The equivalent of the NFL exhibition season is over, and just like the NFL exhibition season, we are left to wonder if the team is as good as we think they are. The defense has performed like we hoped they would. They have yet to allow any opponent to score more than seven points. But is that due to the fact they are extremely talented and well coached, or is it just a byproduct of the level of competition they played? In any regard, let's grade the defense against the Temple Owls.
I didn't come away as impressed with the defensive line this week as I had the first two games. Maybe I'm being too hard on them. I mean, they did hold Temple to just 46 yards rushing. I guess I'm spoiled by watching two weeks of Odrick hitting the ball carrier as soon as he gets the ball. They did have moments of brilliance. Jack Crawford had 2.5 TFL and a sack. Jared Odrick and James Terry chipped in with a sack by each. And Ollie Ogbu caused the first fumble that was recovered by the defense this year. The pressure was good all day, but every once in a while the Owls would rip off an eight yard gain right up the gut that made me wonder. But overall it was another great job by the defensive line.
Final Grade: B+
Let there be no doubt that Sean Lee is back, and I swear he looks faster than he did two years ago. Lee finished with 12 tackles, 2.5 TLF, and a sack. He looked nothing short of brilliant in stuffing the holes and blowing up any play Temple tried to run to the outside. His stellar performance earned him Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the third time in his career. It's so great to see him back.
Josh Hull I felt played a solid game, but he really is a liability in the passing game. Temple had most of their success in moving the ball by attacking the medium middle of the field or by attacking the short seems between the linebackers. This is Hull's territory.
The other linebacker spot was a steady rotation of Bani Gbadyu, Nate Stupar, and Chris Colasanti. None of these guys looked very spectacular, though they did combine for 12 tackles in the game. Penn State desperately needs Navorro Bowman back on the field.
FInal Grade: B
At this point I don't have any worries about the defensive backfield. Temple really challenged the secondary in this game and I thought they performed very well. There was one major mistake where Temple overloaded the left side with receivers and Andrew Dailey lost his man on a wheel route giving up a 36 yard play just after the half.
I was particularly impressed with the young players D'Anton Lynn and Stephon Morris. The few times I saw Temple challenge them they were always in position to break up the pass. Morris specificially showed a lot of awareness when Temple tried to beat him deep on a flea flicker. The wide receiver faked as though he tripped to try to bait Morris into attacking the sweep coming his direction, but Morris didn't bite. After the game defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said he warned Morris to be ready for the play because Temple had run it against Penn State back in 2007, and Morris stuck with it proving he's a very heads up player. Bradley said after the game that Morris will be "playing alot" this year. It's truly remarkable to see Joe Paterno allow a true freshman to see so much time in a high profile position like cornerback like Morris is seeing this year.
Final Grade: B+
Would the word "horrible" be an understatement? This was by far the most disappointing part of the game. The kickoff game is terrible on both ends. The kickoff returns look completely out of sync. The wedge takes too long to form and even longer to get going. Devon Smith has all the speed in the world, but his blockers are going so slow he can't get it out of second gear. And of course there was the one kickoff return where Joe Suhey was caught napping and Temple recovered the onside kick.
As bad as the kick return game is going, the kickoff coverage team is even worse. A lot of Colin Wagner's kicks were landing at the seven yard line without a lot of hang time. Only one kick went for a touchback, and Temple returned two kicks out past the 35 yard line. When you look at the players being used they are young, they are inexperienced, and they are undisciplined in staying in their lanes. It's just a matter of time until the kickoff coverage team gives up an easy touchdown.
And what the heck is up with the punt return game? Have we returned a punt yet this year? I think it's time to call an end to the Royster/Zug/Astorino dual punt returners experiment. Last year every punt return was a threat to score with Derrick Williams back there. Now we know it's just a guaranteed fair catch. Graham Zug may have suffered a concussion on one hit he took, so for all of you that argued against me when I said punt returners don't get hurt, can I please get a side of honey-mustard to go with my crow?
Wagner nailed his one chip shot field goal attempt, and Jeremy Boone was his usually ninja-kicking self averaging 47.8 yards on four punts. Boone was the only person saving the special teams from a failing grade.
Final Grade: D
It's Temple. They held them to six points. Meh. Draw up plays in the dirt and we still win.
Final Grade: B