Penn State Football vs. Ohio: Behind Enemy Lines

Penn State Football
Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)

Penn State Football is getting ready to build off a dramatic win over Purdue, as the Nittany Lions now turn the page to do battle with Ohio Bobcats on Saturday from Beaver Stadium.

To get everyone ready for Penn State Football’s home opener against Ohio, Nittany Central had the opportunity to talk to Eric Decker, who covers Ohio Bobcats for Athens Messenger in Athens, Ohio.

What Eric Decker expects from Penn State Football vs. Ohio

1. Your Initial thoughts on Penn State vs Ohio

 Eric Decker: Obviously, this is a game for Ohio where the prospect of winning vs. losing isn’t nearly as necessary. The program was dead last in offensive production in the MAC last season, and a heavy focus has been about revamping the offense. The 41 point performance last week against FAU was already a good sign of progress, I feel as if the main goal from Ohio this upcoming week is to repeat the offensive success they saw the week prior. FAU was a good litmus test, but this offense desperately needs to have a test against a Power 5 foe.

Although they did allow nearly 40 themselves to the Owls, Ohio’s defense has been touted as their best all-around unit so far.

If both are able to click against Penn State Football, I feel like it should be a somewhat competitive contest.

I don’t think anyone around Athens is truly expecting to win this one, but the feeling is that it won’t be the typical Power 5 vs. mid-major blowout we’re accustomed to seeing.

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2. Who on Offense should Penn State Football be concerned about?

Eric Decker: On the offensive side of the ball, Ohio actually has a few key playmakers that could make a serious impact in this contest.

Starting at the top, Kurtis Rourke potentially had his breakout game last week, with 345 yards and four touchdowns through the air.

The third-year QB has struggled throughout his career with making the big plays but there’s always been something to like with his game. Although the numbers and record has been frankly disappointing, Rourke has always been a very accurate passer and will walk away with a high completion percentage.

A lot of the issues have been with the talent surrounding Rourke.

That’s starting to change, though, with the influx of a few transfers and the maturation of others. They have playmakers across the field and Rourke simply has to get the ball to them, which he’s shown the ability to do.

The ground game runs through Sieh Bangura.

The DeMatha Catholic product ran for 114 yards on 23 carries in the win over FAU.

A true sophomore, Bangura played four games last year before being red shirted for the season. It was probably done because he has some of the highest potential on this squad. He’s a shifty, quick back who can make people miss but has the power and physique to take defenders on and carry them a few yards.

It would be difficult for Penn State Football to focus solely on the passing game, because Bangura will hurt them if they do.

For those who don’t follow Ohio, what makes this matchup very interesting

Eric Decker: This matchup is interesting around the Athens area for a very specific reason.

MAC schools and mid-majors play against Power 5 foes all the time, it’s not the biggest deal. This one is a little different though. The last time Ohio and Penn State met on the field was back in 2012 when Ohio went up to Pennsylvania and beat the Nittany Lions.

There’s a sense of pride within the program and around the area.

They know the challenge they’re walking into, but hold the confidence that they can go in and make history repeat itself.

For Penn State fans who maybe don’t remember this, or have chosen to forgot it, the matchup against Ohio means more about getting bragging rights back rather than the simple idea of going 2-0 on the year.

Do you like to see more games between the Big Ten & MAC, as it gives other schools exposure to a big-time environment?

Eric Decker: Games between mid-majors and Power 5 schools are what we all dream of. Fans may not necessarily be in favor of it all the time, because it usually means that their team is getting another guaranteed loss, but athletes couldn’t care less. These are the types of games and environments these kids live for. Not to mention, it also gives them a national time slot to be seen.Your team doesn’t have to win for someone to make a stand out play that changes the trajectory of their career.

You could also look back to the basic thought of competition. You don’t get any better playing people just as good as you, you need competition and a reason to feel like the underdog sometimes. It’s good for all involved, that is until the higher ranked team gets knocked off.

Do you think we will ever see Penn State play at Ohio in the future?

Eric Decker: It would be in the best interest of Ohio financially for sure to try and get a home-and-home scenario going, it would help sell out their stadium in minutes. Logistically though, I doubt that ever happens. It easily could, but just speaking objectively I don’t think so. 

Teams don’t really follow back to the MAC, and unless they’re getting serious money on a buy-game from the program, it would probably be better financially for Penn State to just having these teams come to them. It’s a difference of about 79,000 seats.

What is one reason why Ohio pulls the upset, and defeats Penn State Football?

Eric Decker: If Ohio wants any chance of repeating 2012 and taking down the Nittany Lions again, the offense is going to have to show up in a big way.

Though the Bobcats defense is their strength, the talent discrepancy will just be too much, and Penn State. will score, Ohio needs to keep up offensively.

This means another 350+ game from Rourke, another 100+ receiving game from James Bostic and another 100+ game from Bangura.

It’s a tough task, but it’s what going to be needed if Ohio wants any chance of walking away with a win against a Big Ten foe.

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David Malandra Jr.

David Malandra Jr.

I am Sports Reporter that covers Pro & College Sports in Philadelphia