Lions succeed at pressuring Browning
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The biggest question mark for Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl was whether its defense could get enough pressure on Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
The Nittany Lions were up to that challenge. Browning had been sacked only 16 times all season, but Penn State dropped him for four sacks and got in his face on many other plays.
“It was an emphasis this week, obviously,” defensive coordinator Brent Pry said. “Just feeling like we needed to do a better job in that department, and not just pressure, but coverage and pressure. I thought the guys did a great job.”
“I think we did a good job kind of spying him,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “We knew he was good at avoiding pressure. That’s kind of what he does is extend plays, make plays on the run. We knew we were going to have to keep him on the run, keep him uncomfortable, make sure he couldn’t identify pre-snap.”
The Huskies got two big plays that led to points, but other than that, Pry said, “For the most part they weren’t able to block our front, and that was the biggest thing for us on our side of the football.”
Penn State’s career receptions leader, DaeSean Hamilton, caught five passes for 110 yards and two TDs in the final game of his career.
“This is my last days here, just enjoying the time with the team and trying to document all the good moments we’re having,” Hamilton said. “And obviously finishing the season with a win it really means a lot. And it was really important to everyone on the team, not just the seniors.”
Kevin Givens started at defensive end because of the first-half suspension of Shareef Miller, and wound up being a disruptive force. He finished with half a sack and four tackles (two solo), plus was involved in a number of other plays.
Safety Marcus Allen was named Penn State’s defensive MVP, but Givens certainly deserved some consideration. He also played nose tackle and three-technique tackle during the game.
“I was so impressed with him,” Pry said. “You talk about a young guy still, just a sophomore, that bounces back and forth between end and tackle week after week and within a game. He learns it, he doesn’t bust and he consistently shows up. He is a very explosive player, and he’s hard to block.”
Givens has a chance to be a special player the next couple of years.
“We prepared all month for this team, so I had a pretty good game plan of what we were going to do,” he said. “Everybody’s excited. I’m happy to send out the seniors on a good note.”
Asked if Saturday was his best game, Givens said, “I feel like I’ve made a couple mistakes, so I wouldn’t say it was my best game. You never have your best game.”
Ricky Rahne called plays in the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl, but Saturday was his first time doing so as the full-time offensive coordinator as he replaced Joe Moorhead. Rahne mixed things up all game and kept the Washington defense guessing, plus Trace McSorley’s success throwing on third down was the difference.
“It was great for me because I was able to get a lot of plays on the field and get through some things,” Rahne said. “Just a great job on third down, great job by the offensive line giving (McSorley) time, and he does a great job of finding time in the pocket and moving around when he needs to. All those guys believe in him, so they’re going to get open.
“I felt good, just with the preparation that we had and the tempo we were able to play with, and it translated into the guys being able to play fast,” Rahne added.
Rahne called the shovel pass a lot, five times, including two of the first nine offensive plays. The plays didn’t gain many yards.
“It probably wasn’t quite as effective as I thought it was going to be,” Rahne said. “We had to change it a little bit. I thought they played it pretty well, to be honest with you. The shovel pass is just another way to get a run play called.”
Rahne was in the press box rather than on the field and noted, “It’s because I was there all season. It was just easier for me to be able to organize my thoughts up there.”
Backup quarterback Tommy Stevens saw a lot of action as an offensive utility man Saturday. He was asked after the game if he’s thought about his future and whether he will stay at Penn State or possibly seek a transfer.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Stevens said. “Now I have a little bit of time to figure out what I want to do. But I tried to keep it true, worry about who were were going to play that week, what they were going to do, and ultimately be prepared for that opponent. I’m proud of myself for being able to do that and give myself a chance to be successful.”
He does seem to like the way he was used late in the season. He was listed as a starter at the “lion” position for the bowl game.
“It was really fun,” Stevens said. “I’m really happy to be a part of the game plans and be able to help out in wins like this. … I think there’s still stuff there that we’re going to do. I guess we’ll see how creative they are with what they’re going to do. Whatever it is, I’m excited to see what’s on the table.”