Key Matchup: Penn State Defensive Line vs. Minnesota's Run Game

By Michael Stanley on November 8, 2019 at 9:00 am
USA Today

Penn State has one of the most dominant run defenses in the country. They rank No. 2 in total rush yards allowed and rushing yards allowed per game, they're No. 1 in the nation in yards allowed per rush, and they're No. 9 in tackles-for-loss per game. Suffice to say, team's have had trouble breaking through Penn State's brick wall of a defense.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, this is their worst nightmare.

PJ Fleck's offense is predicated on running the ball, chewing up clock, and keeping the opposing offense off the field. Minnesota rushes for 204 yards per game, good for No. 31 in college football. Their three leading rushers have a combined 7,000 yards in their careers. It's easy to see why these Gophers want to run the ball.

They also boast the biggest offensive line in the country. They average a staggering 6'6, 337 pounds. Minnesota's right tackle, Daniel Faalele, is one the biggest human beings in all of college football at 6'9, 400 pounds. This is where it all starts Saturday.

Shaka Toney is simply not going to hold up in run support against someone half a foot taller and 160 pounds heavier than him. He'll need to rely on the rest of the front 7 to keep Minnesota's run game at bay and put them in a lot of third-and-longs. This will be where Toney and the rest of the Penn State defensive ends shine.

Toney has one of the quickest first steps in the Big Ten. When he can pin his ears back and go after the quarterback, not many do it better than him. If Penn State's linebackers and defensive tackles can keep Minnesota from rushing the ball successfully on first and second down, it'll be left up to Minnesota's 400 pound tackle to try and control the speed of Toney off the edge. Slide Yetur Gross-Matos inside on passing downs, and throw in an uber athletic Jayson Oweh too...Fireworks.

Good luck with that, Gophers.

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