As the skies above State College opened up and a downpour continued through kickoff, it was clear that we were in for a slopfest. The conditions were going to make things difficult for both teams to move and hang on to the ball. While fans like myself were sitting in the stands, daydreaming about watching the game in a more cozy environment next to a fireplace, P.J. Mustipher and Barney Amor proved to be standouts in the two areas that were crucial to victory in these conditions - winning the field position battle and stopping the run game. Boy, did they each deliver.
Amor was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance where he placed four of his five punts inside the 20, with three of those being downed inside the 10. Any hope that Northwestern may have had to move the ball on the Nittany Lions evaporated as they attempted to drive 90-plus yards to reach the end zone. Amor has demonstrated an exceptional skill to pin teams deep by getting the ball to neatly drop within the 10 - and several times, within the 5 - with the ball almost never reaching the end zone. The Colgate transfer has proven an extremely valuable addition, especially as field position battles wil become incresingly more important as the schedule gets tougher and the weather becomes harsher.
Mustipher led the charge for a defensive front that allowed just 1.1 yards per carry, and just 31 net yards of rushing on the day. He shut things down in the middle of the line, leading the team with eight tackles. When he wasn’t taking the ballcarrier down himself, he was doing what great defensive tackles do - handling the dirty work in the trenches of eating up blockers to let everyone behind him fly around and make plays. He clogged up lanes the entire afternoon, making things nearly impossible for the Wildcats to move the ball with any inconsistency. With the wet conditions limiting the passing game, Mustipher played a gigantic role in shutting down the Northwestern offense. After missing the second half of the 2021 season with an injury, Mustipher seems to be getting healthier and making more and more of an impact with each passing week.
S Ji’Ayir Brown - With several Nittany Lion defenders developing into standouts, Brown has become the most consist performer on the defense. He had another standout do-everything performance, with six tackles, a TFL, a quarterback hurry and an interception and 30-yard return that helped swing momentum back in the Nittany Lions direction after a couple turnovers by the offense to start the game.
DT Hakeem Beamon - Beamon was impossible to miss on Saturday, constantly getting into the backfield to disrupt plays. He also got his paw in the air and batted down consecutive passes to help prevent a Northwestern rally in the fourth quarter.
DE Nick Tarburton - Tarburton had his most impactful game of the season, contributing a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries on the afternoon.