Penn State notebook: Nittany Lions linebacker Bell misses 1st game of season
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Penn State’s third-leading tackler, linebacker Brandon Bell, missed a game for the first time this season because of an apparent shoulder injury. It was the second game that a starting linebacker had missed for the Nittany Lions in 2014; Nyeem Wartman was not in uniform Sept. 20. Linebacker is the PSU defense’s thinnest unit.
Jason Cabinda took Bell’s place, becoming the sixth true freshmen to start a game this season. He had five tackles, two solo, a half of one for a loss.
“Although it was his first start, he’s played a lot of reps all year long,” coach James Franklin said. “I know the coaches were confident in what he was going to be able to do.”
Two others go down, too
Cornerback Christian Campbell and running back Bill Belton were injured during the first half and did not return. Belton’s injury appeared to be to his left arm; Campbell his left shoulder.
“Not having Bill Belton was a factor for us,” Franklin said. “He tried to go early in the game and wasn’t able to go. He’d been playing well the last couple weeks, making safeties miss.”
The starting o-line, at last
For the first time this season, all of Penn State’s top offensive linemen were deemed healthy enough to start.
The lineup of, left to right, junior Donovan Smith, senior Miles Dieffenbach, junior Angelo Mangiro, sophomore Brian Gaia and freshman Andrew Nelson probably projects as the Lions’ best five. But injuries to the two players who are by far the most experienced of that group — Dieffenbach and Smith — had wreaked havoc with what is otherwise a young and inexperienced line.
Fox Chapel’s Dieffenbach (torn ACL in the offseason) made his 24th career start and first this season. After playing all but three series last week against Temple, he played the whole game Saturday.
“We obviously all have got to play better if we don’t come out with a win,” Dieffenbach said.
Despite being sacked 39 times this season, Christian Hackenberg hasn’t missed a snap because of injury. That almost changed during the second quarter Saturday.
LaKeith Walls and Jihad Ward sandwiched him after releasing a pass, causing Hackenberg to gingerly limp toward the sideline. He was looking down at his right leg, shaking it slightly. Although he appeared, at times, slightly less mobile than usual, he did not miss any action.
“It was there, but you’ve got to be able to play through that,” Hackenberg said. “That’s been my mentality ever since I put on a uniform: play through things and don’t let that stop you. Even though it may have hurt here and there, just play through it.”
After not fumbling through nine games all season, Penn State’s running backs have had fumbles in consecutive games. They lost both, including Akeel Lynch on Saturday. … Illinois lost defensive back and dynamic return man V’Angelo Bentley on an injury during the opening kickoff. … Lions linebacker Mike Hull had a game-high 10 tackles to move into seventh on the PSU career list with 275 and ninth on the season list with 121.
— Chris Adamski