Penn State notebook: Dieffenbach returns, plays both guard spots
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Miles Dieffenbach’s day finally came.
The fifth-year senior from Fox Chapel made his season debut in a win Saturday at Indiana, playing two full early series at his familiar left guard and then also getting into the game in the fourth quarter at right guard.
“The plan going into this week was to get him one or two series and hopefully build his confidence and go from there,” Penn State coach James Franklin said.
Franklin said he hoped to be able to “double” Dieffenbach’s playing time in the upcoming game against Temple.
When Penn State’s third drive began, Dieffenbach took the position of freshman Brendan Mahon. He was beaten by Bobby Richardson for a first-quarter sack during Dieffenbach’s second series of the season. However, quarterback Christian Hackenberg can take at least partial blame for holding onto the ball too long.
“Miles is a guy who means a lot to me, and seeing him out there interacting more so now as a player (than as a de facto coach), I think that’s awesome,” Hackenberg said.
Dieffenbach’s presence was welcomed for many reasons, not the least of which was that starting left tackle Donovan Smith was not on the travel roster. Smith has not played since exiting late in the Ohio State game two weeks ago.
PSU’s starting line — the same as last week’s — entered this season with zero career starts and with three of the five members having not taken a snap in college on the offensive line.
Derek Dowrey also spelled Mahon at left guard.
Historically long run
Bill Belton’s 92-yard touchdown run was the longest scoring run in Penn State history and tied for the longest scoring play at PSU. It was the longest play of any sort since Blair Thomas had a 92-yard run in 1986.
“The line did a great job on that play to open a lot of things up,” Belton said. “Once I got through there, there was no one in the middle of the field, so I was able to take that big crease that they gave me and go the distance with it.”
The play went for more rushing yards than PSU had in six of its eight previous games. It also was significantly more than the Lions had in their past two games combined (58 yards).
Belton had only 91 rushing yards (on 31 carries) over the previous three games.
“I pride myself on coming into each week and playing well, and I didn’t play well those particular games,” Belton said.
Keiser an inspiration
Senior safety Jesse Della Valle was among a handful of prominent players who joined Franklin in visiting injured safety Ryan Keiser at a Hershey hospital late last week.
“This game, our whole mindset is we are playing for ‘Keis,’ going out and playing for ’23’ because he’s such a great teammate,” Della Valle said. “When we went down to see him, all he wanted to talk about was the game at Indiana and what the team was doing to prepare and things like that.
“So we definitely wanted to get that win for ‘Keis.’ I think we played well, and I think he’d be pleased with it.”
Keiser has had multiple surgeries on his bowel the past two weeks since suffering a broken rib in practice Oct. 23.
— Chris Adamski