Despite the Tuscaloosa masacre, Penn State football marches on. And this week that means playing the Golden Flashes of Kent State. Let's see what your BSD staff is looking forward to in this game.
Our Big Ten season begins against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium in 15 days. Based on what I've seen, there isn't one part of this football team that is completely ready for that challenge right now. That's ok; the game is 15 days away, but we need to continue to progress. I would like to see four quarters of consistent performance on either offense or defense, but frankly, I don't expect to. I think we'll look a lot better than we did last week, both because Kent State isn't Alabama and because we're better than we were last week. But I still think we'll see a lot of areas that need improvement.
I think we'll come out a little slow, but the starters will mostly be pulled sometime during the third quarter.
Prediction: Penn State 27, Kent State 7
Kent State held Boston College to 87 yards on 40 carries last week and is one of the best run defenses statistically in the country right now. Of course, it's still September, so you can't put a whole lot of stock in that, but for a Penn State running attack that hasn't been very good at all through the first two games, it's hardly a good thing. Those hoping for a breakout might be sitting on their hands for another week.
That said, it's still Kent State, and it's hard to imagine the other units not having their way with the Golden Flashes. Look for Penn State to improve against the short and intermediate passes that have eaten at them the first couple of weeks, and expect the tackling to be better than it was in the Alabama game.
Prediction: Penn State 21, Kent State 10
This weekend is really about getting major issues fixed. By the time Temple comes around you want it to be a tune up for Iowa, not the game things are figured out. So for me the ground game should be the number one issue that the team works on. Bolden has shown the ability to get the job done with his arm, and while he has a ways to go, establishing a running game is a must. If Penn State can get over 120 yards rushing and Bolden about 20-25 passes in which he doesn't throw an interception the game will be a success. We're all high on his talent, but we need to be as high on his development as well.
On defense they need to get a good game under their belt. At this point they should be getting it together,and they haven't really shown me that they're on a level that you expect from a Penn State defense. If they get their tackling figured out, and can force a turnover that could be a big confidence boost for that unit. They have a lot of talent, but they seem to lack some swagger. A good game could give that too them.
This game ought to be over by half if everything goes well. Penn State needs to keep Bolden's progression at a high level and address some of the more urgent issues this team has. Other than that it should be a good day.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Kent State 6
BSD Mike Says...
The first game jitters are out of the way. The emotional Alabama game is over. This week Penn State has to go out and give a dominating performance. The offensive line has to come together and open up big holes. Evan Royster has to run with authority and average over five or six yards per carry. Robert Bolden has to look confident and in charge, and the wide receivers have to help him out by getting open and making the catch. The defensive line has to be in Kent State's backfield all day. The linebackers have to hit people, wrap them up, and take them down. The secondary has to show they can force turnovers and get some interceptions. This isn't Alabama. This is Kent State. Penn State has to dominate this team. If they can't, it does not bode well for the rest of the season.
The point of the season is approaching where I always say what you see is what you get. If the offensive line isn't opening holes for the running game by the time Big Ten play comes around, they aren't ever going to do it. If Evan Royster isn't running with confidence, we probably won't see that this year. If the linebackers aren't playing aggressively and making tackles, we're going to have to live with it. We're not at that point yet. The team still has time to improve, but with each passing week my confidence in their ability to play to their potential wanes.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Kent State 10
Saturday is going to be a big measuring stick for our offensive line and the running game. Kent State is somewhere in between Youngstown State and Alabama (in terms of difficulty). It looks like Johnnie Troutman will finally get the start at left guard and not have to come in on the third series of the game, so it will be interesting to see if that actually will help the offensive line in the run game. I’m looking for Evan Royster to take his frustrations out on Kent State. Hopefully he will be able to break the 100 yard mark in a game for the first time this season. Expect a Silas Redd sighting in the 4th quarter. I’m also excited to see Rob Bolden continue his development as a passer and air it out some more (a Graham Zug catch would be nice as well). The offense moved the ball fairly well against Alabama, they just need to cut down on the turnovers, especially in the red zone.
Defensively, I’m looking to see the same rotation we saw from the d-line and linebackers against Youngstown State. Penn State was uncharacteristically poor with their fundamental tackling last week against Alabama, so look for great improvement in that area. Hopefully we force at least two turnovers this week (zero in the previous two weeks). I think Nathan Stupar is going to have a monster game (sack, forced fumble) as well as Ollie Ogbu.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Kent State 13
Penn State is going to be Don Draper tomorrow. They'll get up, wash the puke of the Bama game off their shirts and get back to work. I'm never one to dismiss the rights or passions of our fandom, but if we fans get all worked up and pissed off over these big game losses, what do we think it's like for JoePa? Or the assistants? Or the players, who all watched the film of the mistakes and missed opportunities this week. My bet it was like Draper waking up after a three-day bender to realize they're with a different woman than they thought they went to bed with and that they've missed picking up their kids because they didn't know what day it was. The best mark of a good team and good coaches is how well they correct mistakes. And my bet is they'll do so tomorrow with a passion.
Tackling is a two-way street, and while we're not likely to face a future 10-year NFL back like Richardson again this season, you can bet the focus on tackling will be there all year now. Colasanti and Mauti will roar back with a vengeance. Devon Still will stay off the ground. Nick Sukay sure better not make the wrong run/pass reads again, and we'll likely also see a little Jack Crawford in the backfield, finally. Robert Bolden bought himself some time with snap counts last week, made mistakes and kept his poise. Dude seems like a real learner, and tomorrow we'll see that showcased. We'll also finally see Johnny Troutman start, we'll see fewer receiver drops, and most satisfyingly, we'll see some serious Evan Royster. In the end, the team will put the booze aside for a minute, maybe take a swim, and will most assuredly get back to serious work.
Prediction: Penn State 42, Kent State 6