially was lined up to Thorson’s left moved to the right side to provide additional help to slotback, Garret Dickerson, on Shareef Miller.
As Thorson dropped back, Shaka Toney worked a one-on-one block, and pushed the pocket to apply pressure on the pass. As Thorson released the ball, Toney was able to get his left arm on his non-throwing shoulder, seemingly affecting the pass.
As you can see in this screenshot, the Northwestern receivers all stayed on the left side of the field. There was a short out pattern, a deep pattern by Macan Wilson, and the intended receiver, Bennett Skowronek, ran an inside-out move to around the 10-yard line. One stark note about this image is Thorson had no one in the middle or the right side of the field. Penn State had three defenders in the vicinity, but there was no other outlet for Thorson to get yardage for a field goal try.
The pass by Thorson to Skowronek floated and gave Oruwariye time to get into perfect position. Oruwariye jumped and was able to get the ball at it’s peak and come down with the drive crushing interception.
That was the closest that Northwestern got to the end zone until late in the fourth quarter, as the Penn State defense forced three turnovers on the day. For Oruwariye, the play had deeper meaning. After the game he sent out a tweet noting that Saturday was the third anniversary of his father passing away. Oruwariye nearly had another interception in the second quarter. The one he did grab set the tone for the day and helped propel Penn State to a 31-7 victory heading into the bye week.
3 years ago today I lost my father... I KNOW he was watching over me today https://t.co/0w9dLHIDC5
— Amani Oruwariye (@ooFUTURISTICoo) October 7, 2017