While the Indiana Hoosiers are no second coming of the 1985 Chicago Bears, it was important for the Penn State Nittany Lion offense to bounce back after a poor showing in the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes. While the punt block by Andrew Dailey and subsequent return for a touchdown by James Van Fleet was the story of the game, the offense came through with a solid day with 34 points and 498 yards of total offense. Let's break it down an little more and look at the individual units.
The Scranton McSlinger Matthew McGloin couldn't have had a much better day. He threw for a career high 315 yards and two touchdowns by completing 22-of-31 passes. A few of those incompletions were drops and passes wisely thrown away to avoid the pass rush.
And yet, even when Penn State was up 14-0 early in the game there were some other Penn State bloggers on twitter stupidly calling for Robert Bolden to play. I just don't get this. Actually, I get what they're saying. I just think it's dumb.
Their argument is that Rob Bolden is the future of the program, so to not play him now is stunting his growth. I'm sorry, but let's not pretend Bolden hasn't had any playing time this year. He played against six teams with some of the toughest defenses in the country. He's gotten a ton of experience for a true freshman. I think he'll be fine if he doesn't get to play against Indiana and Michigan State. With a little bit of seasoning in bowl preparation and spring practice he'll be a fantastic quarterback next season. I'm interested in winning games this year.
The other dumb argument these PSU bloggers were making is that McGloin was just looking good against poor defenses. True, but at least he wasn't looking bad against bad defenses. When a guy is looking good and making the throws you're asking him to throw, why pull him out?
Their entire line of argument when confronted with this is to point to two bad throws against Ohio State that resulted in the pick sixes. But let's keep in mind that by that time Ohio State was firmly in control. Boom Herron was knocking down defenders like bowling pins. The Penn State coaches panicked and went into a conservative playcalling shell. The Buckeyes were dropping eight guys back in coverage and still shutting down the running game. They knew Penn State was going to have to throw the ball. The crowd was in a frenzy. If you think that's the time to throw a true freshman on the field, you don't know football.
Am I the only one that remembers how lifeless this offense looked under Bolden? Am I the only one that remembers him throwing fade passes ten yards out of bounds against Temple? He looked so extremely tight against Illinois I don't think he threw more than five passes beyond seven yards. He got a chance at getting his starting spot back against Northwestern and nearly got his head ripped off because he didn't recognize the blitzes.
There is no denying that the team responds when McGloin is under center. He challenges them in the huddle and inspires them on the sideline. That's what this team needs right now. There is no room for quiet leaders in the huddle. Robert Bolden may very well be the quarterback of the future. He's got a ton of potential and I'm excited to see him after going through spring practice. But Matt McGloin is the quarterback of the here and now. Once the offseason hits I'll be calling for an open competition and let the best man win. But right now the Scranton McSlinger is my guy.
Oh yeah. McGloin nailed it in this game. Bolden got in late and fumbled a snap. But I won't hold that against him.
Final Grade: A
Evan Royster started hot with an 11 yard run to start the game, but then he didn't do much after that. He chugged away for four yards here and two yards there. He ended the day with 48 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Royster also caught two passes for 39 yards.
Silas Redd was once again the flashiest running back on the field. He had some very nice runs of 23, 12, 8, and 7 yards. But he also had a few times where he got stuffed at the line. But I'm continually impressed with how he'll take a hole for a big gain when it's there, but he'll also find a way to get a few yards when there isn't anything there. Redd led the team with 50 yards and a touchdown on 9 carries. Just for comparison, Redd now has 417 yards on the season. Royster ran for 513 yards his freshman year.
Overall the running back committee had 111 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries when you factor in Stephfon Green along with Redd and Royster. Not too shabby considering the shuffling that was going on with the offensive line.
Final Grade: B
Saturday we got a good look at two players that figure to play a prominent role in the offensive line. Mike Farrell played the entire game at right tackle in place of Chima Okoli who was late for the team bus in the morning. Farrell played a clean game with no penalties or blown assignments that I saw. In fact, he was getting a pretty good push on his man and making some nice running lanes.
When Doug Klopacz went down with the ankle injury, Penn State moved Stefen Wisniewski over to center and brought in John Urschel to play right guard. He too did very well from what I saw. Let's just say I'm feeling a lot better about the right guard situation after Wisniewski graduates this spring.
But it wasn't all great for the offensive line. Johnnie Troutman seemed to regress after playing pretty well the last few games. He had some boneheaded penalties, and he just looked downright slow on a few plays where Penn State tried to pull him down the line. Particularly on the 4th and 2 play where Royster got stuffed. Troutman just got in his and forced Royster to break his momentum to the outside where he got gobbled up.
Final Grade: C+
I guess when the quarterback throws for 315 yards and two touchdowns your receivers are doing something right. Derek Moye has been steady all season and finished with 90 yards and a touchdown on six catches. Moye nearly had another touchdown but was ruled down a half foot short after it was reviewed on replay. He also had 39 yards rushing on two end arounds.
Brett Brackett has been a fantastic possession receiver and very reliable for the Penn State quarterbacks. He finished with 66 yards and a touchdown on five catches. Four of his catches resulted in first downs, and the other one resulted in a touchdown. The guy has been clutch all year.
Justin Brown has been coming on really strong lately. I'd love to see this guy on a team that throws it his direction 20 times per game. On Saturday he had four catches for 50 yards.
Devon Smith showed off his big play potential with a 45 yard catch that set up Penn State's second touchdown.
I look at all of the weapons at receiver on this team and I just drool when I think about how potent they will be next year when Rob Bolden is up to speed. I just hope they have an offensive line to compliment them.
Final Grade: A
What the hell was up with sitting on the ball when they got it at their 16 with 2:29 to go in the first half and three timeouts in their pocket? Penn State was sitting on a 17-14 lead and knew they were going to get the ball to start the second half, but Indiana had a ton of momentum at that point. State ran Royster on first and second down for little gain and ended up punting. Then Indiana got the ball at their 40 with all three of their timeouts and 0:49 on the clock. The Hoosiers could have easily got a field goal to tie or even a cheap touchdown on the Hail Mary pass. That's playing not to lose, and that was dumb.
I liked the decision to go for the first down when it was 4th-and-2 at the Indiana 37 early in the third quarter. It would have been a 54 yard field goal for Collin Wagner which is asking a lot, and without Anthony Fera playing you don't really know what you have in Alex Butterworth. If he boots it in the endzone it's just a 17 yard gain of field position. So going for it was the right call, but I didn't like they play call. They ran a slow developing running play to the right where Troutman had to pull down the line. Like I said earlier, Troutman just got in Royster's way and killed his momentum. Farrell was pushing his guy outside like he was supposed to do, but Royster had to bounce outside to get around Troutman and Farrell's guy cleaned his clock. If Penn State can't line up and smash Indiana between the tackles when they need two yards, then don't bother going for it.
Just once, I'd like to see Penn State take a team by surprise by throwing on fourth down. And I'm not just talking about when it's 4th-and-15 in the final minutes and you need a score to stay alive. I'm talking about when the game is still in doubt and you're taking a chance. Bubble screens are usually automatic for five or six yards. Or heck, go crazy and take a shot at the endzone. The defense is going to cram the box to stuff the run. I bet you would find single coverage out on the flankers. Play action would be deadly.
Ultimately it was a pretty well called game. Any time you put 34 points on the board and roll up 498 yards I'll take it. but Wisconsin managed to score 83 points and 598 yards on this defense the week before. Just sayin'.
Final Grade: B