By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - Twenty-three days. A lot of things happened during the time period of Sept. 2 to Sept. 25. Penn State football played four games, replacement referees were the talk of the National Football League and the No. 20 Penn State men's soccer team (6-2-1, 1-0) didn't allow one goal in 505 minutes and 56 seconds of game time. No, that last one is not a typo.
The streak, which
is the longest shutout streak this year in the Big Ten, started in the 53rd minute
against Georgetown on the second day of September and ended in the 89th minute
of Tuesday's 1-0 loss against Lehigh.
Bob Warming's team has acknowledged their streak with hopes of re-starting it on Saturday against Indiana.
"Those are some great numbers," said senior defender Brian Forgue, who played every minute of the streak. "Unfortunately Tuesday we didn't get the stat that counted, which is the win, but we will start streaks like that again against Indiana on Saturday."
The Nittany Lions shut out West Virginia, Albany, Adelphi and Wisconsin during the streak, going 3-0-1 while scoring a combined five goals. Warming credits his back line, but also the team as a whole for playing complete team defense.
"We defend with 11 players. We attack with 11 players," said Warming. "We wouldn't be in this kind of streak that we had without the great pressure our forwards put on. Its all credit to the 10 players in front of the goal keeper and what they are doing."
Three of the four defenders that make up the back line for Penn State were not starters last year, including Forgue, junior Martin Seiler and freshman Shane Campbell. The lone returner, John Gallagher, played every minute except one during the streak.
Gallagher is the veteran of the back four, but has seen his role emerge as more of an attacker in the 2012 season, which has left the three newcomers to take over and anchor the back line for Penn State.
"I think they have made a lot of progress as a group," said Warming. "They are great when they get criticized in film and don't take it personally and use it as something they want to get better on."
The improvement has been clear since the 2-1 loss to Georgetown and the development of not only the Nittany Lion back line, but also the team as a whole has played a big part in their defensive successes.
Seiler believes that the team's improvement began when the decided to adjust their style of play and became comfortable with keeping the ball on the ground, instead of in the air.
"At the beginning of the season we kicked a lot more balls up top and in the air," said Seiler. "Now we are focusing on building the game from our goal keeper playing the ball to our center backs and outside backs and getting it through the middle."
Communication has been a focal point for Forgue and the defense since day one, and he said that the development of their mentality of working as a group has allowed them to focus on the simple things of playing good defense.
"There is no individual on the back line," said Forgue. "You work as a unit, as a group. You can't have any individuals and that is really apparent right now."
Seiler, Forgue and Warming all stressed the importance of continuing their defensive success against No. 10 Indiana (6-2-1, 1-0) on Saturday, but they know Indiana is a completely different team than those they have played in the past.
Indiana has scored 15 goals this season, which leads the Big Ten; led by sophomore Eriq Zavaleta's seven. Penn State will have to adjust to the 4-2-3-1 system that the Hoosiers will bring to Jeffery Field.
"There is only one true guy up there," said Warming. "You can't let that one guy determine where you set your back line. Have to keep the back line connected to the midfield. It will be a big challenge for our guys but we are really looking forward to it."
Penn State and Indiana have split their last 10 meetings, including a 1-0 victory for the Hoosiers last season. The Nittany Lions and their defense hope to avenge that loss Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jeffery Field.