It may have been the best Temple team ever to grace the gridiron, but c'mon, seriously? This isn't Oklahoma we're talking about. Penn State, looking at this game on paper, should have stormed over the Owls the way most of us here expected. It didn't happen, and what ensued was one of the most stressful games I can remember in a long time; yes, that includes the 2011 Outback Bowl.
I'm not here today writing this at 6 a.m. (I've been at work an hour already, though you can see how tough my Sunday office schedule is) to harp on what went wrong yesterday. I'll leave that to you guys or whichever other BSD writer wants to rehash why the season is lost and Penn State should just shut down its football program until 2012. Okay, so it won't be that bad, but if you refuse to see some positives, even in a terribly hideous win, your blinders are just as large as those you'll surely accuse me of wearing today. By the way, I'm not wearing said blinders. I know Penn State stunk it up on offense and special teams yesterday.
Let's start off this Sunday with some good things to think about.
It's been some time since Penn State's defense single-handedly won a football game. Our memories were refreshed on Saturday.
Michael Mauti had a career-defining (to date) game, consistently blowing up Temple plays before they had a chance to succeed. But his biggest play, eventually becoming the play of the game (maybe even play of the season so far), was his late fourth quarter interception that gave Penn State the ball on the Temple 44 yard line. With just under 9 minutes left, it very well could have been Penn State's last shot to pull out a win. Because of Mauti's heroic and athletic effort on the pick, it gave the Nittany Lions one more opportunity, which they finally too advantage of. The redshirt junior finished with 6 solo tackles, three tackles for loss, a pass breakup, and the pick.
But Mauti was hardly the only star to shine on defense against Temple. Devon Still did his usual thing up the middle, teaming with Jordan Hill to make running up the gut a virtual impossibility for Temple. Chaz Powell had his first career interception that he returned 26 yards to set up what should have been a Penn State game-tying field goal. And if not for Mauti stealing the show, Sean Stanley would have been the defensive player of the game. Stanley forced not one, but two gargantuan fumbles, the latter of the two to end the game on a sack of Temple quarterback Mike Gerardi. Stanley had five total tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, and the two forced fumbles.
Did they rumble for 250 yards and a couple scores? No. But they made plays when they had the opportunity and the blocking, even sometimes without the latter. Silas Redd scored his fourth touchdown of the season on a 17-yard run, while finishing with 86 yards on only 16 carries. Brandon Beachum didn't impress as a between-the-20s runner, but ran like his career depended on it when called upon to convert the game-changing 4th-and-1on Penn State's final scoring drive. Beachum used not one or two, but three pushes on the run to gain enough yardage for a first down. With a little push by the offensive line, he might have reached the end zone.
Wide Receivers Actually Making Big Plays
Yes, it's their job to catch passes. Yes, it's their job to occasionally break a nice play or two. But after the crapfest that was the first couple games, Penn State's wide receivers started catching passes that made a difference. Throw in the nice catch-n-run by Derek Moye later negated by a holding call, and it would have been a very good day for the receiver corps. Moye finished with 112 yards on seven catches, including a nice adjustment between defenders on the 40-yarder from Matt McGloin. Justin Brown had a nice day, hauling in six for 62 yards, despite dinging his left arm. Even Devon Smith, much maligned after his poor performance against Alabama, caught an important 3rd-down pass to convert for a first down. These may be elementary for receivers, but it was a decent bounce-back day for a group that was anything but good the week before. Oh yeah, and Moye had that nifty punt return for 31 yards.
Taking the Reins... Again?
If Moxie matters most, then I'm not sure what else could describe Rob Bolden's 4th-and-2 pass completion to Derek Moye with the game (the season?) on the line. Penn State wasn't running the ball well, but was putting the game in the hands of a quarterback (either of them, for that matter) that didn't to a whole lot (a lot of that due to the horrid QB rotation) in the game to that point the wisest choice? Turns out, it was. Between two defenders with good press coverage on Moye, Bolden zipped a perfect slant pass right into the chest of No. 6. Matt McGloin may have finished with a better stat line (how soon some forget 1-for-11, right?), but Bolden did more to win the football game. And right now, it's about winning football games, not having the better stats.