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Top Penn State defenders live up to billing

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The two best players on the Penn State defense were as good as advertised Saturday.

Defensive tackles Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson dominated the line of scrimmage in Penn State’s 27-14 victory over the University at Buffalo.

Zettel, a 286-pound preseason All-America, helped draw double-teams that allowed Penn State to sack Joe Licata six times. He also deflected a screen pass that caused an interception and led to a second-quarter field goal. Johnson, a 323-pounder, had a game-high nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss.

“I thought they were very good, and that’s probably an understatement,” Licata said. “They’re relentless. I watched them on film all week and they get after guys. They got after us today. … But I didn’t really get hit that much.”

Zettel made an athletic play on the screen pass, although Licata took the blame.

“It was a screen play, and I’ve got to get the ball above his arm,” he said. “That’s completely on me.”

Flag Football: UB made 14 penalties for 107 yards. There were seven false starts and three illegal cut block fouls. Those handcuffed UB’s offense. The rush ability of Penn State’s D-line likely had something to do with the false starts.

“You don’t cut in practice and you start cutting,” UB coach Lance Leipold said. “It’s communication. It’s nothing intentional. We don’t teach that. It’s not what we’re about. It needs to be corrected and corrected soon.”

No call: Leipold was complaining fiercely on the sideline about what he thought was a block in the back on Penn State’s 58-yard, second-quarter punt return. He refrained from criticizing the officials.

“Too many penalties,” he said. “That really truly didn’t give us the chance we would have needed in this game.”

Third-down D shines: A slew of fine third-down defensive plays helped keep UB in the game. A blitzing Brandon Berry stuffed Akeel Lynch for a 4-yard loss on third-and-2. Demone Harris stuffed Lynch on a third-and-1. A delayed blitz by Okezie Alozie forced a bad pass on third-and- 7. Brandon Crawford and Max Perisse stuffed Lynch on a third-and-8 draw. Crawford stuffed Lynch on third -and- 5 to force a field goal. Alozie broke up a pass for the tight end on third-and-goal from the 4 to force a field goal.

Missed 47-yard FG: Leipold opted to try a 47-yard field goal in the rain in the first quarter rather than go for it on fourth-and-5 from the Lions’ 30. Adam Mitcheson’s kick was well short.

Leipold’s rationale: “At that point the way the weather was, I thought points would be important. I thought Adam has been very solid. I thought giving ourselves a chance to get up first in the game would give us confidence. He gave me a yard line that was further out than that for what he thought he could do.”

Lineups: UB sophomore Andrews Dadeboe, who sat out last week due to injury, started at safety. Penn State benched left tackle Paris Palmer, replacing him with guard Andrew Nelson to start the game. But Palmer played the second half after Nelson got hurt.

In the House: The paid attendance was 93,065, but there were about 65,000 people in the stands due to rain that fell heavily throughout the morning, discouraging the home crowd.

Next Up: The Bulls visit Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, Fla., Saturday.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com