EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Almost every other series against Syracuse, it seemed like a Penn State player would stay on the ground for a few extra seconds and sometimes a minute after the play ended. These moments bring fear for any team or fan base, but injuries, even slight ones, will strike Penn State particularly hard because of its sanction-induced lack of depth.
On Saturday, tight end Matt Lehman and linebacker Mike Hull left early with injuries (coach Bill O'Brien declined to comment on either one). The injury to Lehman appeared severe, but players discussed it by assuming a mantra they hope to adhere to for the entire season should other problems arise.
"When a guy goes down, you're always looking for a guy to step in," linebacker Glenn Carson said. "That's what depth is all about."
For the past few months, O'Brien has said depth at linebacker is minimal. That position faced a test when Hull went down. For much of the rest of the game, safety Stephen Obeng-Agyapong slid over to linebacker.
This wasn't an entirely new proposition for him. Obeng-Agyapong and defensive back Adrian Amos have practiced at linebacker at times this fall. And Obeng-Agyapong proved he was ready, finishing with eight tackles and a sack.
"He's a kid that works hard," Carson said. "It's his senior year so it's really great to see him excel on the field."
Performances like Obeng-Agyapong's are what O'Brien will seek throughout the season.
"Everybody in the country, if a good player gets hurt, that's not good for anybody," he said. "That's not an excuse for us, it's just next guy up and that will always be the case here whether we have 85 [players], 65, 15, 25, 5, 1, whatever they give us."
Ficken continues streak
Dating to last year, kicker Sam Ficken has now made 13 consecutive field goals. On Saturday, he made field goals of 36, 35 and 46 yards. O'Brien noted the importance of those makes in what turned out to be a one-possession game. The 46-yarder was a career best for Ficken.
"We got 11 more," he said. "My goal is to not miss a kick all season. That might not happen, but to the best of my ability, I'm going to do all that I can do."
Mark Dent: email@example.com, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05 First Published September 2, 2013 4:00 AM