Wartman key part of top-ranked Penn State rushing defense



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STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania — Penn State has the nation's No.1-ranked rushing defense and linebacker Nyeem Wartman likes the sound of that.

It's when he heard it — a day after a one-point loss to Maryland — that didn't sit well.

"It wasn't nice to hear it after a loss, but it was nice to hear we were the No. 1 rushing defense," Wartman said.

The Nittany Lions carry that ranking (85.6 yards per game) into this week after limiting Indiana to 162 yards and holding the Hoosiers' top-ranked running back, Tevin Coleman, to 71 yards on 20 carries.

"It was the No. 1 rush defense versus the No. 1 rusher," Wartman said. "He had 10 100-yard rush games in a row and I knew that game could prove we were one of the best rush defenses in the nation."

Penn State defeated Indiana 13-7 to stop a four-game losing streak. The Nittany Lions (5-4, 2-4 Big Ten) face Temple (5-4, 3-3 American Athletic Conference) at home on Saturday.

The Lions' defense has yielded 17 touchdowns and 10 field goals in nine games, good for a No. 6 rating in scoring defense.

Wartman has registered 45 tackles and outside linebacker Brandon Bell has 38, but inside linebacker Mike Hull dominates that statistic with 101.

Ends Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan and tackles Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel have given Penn State a solid seven-man front.

"I think you could make the argument our defensive line is one of the better ones in the Big Ten in terms of a true two-deep," Penn State coach James Franklin said.

Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop rotates personnel along his defensive front, and Franklin has played freshmen in the secondary.

Marcus Allen is starting for injured safety Ryan Keiser. Grant Haley sees time in the secondary and has been a special-teams standout.

"You're relying on young guys at positions where I think you can get away with it," Franklin said.

"And I don't care what the Butkus Award people think, I can't imagine a better linebacker in the country right now than Mike Hull," Franklin said. Hull is not a semifinalist for the award.

One of them is Bell, a sophomore who saw playing time last season and has taken over as a starter.

"We're definitely confident whoever we go against," Bell said. "Coach Shoop has confidence in us so we can go out there and play against anybody. I think we're ready for any offense."

Holding down Temple's offensive output would keep Penn State's lofty defensive status intact.

"We know the rankings," Wartman said. "I would rather get a W than be ranked the No. 1 rush defense in the nation."

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