Penn State Defense Grades Against Minnesota


Penn State got back to winning last Saturday, defeating Minnesota 33-21.  The score actually surprised me in a couple of ways.  I never thought our offense would be able to put up more than 10 points (i'm a believer now, even though it was against a horrid football team) and I didn't think our defense would still be playing this uncharacteristically this late in the season.

All season, even on Saturday, the defense has not be able to consistently tackle anyone.  And while the defense got more pressure than usual against Minnesota, that is still an area of concern.

Defensive Line

Jordan Hill earned his first career start but the d-line still left plenty to be desired.  Ollie Ogbu, despite making one good play behind the line of scrimmage, was a non-factor.  Devon Still was the best of the bunch, including sacking Adam Weber in the end zone for a safety.

Pete Massaro started at the other end position and had some great pressure on the QB but wasn't able to finish the job.  He finished the day with 4 tackles (one for a loss).

Sean Stanley, who missed the past few games due to an off the field situation, also saw some action.

The d-line has been hit pretty hard by injuries, but some of the younger players need to step up.  tackling is still a problem, but we did see some increased pressure on the QB this week.

Final Grade: C+

Linebackers

Penn State has decided to rent out the "Linebacker U" moniker this season to just about any other team not named Penn State.  The group of linebackers are not playing the way we have come to expect our linebackers to play.  I'm not sure if it is just this group of guys, or if we were spoiled by having such amazing linebackers (Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Paul Posluszny) with great instincts that we just have come to expect all of our LBs to read and react to plays as quick as that trio did.

Michael Mauti led the group against Minnesota with 8 tackles (3rd on the team).  Nathan Stupar, appeared to be playing a Tim Shaw-esq stand up DE/LB on the first series finished with 6 tackles as well.  Chris Colasanti, still starting in the middle also had 6 tackles.

I'm not sure what is eating Bani Gbadyu.  This is not the same player we saw four years ago.  He appears to be a step slow and when in the game disappears for long stretches at a time.  He finished Saturday with only 3 assisted tackles.

Gerald Hodges made his return after missing the past 4 games (5 if you count Alabama since he was hurt on the opening kickoff).  He finished with 2 tackles.  The stats don't matter for Hodges, it was just great to have him back on the field.  His athleticism will come in handy against Denard Robinson and company.

True freshman Khairi Fortt did not play due to a stinger.  The team hopes to have him back for Michigan.

We need this group to play better if there is any chance we are going to upset Michigan.n  The real key

Final Grade: C

Secondary

Let's start with the good.  D'Anton Lynn had an excellent game finishing with 10 tackles and a very important INT, which he returned 58 yards.  The pick came at a crucial point in the game.  We saw exactly why Lynn is still at CB and not moved to safety. 

Stephon Morris did not have a great day.  Morris was beat on two TDs (the one TD was throw in a perfect spot and it wouldn't have mattered if Deion Sanders was covering Da'Jon McKnight) and flagged for a pass interference call.  He didn't tackle well, but neither did a lot of his teammates.  The secondary made McKnight look like DeSean Jackson.  Morris is a competitor and our 2nd best option at CB, especially with Derrick Thomas still in the dog house (or kennel at this point).  Tom Bradley sumed it up:

"Stephon, he's got to play a lot better.  He knows it."

Andrew Dailey suffered another stinger, forcing the coaches to play Astorino at strong safety and redshirt freshman Malcolm Willis at free safety.  Willis finished the day with nine tackles (2nd on the team) and one pass break up.  Willis might earn the start against

Adam Weber threw for 299 and 3 scores.  Those numbers are slightly deceiving since Minnesota was playing from behind most of the game.

A BSD shout out goes to or latest version of Drew Astorino, Jacob Fagnano.  Fagnano has seen increased playing time due to the injuries and finished with 2 tackles on the day.  JoePa, well fee feels differently:

"I worry about the secondary."

Final Grade: C

Special Teams

Anthony Fera is slowly learning how to put his big leg to use in the punt game.  Fera punted six times for an average of 45.2 yards a kick and placed four of his six kicks inside the 20.  Missing this week was a "Fera Ball," a below average 11 to 26 yard punt.  Penn State has always been about field position and Fera, hopefully,will continue being an asset and not a liability.  Stephon Morris, wanting to make his presence felt in the kicking game as well and wiffed on a tackle that set up a big return for the Gophers.

Colin Wanger was one for two on the day drilling a 49 yard field goal (tied for his career long) and missing a 37 yarder.  Wagner has been a huge surprise this season.  Last year he was inconsistent and Penn State had to worry if he would be able to make a kick over 37 yards.  Wagner could potentially be in the running for some post season accolades if he keeps it up.

Nothing really to report in the return game.  Nothing bad or good happened.

Final Grade: B

Defensive Coaching

The game plan is in place every week.  It's the same plan Penn State has used for a long, long time.  The problem this season has been the fundamental execution, mainly the tackling.  If you try and arm tackle a RB, he is going to take your arm with him.

Penn State is still trying to figure out the right combination on the defensive line. Jordan Hill made his first career start, presumably in place of the injured Jack Crawford.  Devon Still has emerged as the best defensive tackle on the team ahead of Ollie Ogbu who, like Bani Gbadyu, disappears for long stretches during the game.

Penn State is going to have to fix the fundamental flaws, and they have 5 days to do it.  Denard Robinson, if he can stay in one piece on Saturday, will have no problem carving up the Penn State defense.

Final Grade: C

With Minnesota in the rear-view, Penn State can now turn it's attention to Michigan.  The atmosphere should again garner the "greatest student section" tag, if they students make it in before halftime.  I have faith that the students and fans will be in their seats and ready to go (that's what 12 hours of tailgating will do for you). 

Michigan has an outstanding offense, but if you can take Denard Robinson out of the game, you can win it because Tate Forcier, despite all his confidence, is not Denard Robinson.  The only problem with their offense is that all of the athletes they have are on it, leaving Greg Robinson's defense with a mixed bag of 3-3-5 fun.

Oh yea, and the defense is coached by Greg Robinson...so that's never a good thing for Michigan.

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