Just like the offense, the defense had a good half and a bad half. After the deep throw to DeVier Posey at the start of the game the defense played pretty well. They held Ohio State to a field goal on that drive and then they shut them out the rest of the half. It was so good in fact that the Buckeye fans were booing their team off the field at halftime. For a sweet moment, everything was right with the world.
And then the second half happened. So let's get into that part.
Probably the most disappointing part of the defense for me was watching Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu getting double teamed all night and nobody from the linebackers sweeping in to make a play and help out. Ohio State rushed for over 300 yards on the ground. When's the last time that happened against a Penn State defense? Still and Ogbu have been playing very well in recent weeks, but even they are going to have trouble fighting double teams. They did their job and ate up blockers. When that happens, somebody else has to step up.
When the defensive tackles are attracting double teams, the defensive ends need to wreak havoc, and on Saturday night they didn't do that. Ohio State was comfortable to block them one-on-one or chip them with a tight end and our guys folded like a house of cards. Though Jack Crawford did get a key sack in the first half, and Pete Massaro made a decent play here and there, the fact is that Big Ten offensive coordinators find Penn State defensive ends about as threatening as a box of kittens.
When word got out that Michael Mauti went out with a shoulder injury and probably wouldn't return, I knew Penn State was in serious trouble. Not only had they lost their best linebacker, they lost the guy that provides the emotional spark for the entire defense.
As Dan Herron started knocking over white jerseys with numbers like 48 and 15 on them on Ohio State's 96 yard touchdown drive in the third quarter I knew Penn State was in trouble. Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are just not great players. They're good linebackers when you are playing Indiana or Minnesota, but they are not good enough to stop teams like Alabama, Iowa, and Ohio State. These guys are just taking up space until next year when guys like Gerald Hodges, Glenn Carson, Khairi Fortt, and Mike Hull are hopefully ready for the big time. Until then, we just have to deal with it.
Speaking of Hodges, it's pretty disappointing that he has not yet performed up to expectations. The guy is a tremendous physical specimen, but so far he doesn't look like he's getting it. He's often out of position and he misses too many tackles. Maybe I'm just overreacting on that though. He had to sit out several weeks this year with a broken leg, so maybe that set him back.
But again, the defensive tackles were eating up multiple blockers and you give up 300 yards rushing and look silly as Boom Herron is running you over for the greatest game of his career. You fail.
This is the part where the Ohio State fans reading this and looking for red meat get what they came for. After the game there were a lot of Buckeye commenters and bloggers saying, "See? Now will PSU fans admit Terrell Pryor is good? Don't you feel stupid for criticizing his play in the Rose Bowl?"
Actually, no. I still come away unimpressed with Terrell Pryor. He had 13 pass attempts and threw for 139 yards. Forty-nine of those came on the bomb to Posey in the first quarter. It was a good throw, but it was a better play by Posey. D'Anton Lynn had just about perfect coverage. Another 58 yards came on the fluke bounce to Sanzenbacher. Take away those two plays and Pryor was 6-for-11 for 32 yards. After watching guys like Greg McElroy, Ricky Stanzi, and Dan Persa rip this defense like surgeons, I'm so not impressed. How many times did he overthrow a guy less than ten yards away?
In fact, after the 96 yard touchdown drive I tweeted that Jim Tressell will not call another passing play the rest of the game. I was wrong. On Ohio State's next drive they ran the ball eight straight times. Then on 2nd and 12 from the Penn State 25 they did throw it again, and Pryor threw an interception on a classic Pryor arm punt. After that Tressell called two passing plays the rest of the game. One was the ridiculously stupid touchdown to Sanzenbacher, and the other was a three yard TD pass to Jake Stoneburner with a 17 point lead and less than five minutes to go so Pryor could pad his stats and feel good about himself.
So sorry, no, I'm still not a Terrell Pryor believer. And no, sorry again, I am not saying this because I secretly wish he was in a Penn State uniform. Get that out of your Buckeye-sized brains. The kid is just overrated and will never amount to anything in life after Ohio State.
Overall, the secondary played okay, but they also missed a lot of tackles just like the linebackers. Though Malcolm Willis seems to be growing into his role at safety and looks more confident each week. Nick Sukay may have trouble getting back on the field next year when he returns from his injury.
Final Grade: C+
Anthony Fera did well averaging just over 44 yards on his six punts. He also booted his kickoffs deep and registered a touchback on one of the three. The coverage team did well on the other two giving up returns of 23 and 17 yards.
The Penn State return units were a bit sluggish. I was hoping to exploit the Buckeye return coverage teams which have had problems this year, but the longest kick return on the night was Shawney Kersey's 26 yard return. Chaz Powell averaged 17 yards on his five returns. Sorry, but that sucks.
Collin Wagner didn't get a field goal attempt in the game. Don't get me started on that.
It doesn't really matter what the coaches were trying to do on Saturday. The Buckeyes abandoned the passing game after Pryor's terrible first half and dared Penn State to stop Boom Herron. Mauti got injured and there was nothing Penn State could do to stop him. The pick-sixes by the offense put the defense in a hole and took the pressure off the Ohio State offense to have to throw the ball. There's really nothing the defensive coaches could have done outside of putting ten guys in the box and hope Pryor threw up some more wounded ducks.