Penn State football’s defense slowly came together across the season. Senior safety and first-year starter Nick Scott was one of the key components.
Multiple losses in the secondary, including three separate safeties to the NFL over the last two seasons left Penn State football without an experienced leader in the secondary. Converted senior safety Nick Scott quickly made a name for himself in his first year as a starter and became that much-needed leader.
It took some time for the defense and Scott to find their footing. In the early to midway portions of the season, the Nittany Lions’ defense surrendered nearly 400 or more yards of offense in five of its first seven games: Appalachian State, Illinois, Ohio State, Michigan State and Indiana. Penn State football went just 3-2 in those games and the offense bailed them out on a couple of occasions, but in clutch moments in both losses, the secondary faltered.
Ohio State scored on a late screen pass to K.J. Hill where shoddy tackling was rampant. Then against Michigan State, the infamous Felton Davis’ catch down the sideline with less than 20 seconds left in the 4th quarter ended PSU’s playoff hopes.
As difficult as those moments were, Penn State salvaged the season. The turning point came one week after Indiana in a ranked game versus Iowa. Quarterback Nathan Stanley was playing well and had NFL scouts drooling.
His stat line that night settled the talk, as Penn State held him to 215 yards through the air, forcing two interceptions on an inefficient, 18-of-49 passing.
The last one ultimately sealed away the game. At the Penn State three-yard line, Stanley tried to change the play. With the play clock winding down, he snapped the ball and looked for his tight end Noah Fant, but he wasn’t ready for the ball. Scott was. The senior safety jumped the route and picked off the pass (Video Courtesy of Nittany Nation).
That win was led by the defense and the Nittany Lions got great defensive play the rest of the season. Scott sparked an opportunistic secondary find its way in that game.
Although Michigan put up points and yards, a lot of that was done in the second half, as the defense mustered basically nothing all game. Over the final five games, the defense allowed just one 400-plus yard performance and the pass defense surrendered just 130 yards per game, forcing six interceptions and allowing just two touchdowns.
Scott was the catalyst in the back-end. He recorded 22 tackles in that span and two of the six interceptions. He made clutch plays and brought leadership to a young secondary. After starting his career as a running back for the Nittany Lions, he’s converted into one of the more solid and productive defenders for Penn State.
He finished the regular season with 59 total tackles (good enough for fifth on the team), three interceptions, a sack, a fumble recovery and a pass deflection. In total, he’s recorded 107 total tackles for his career. Although he didn’t receive any All-Big Ten honors, he’s certainly deserving of a mention.
It’s players like him that have a special place in the memories of Penn State football fans. The game-changing interception versus Iowa was one of the biggest moments of the year, and he had a similar moment returning a fumble for a touchdown last year versus Indiana, so he’s s