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Q&A with Penn State's football beat reporter

IDS: IU is 0-16 all-time against Penn State. What is the perception of Indiana football on the Penn State campus?

ORSO: That’s definitely an interesting question. The perception of Indiana has always, and to some degree, still is, “Oh well, it’s just Indiana.” But at the same time, I know Penn State football fans, and they follow along with conference play and how each of their opponents are looking.

I think there’s a decent number of Penn State fans who have seen the success Indiana’s offense has had thus far, and are a bit scared about this Saturday. I’ve even heard a few predict it could be Penn State’s first loss against the Hoosiers.

IDS: Penn State is 3-1 on the year, with its only loss coming against Central Florida 34-31. Did Central Florida just have the better team or did Penn State let one slip?

ORSO: It’s tough to say. After the game, I was certain Penn State’s defense handed them one, and I still contend that group of guys made some mistakes on the night. And they admitted it, too.

The front four couldn’t generate anything resembling a pass rush, two young corners in Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams played pretty awful coverage all night and nearly every single Penn State defender whiffed on a tackle in open space.

But, after watching UCF play with the big dogs and put up a fight against South Carolina, I’ve been convinced they’ve got a prolific offense led by quarterback Blake Bortles who is quite impressive to watch.

IDS: How does freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg look taking over for former quarterback Matt McGloin?

ORSO: Matt McGloin was a bit of a late bloomer, so when it comes to Christian Hackenberg’s level of play relative to his age, he’s lightyears ahead of where McGloin was.

McGloin had a bit more confidence, a bit more edge and a bit more swagger because he was a senior and was able to do so. We’re seeing Christian Hackenberg emerge from his shell more and more each week, and there’s been serious improvement. This kid played some fantastic football through nonconference play, looks exceptionally comfortable with his line and has showed he is a serious force to be reckoned with.

He’s showed his age, though, and has made some bad decisions, held the ball too long, thrown into tight coverage, etc., which has led to some turnovers.
But all in all, this 18-year-old has potential, and we’re seeing him get better before our eyes.

IDS: What makes wide receiver Allen Robinson so hard to cover?

ORSO: Allen Robinson is just an absolute freak athlete. I mean, there’s really no other way to describe it. He is just a total freak of nature.

He’s got unimaginable speed and just has this ability to get around corners, make them miss and execute the big play every time. He makes fantastic cuts — and late cuts at that — that we’ve seen rattle secondaries.

The only success we’ve seen against him is when defenses can double cover him while simultaneously pass rushing well to pressure Hackenberg to throw a screen or pass it off closer to the box.

IDS: Who are some players to watch on the defensive side of the ball for Penn State as they try and stop IU’s Big Ten leading offense?

ORSO: Returning middle linebacker Glenn Carson has been a rock and is quite consistent. He leads the team with 29 tackles.

Next to him will be Mike Hull, who is a talented linebacker but suffered an injury during Penn State’s season opener, so the linebacker unit has been missing him. He’ll most likely play Saturday, so look for him to be hungry for some big plays.

Up front, 2012 Freshman of the Year Deion Barnes is really still waiting for his 2013 breakout game. An effective pass rusher, this guy has been relatively quiet so far this year.

And next to him, big defensive tackle DaQuan Jones has posted some big numbers thus far and has proved a good run defender. He’s been called one of the best DTs in the conference.

Follow reporter Evan Hoopfer on Twitter @EvanHoopfer.

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