If they haven't already, Penn State's starting defense needs to take Andrew Dailey and James Van Fleet to the Corner Room or Spats Cafe to thank them for saving what could have been an embarrassing loss (and first ever) to the Indiana Hoosiers in what was essentially a home game for Penn State (even though there were about 40,000 empty seats).
Tandon Doss was an absolute thorn in Tom Bradley's side on Saturday. The kid made plays on special teams, in the receiving game, and even in the run game. Without Doss, Indiana wouldn't have been in the game.
The d-line was forced to play a few men down to start the game, and it showed. Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still missed the entire first half (violation of team rules) and Sean Stanley was also held out (Peeing). James Terry and Jordan Hill held down the fort until they were available. Pete Massaro continued his impressive play from his defensive end spot and Jack Crawford was on the field doing what Jack Crawford does.
With the exception of the 39 yard run by Doss, the d-line did an outstanding job stopping the run, partially because the Hoosiers are a throwing team and also because the d-line was able to get some pressure. Brandon Ware even took some time out from JoePa's dog house to get a few reps in (1 assisted tackle).
Overall, this unit played fairly decent. They were able to sack Chappell two times, and put consistent pressure on him for most of the afternoon.
Final Grade: B
Michael Mauti was missed on Saturday. Penn State had to play a lot of nickle to counter the Pistol Offense Indiana was running. Mauti is Penn State's most instinctive and aggressive LB, he also has the wheels to cover in space.
Gerald Hodges and Nathan Stupar got the starts, but Bani Gbadyu and Chris Colosanti had to play as well. Stupar led the team with 10 tackles, including one for a loss. Due to Indiana's offense, the linebackers weren't the focal point of the defense, that distinction went to the d-line and secondary.
Final Grade: C+
Coming into the game, Brian Chappell was the Big Ten's leading passer. Chappell was averaging almost 270 yards a game. Penn State held up to 235, which is impressive considering Indiana did next to nothing on the ground, with the exception of Doss' 61 yards, the Hoosiers were held to just 29 yards on the ground.
Drew Astorino was able to come up with a huge INT in the 3rd quarter, and D'Anton Lynn was second on the team with 8 tackles. Chaz Powell is still a work in progress, and Stephon Morris played the role of invisible man.
Final Grade: B-
Watching Colin Wagner handle kickoffs on Saturday made me realize just how important Anthony Fera is to the Nittany Lions. Without Fera, Wagner's kickoffs were landing around the 5-10 yard line, giving Hoosier returners (Doss) the opportunity to rack up some yards and give Indiana some decent field position. If Fera were healthy and available, some of those kickoffs would have ended up in those empty endzone seating sections (hopefully), or at the very least, a touchback or two.
Wagner was 2-3 on the day, missing a 43 yarder, but nailed a 42 and 35. For the season he is hitting about 78% of his kicks (18-23). Wagner is much improved and reliable in the kicking game, especially from 40+.
Alex Butterworth made his emergency debut due to the Fera illiness. Butterworth averaged 41 yards a kick on two attempts, including one inside the 20. His 41 average is just shy of Fera's season average of 41.6, so we didn't miss a beat in the punting game.
The return game had it's moments, but it also had some head shakers. Devon Smith almost broke a punt (25 yards) to the house, but was tripped up. Chaz Powell is the most patient kick returner we have, and I don't mean that in a good way. It always seems like Powell is waiting for the Red Sea to part so he can have a huge lane to run into. That's not how it works. You need to run full speed ahead to make something happen, which brings us to Silas Redd...
Redd was in "I gotta make plays to make up for peeing outside of a building at 4am" mode. His first carry of the game got it starter, but it was his kick return that let everyone see he meant business. With Green and Powell struggling, Paterno inserted the future potential All-American to get something started, and Redd didn't disappointed. Redd took his only return for 34 yards. It would be nice to see Redd get more chances this year to return kicks, but I doubt we will see him back there next year.
Special Teams and game changing play of the day goes to Dailey and Van Fleet for the blocked punt (Dailey) and TD return (Van Fleet). The play couldn't have happened at a better moment. The game was tied 24-24 and the Hoosiers had the momentum. One bad snap later, and Penn State is up 7. Don't let the final score fool you, this game was closer than any Penn State fans would have ever wanted.
Final Grade: A-
At this point, it is not so much as the defensive coaching as it is the personnel. The fundamentals haven't been with this team all season. It also doesn't help that your senior co-captain Ollie Ogbu and co-starer Devon Still were held out of action for the entire first half due for missing the bus. Tandon Doss proved troublesome all day for the Nittany Lions. When Penn State blitzed, they had some success, I just wish they would do it more often.
Next season, when some of the personnel changes (linebackers/d-line) I think this Penn State will look more like the Penn State defenses we have come to expect.
Final Grade: B