This is going to be short and sweet because, well, it's Eastern Illinois.
The defensive line dominated as you expect against an opponent like this. The Panthers only managed 59 yards rushing on 32 attempts. Crawford, Ogbu, and Odrick combined for 4 sacks, 6 TFL, and 9 tackles. Odrick was particularly dominating, and Ogbu forced the fumble Navorro Bowman returned for the touchdown.
Final Grade: A
Josh Hull and Navorro Bowman looked good. Hull had 11 tackles while Bowman had five. But Eastern Illinois really tried to run away from Bowman (wouldn't you?). Still he managed to get 2 TFL and of course he had fumble return for the touchdown. Bani Gbadyuand Nate Stupar did nothing to impress me.
A lot of the younger guys got in the game late, but to be honest I lost interest at that point and didn't see anything remarkable in their performance. I was glad to see Chris Colasanti get in there and get a sack. He's a good kid that just hasn't had his Penn State career go the way I'm sure he pictured it.
Final Grade: B
I felt like the secondary took a step back in this game. Christensen only threw for 137 yards, but they just didn't look very tight. A.J. Wallace was making a lot of tackles 10-15 yards down field. He did have the interception, but I credit that to Ogbu who pressured Christensen forcing him to lob a ball up for grabs. It's not like Wallace baited him or read the play perfectly and anticipated it was going there.
I was really disappointed with Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay. They both just looked slow in getting to the ball, and Astorino flat out dropped a pick. Maybe it's time we give Gerald Hodges a look or two in the backfield. I was disappointed to not notice him in the game until late in the fourth quarter, and that was at outside linebacker. I guess we need the depth there right now, but I'm worried that the coaches' knee-jerk reaction to some linebacker injuries is going to stunt his development at safety. He had a really nice teeth-rattling hit on his lone tackle.
But once again I thought D'Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris played really well. Add Knowledge Timmons to that list as well. I'm not at all worried about our cornerback situation next year.
Final Grade: C
Penn State only punted twice all day which is an indicator of just how dominant they were. Boone only punted once for 37 yards which you would think dooms the special teams for a failing grade this week. Ryan had the other punt for 43 yards. Breen also got a shot at a kickoff, and nailed it in the endzone for a touchback. I think he deserves another shot, and Wagner needs to be put on notice that just getting it past the ten yard line isn't going to cut it anymore. The real season is starting, so if he can't get the job done, we'll give it to someone else who can.
But overall the special teams actually wasn't that bad this week. The kick off return coverage still looks a little soft. There were too many returns getting out to the 30 yard line, but I don't recall any kicks where we were a shoe string tackle away from giving up six points. For the most part they did a good job of filtering the play into the middle and containing it. Now they just have to get more aggressive at it. Maybe it's time to put Stupar back out there and let him destroy the wedge like he did last year. Curse you, Penn State linebacker knee hating God for putting us in the depth situation.
Both of Penn State's kick off returns went for touchbacks, so we can't evaluate the kick return game this week.
But the punt return game may have a new star. Justin Brown caught three punts on Saturday and his 20 yard return was the longest play Penn State has had all year.
Final Grade: B
Nothing special to report here. They were fast and aggressive in the beginning until the game was in hand. Then they called off the dogs and put the younger guys in. Kudos to the coaches for keeping the intensity up against a lesser opponent. I was also glad to see a few cornerback blitzes in the package. This is a welcome new wrinkle.
Final Grade: A