Reviving pass rush key for Penn State in Fiesta Bowl against Washington
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Penn State struggled at times this season, notably in games against Ohio State and Michigan State, pressuring quarterbacks who can scramble. Washington's Jake Browning, a 2016 Heisman candidate, will present similar challenges in the Fiesta Bowl on Saturday.
As a result, Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry has re-examined his team's pass rush and how to make it more effective.
“I hope we've learned from those two experiences,” Pry said of the Ohio State and Michigan State games. “When you put on the film of the Washington quarterback, he is spinning and juking and jiving all over the place, and then he'll complete the pass.
“We worked very hard on caging quarterbacks like this, coming out of the midseason losses. We have to bounce guys around, win more one-on-ones and have a little better plan.”
Pry also brought up Penn State's lack of pass rush against Sam Darnold in the Rose Bowl last year. The Lions did not sack Darnold, allowing the quarterback time to throw for 453 yards and dissect the secondary in the second half.
Browning, who has thrown for nearly 9,000 career yards, has the extra skill of elusiveness. The quarterback rushed for 188 yards (40 net because of 16 sacks) and six touchdowns, something Penn State's defense understands it has to corral.
“That's what we've been talking about, trying to make sure we cage him in the pass rush,” defensive tackle Parker Cothren said. “Don't let him spin out and extend the play like he does very well.”
Penn State's defensive backs will be looking for some help with “caging” Browning to deflect some of their lengthy coverage needs.
“Him getting outside of contain and us collapsing the pocket will be a good challenge for us because you never know; we could end up covering for eight, 10 seconds,” cornerback Grant Haley said. “It's a challenge for us and it's a challenge for the defensive line.”