Oruwariye’s up to the challenge at home
UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State’s game against Ohio State has everything to show it’s an impactful game in the grand scheme of things.
A pair of divisional teams ranked nationally in the top 10? Check.
College GameDay’s set on campus? Check.
Nationally televised in primetime? Check.
White Out? Check.
Yet Nittany Lions’ cornerback Amani Oruwariye says he doesn’t endorse the idea that this game is more meaningful than any of the others on the schedule.
“I don’t really see it a statement game,” he said. “They’re a good offense. We’re going to play some good offenses, but it’s a big game. … We can’t get too carried up in all the stats and stuff like that. We know it’s a big game and we know what’s on the line. We’re just going to go out there and perform like we know we can and everything else will take care of itself.”
A victory will give the winner a boost in both the Big Ten East standings and College Football Playoff landscape.
But before getting carried away with what’s on the line, many are looking at this matchup to see just how good Penn State’s young, unproven defense really is and if the team can hang around with the likes of Ohio State.
The Buckeyes rank second in scoring offense (54.5) to only the Lions (55.5) and are second in total offense (599 ypg) only to Texas Tech (600.3).
Ohio State has proven it can find and expose defensive flaws in multiple ways, averaging 365.8 yards per game in the air and 233.2 yards per game on the ground.
Much of the early season praise is thrown toward sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has been slinging it through the first games. He has amassed 1,194 yards in the air while completing 84.3 percent of his passes that average out to more than a first down (10.4). He also has 16 touchdowns to just one interception.
Safe to say Oruwariye and the secondary are tasked with a challenge this week.
“I think he’s a good player. I really haven’t seen him much so far, but he’s doing what the coaches ask him to do,” Oruwariye said. “He’s efficient and I think he’s a guy that’s just playing with confidence right now and that’s dangerous. We’re prepared for him and watching film on him on him and we’ve got a good plan for him.”
One can only hope the Lions’ defensive numbers from the first month will carry over to this weekend. So far they’re allowing an average 173.25 yards a game in the air and have given up five passing touchdowns through their first four games.
The team also has four interceptions with Oruwariye accounting for half of those. He is also responsible for one of the Lions’ eight forced fumbles this year.
It’s not too much of a long shot to say the turnover battle could decide the outcome of the game as the Buckeyes have fumbled three times, only losing the ball once, while throwing just one interception in 143 passing attempts.
It’s an area Oruwariye wants to see the defense improve on.
“We’re doing alright. We definitely could do better. Just the little things like trying to punch out the ball more and attacking the ball when it’s in the air,” he said. “In the secondary, I think we’re doing a good job.”
Oruwariye sees a high potential for him and his teammates and hopes it comes out during one of the team’s biggest games of the year.
“I think we’ve done alright. We’ve done good, but I definitely think there’s a lot more in the tank for us,” he said. “As a whole, we just need to challenge a lot more, challenge receivers, realize that we have our abilities too and play with that confidence.
“I know we will step up to the challenge. This is a huge game for us, big stage obviously to do it on and we just try to take it day by day and put a good week of practice in and we’ll be prepared for the game.”
It also helps that the fans will give them a 12th player of sorts with the expected number in attendance to be well over 100,000.
All wearing white.
“It’s the best environment in college football,” Oruwariye said. “It’s really hard to explain. I tell people back home when they ask about it or anybody that asks about it that it’s something you have to experience. It’s just electric: the fans, the screaming. It’s definitely intimidating for an opposing team. It’s just everything you think of with college football.”
Oruwariye is certainly grateful to have the crowd on his side.
“You can see the quarterback try to come up to the line and make checks. Even a coach on the sideline trying to yell to him or anything just to get something right,” he said. “The whole atmosphere and the noise, it just effects them. For them, they try to minimize how much that effects them, but they know it’s going to affect them so they try to prepare for that. We know it’s a factor. We know it’s an advantage for us. (It’s) home field advantage and we’re going to use it as much as we can.”
Not a bad plan as the Lions attempt to prove they belong in the College Football Playoff discussions.